While the cold and flu are typically of concern this time of year, there is another tiny, flat-backed insect known as head lice that just may hitch a ride home with your child. It happens and contrary to popular belief, lice are not a sign of uncleanliness. In fact, every child is at the same risk of getting infested.
Statistically, head lice affect six to twelve million people in the US every year and can be a very stubborn parasite to eliminate. The most common symptom of a lice infestation is persistent itching, particularly around the ears, the back of the neck and the crown of the head. Adult lice can be rather hard to spot. The eggs, called nits, are usually found in the warmest spot on the head, commonly in the places where itching occurs.
If diagnosed, there is a three step process for getting rid of head lice. First, kill all the live lice. Second, remove all nits by combing and manually nit picking. Third, clean the infested person’s belongings and home environment to prevent re-infestation.
“We make every effort to control the spread of head lice in the schools,” said Lori Craney, Director of Elementary Education. “There is a process of due diligence that comes from years of dealing with infestations. Our goal is to eliminate the nits, provide help when needed and keep families and classmates informed when head lice is found in a classroom.”
It is important for parents to know that school district #25 has a policy requiring all children with lice receive appropriate treatment and be nit-free before he/she may return to school.
There are several over-the-counter products, but manual removal – the most time consuming part of the process – plays a key role in eliminating the infestation. Additionally, all bedding, towels and clothing must be washed separately from other items. Items that cannot be placed in the washing machine can be sealed in a plastic bag and stored for 14-20 days outside the home. All affected family members should be treated simultaneously to avoid reinfection.
Tips to Help Control the Spread
Lice are contagious, wingless creatures that migrate through direct contact. To help prevent and control the spread of head lice consider the following:
- Avoid head-to-head contact during activities and play
- Do not share clothing such as hats, scarves and coats
- Do not share hair accessories, headphones or sporting equipment
- Keep girls hair in a braid or bun
- Avoid hanging coats and hats on the same hook as other classmates or place personal belongings in a plastic bag
- Avoid sitting on furniture recently occupied by someone with head lice