Head lice information
Head lice are tiny, wingless insects that live close to the human scalp. It is hard to see adult head lice because they are very small, avoid light and are able to move fast. The eggs, also called nits, are easier to see. Nits may appear yellowish or white. Nits are most often found in the hair behind the ears and at the back of the head and neck. Nits should not be confused with dandruff which can easily be flicked off the hair while nits are attached to an individual strand of hair and are difficult to remove.
Head lice move by crawling and cannot jump or fly. Head lice are spread through head to head contact with an infested person. It is possible, but not common, to spread head lice by contact with items that have been in contact with a person with head lice, such as clothing, hats, scarves, combs, brushes, or towels. Keep in mind that head lice infestations are not related to cleanliness and often infest people with good hygiene and grooming habits.
SUGGESTIONS REGARDING TREATMENT
Head lice are not dangerous. They do not transmit disease, but they do spread easily. Treatment for head lice is recommended for persons diagnosed with an active infestation. All household members and other close contacts should be checked and everyone found to be infested should be treated on the same day.
The Virginia Department of Health recommends four critical steps which should be followed to control an infestation of head lice.
1. Using an effective head louse treatment-‐Your doctor can recommend a medicated shampoo, cream or lotion to kill head lice. These may be over-‐the-‐counter or prescription medications and need to be applied according to the instructions contained on the box or printed label. Retreatment is generally recommended for most prescriptions and non-‐prescription drugs after 9-‐10 days in order to kill any surviving hatched lice before they produce new eggs.
2. Removing nits from the head (combing)-‐ Remaining eggs should be removed from the hair shafts with a special nit comb or fine tooth comb found in the product package. Many flea combs made for cats and dogs are also effective. Checking a small section of hair at a time under a bright light or lamp that can be directed at the area being worked on or using a magnifying glass makes the nits easier to find. Tissues to clean the comb, a plastic bag for the
discarded tissues, and hair clips to pin up the sections of hair that have been combed are helpful. This may take an hour or more, so an entertaining video may help keep the child occupied.
3. Removing lice and nits from the household by vacuuming, storing, washing, or freezing objects suspected of being infested-‐ All clothing, bed linens, stuffed animals and other items that an infested person used during the 2 days before treatment should be washed using the hot water cycle and the high heat drying cycle. Items that are not machine-‐washable should be dry cleaned or sealed in a plastic bag for two weeks (enough time for any eggs to hatch and the lice to die). Combs, brushes and hair accessories can be washed in very hot water and soap for 5-10 minutes. Pillows can be put through hot dryer cycle. Vacuum the floor and furniture, particularly where the infested person sat or laid down.
4. Checking heads daily and removing nits until infestation is gone, followed by weekly head checks to detect reinfestation-‐ Every 2-‐3 days, comb the hair with the nit comb to remove nits and lice to decrease the chance of self-‐reinfestation. This should continue for 2-‐3 weeks to be sure all the lice and nits are gone.
If you need assistance or more information about head lice, you may call your child’s school nurse or you may call:
Roanoke County/Salem Health Dept. 387-‐5530 Roanoke County/Vinton Health Dept. 857-‐7804