Head lice are tiny insects that live on the human scalp. They cannot fly or jump. They can only crawl. Lice may come from many places – a friend, a church or theater seat, shared sweaters, caps, or by trying on clothes at a store. Anyone can get lice.
It is important that you inspect each member of your family daily for at least 10 days, then every week thereafter. Head lice should be suspected if there is intense itching and scratching of the head. Live lice are hard to locate because they move quickly, but their eggs or nits are much easier to see. They are small oval shaped, varying in color from white to brown or black. They are attached tightly to the hair shaft. Do not mistake nits for dandruff. Nits are firmly attached to the hair while dandruff can be brushed away.
If nits/lice are present, treatment should be administered immediately. You may consult your doctor or pharmacist for treatment, or you can buy over-the-counter, lice-specific shampoo. In either case, instructions must be followed exactly. The National Pediculosis Association, a non-profit organization, can also make recommendations. You may reach them at 1-800-446-4672. Their website is www.headlice.org.
After treatment, the following steps should be taken to help keep your family members and environment lice free.
For Treatment and Prevention of Re-infestation
If any of the following steps are omitted, or not performed at the proper time, head lice may reoccur.
Treatment of household members:
Contact your doctor before treating children under the 3 years of age.
A. Treat all members (3 years and older) on the same day and in the following manner:
- Shampoo with appropriate lice shampoo following product directions for amount of product used and length of time it is to be left in hair.
- Rinse as directed.
- Discard or wash all combs and brushes in lice shampoo or soak in very hot water 5-10 minutes.
- Comb shampooed hair with clean regular comb to remove tangles.
- Treatment of infested members should be repeated in about 8 days.
B. All nits (eggs) must be removed. To remove nits:
- Divide hair into small sections and comb each section with a lice comb. Wipe the comb frequently with tissue. Flush tissue down the toilet or place in a bag that can be sealed when finished.
- All nits remaining not removed by the comb must be pulled from strands of the hair using your fingers or a cotton ball soaked in vinegar. Nits and/or cotton balls should be placed in a sealed plastic bag.
C. Special house cleaning should be performed on the same day the shampoos are given.
Treatment of Household Items:
- Machine wash (hot water) and dry in dryer (hot setting), all personal items of infested members such as underwear, pajamas, coats/hats, outerwear and all bedding including sheets, pillowcases, blankets, spreads, etc.
- Unwashable items should be dry cleaned or placed in a sealed, air-tight plastic bag for 10 days. This includes stuffed toys.
- Vacuum all mattresses, floors, rugs, chairs, sofas, car, etc. Then spray with special insecticide recommended by the doctor or pharmacist. Discard contents of vacuum cleaner in plastic bag.
D. Prevention of Re-infestation:
- REMOVE ALL NITS.
- Inspect all household members at least once weekly.
- Repeat treatment as directed if lice or nits are found.
E. Re-entry to School:
- BRING your student to school.
- Your student will be allowed in school if proper treatment has been administered and if no lice or nits are present.