Head lice are common and not a reflection of cleanliness! Children between the ages of 3 and 12 years are the most commonly affected age group because they are in close contact with each other at school and daycare settings. These children often spread lice to their families at home. The peak season for lice infestation is August through October and again in January.
Head lice are tiny parasitic insects that feed on human blood. Lice come in three forms: nits (eggs), nymphs (baby lice), and adults. Nits are white or yellowish-brown and about the size of a poppy seed. These eggs attach to the hair near the scalp. Adult lice are about the size of a sesame seed and are tan to grayish-white. Adult lice can live up to 30 days on a human head. If they fall off of the scalp, they will live for two days without a new human blood supply.
Looking for Lice:
Head lice tend to congregate behind the ears and at the nape of the neck. Signs of head lice include itching of the scalp and irritability. Sometimes a child will develop sores on the scalp from scratching. To look for head lice, examine your child’s hair and scalp in a well-lit area. A magnifying glass is helpful. Part hair and using a pencil (to avoid hand contact) look for small white or brown specks attached to the hair near the scalp.
Treating for Lice:
To treat your child for lice use an over the counter medicated shampoo to kill lice. No lice treatment kills all lice eggs, so repeat inspection and sometimes repeat treatment is necessary. After applying the shampoo treatment, inspect scalp nightly and remove any nits or lice. Continue to check for a two-week period.
In addition to treating your child you should:
- Thoroughly vacuum rugs, furniture, mattresses, and car seats. Dispose of vacuum bag after use.
- Machine wash personal items, clothing, and bedding in hot water and dry in the hottest cycle of the dryer for at least 20 minutes.
- Soak combs, brushes, and hair clips in boiling water for 10 minutes.
- Anything that cannot be washed such as bedspreads, pillows and stuffed toys can be sealed in a trash bag for two weeks.