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Sunday, December 08, 2019

Dear parent,

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Head lice

What are head lice and nits

What are head lice?

Head lice (plural of a louse) are tiny grayish-brown insects of 3.5 to 7 mm in length. They move very quickly, but do not jump nor fly. They are parasites that feed by sucking human blood from the scalp.

The eggs of the lice, called nits, are laid close to the scalp on hair shafts, so they are kept warm. They are different from dandruff because the eggs (nits) are oval, shiny and very hard to pull off the hair. After about 7 days, the eggs hatch, and new lice are released. Later, the new lice are fully-grown and start laying eggs.

How do lice infest human hair?

Head lice cannot jump or fly. They crawl from one head to another. Head lice are caught by having the head alongside the head of someone who is infested or by using the hairbrush or comb of someone infested.

Children should be discouraged from sharing items such as combs, brushes, scarves, sweaters, hats or other things that could have touched the scalp or hair of an infested person.

Pets cannot get human head lice since the latter need human blood to survive. The lice cannot survive away from a human host for more than 24 hours.

How do I know if my child has head lice?

Many head lice infestations show no symptoms and, probably less than half would cause itching. Therefore, you have to look thoroughly to find out if your child has head lice. Do not rely on itching or scratching symptoms. If you are not sure whether an object is a head louse or nit, try sliding it up the hair shaft using your fingers. Nits are usually quite difficult to move whereas hair muffs slide easily. Nits usually are located behind the ears and back of the neck whereas adult lice crawl fast.

At our school

Screening is done during the yearly medical check up and a couple of times separately. In case an infested child is found, concerned parents are notified immediately to initiate the treatment. Although confidentiality is maintained to avoid any embarrassment caused by this matter, all the necessary precautions are taken to make sure no other person is infested.

How do I treat my child?

There are two ways to get rid of head lice or nits:

1- By using a lice shampoo or lotion as prescribed by the doctor:

a- Apply the shampoo or lotion on the hair as indicated on the leaflet

b- Rinse the hair and dry with a towel (Do not use a dryer).

c- Remove all nits from the hair by using a special nit comb for this purpose or fingernails to slide the nits.

d- Lice may take as long as 24 hours after lice shampoo treatment to die.

e- Treatment with the same shampoo must be repeated 7-10 days after the first application to kill any new hatched lice.

Checking with doctor must be done before using the shampoo on a pregnant or breastfeeding women or any asthmatic, allergic or epileptic person.

The repeated use of these chemicals may be harmful to health. If the used shampoo was found to be ineffective, checking with your child's doctor must be also done.

2- The wet combing method (also called Bug busting)

Unfortunately, there is evidence that head lice are becoming resistant to some of the insecticides (Lice shampoos) currently being used. Because of this problem, there is now a move to encourage people to try and get rid of lice by a method known as "The wet combing" method or "Bug busting".

This method is very safe, cheap and on the way to prove its efficiency. It consists of the following steps:

a- Wash the infested hair with the usual shampoo

b- Apply plenty of conditioner after rinsing while the hair is wet.

c- Comb the hair using a fine toothed nit comb for at least 30 minutes. Comb from the roots upward. Check the comb for lice and clean them away after each sweep. Comb all the hair, a little at a time carefully.

d- Rinse out the conditioner and dry normally

e- Repeat this operation every 3 days for 2 weeks to get rid of any newly hatched lice.

Discuss with your doctor the best modality for your child.

All the family members or persons that could have entered in contact with an infested person should be checked for head lice and nits everyday for two weeks after the treatment.

Wash clothes (hats, scarves, jackets, pajamas, etc) that were worn within the past three days, along with backpacks, pillows, bedding and towels in extremely hot water or put them in a hot dryer for at least 20 min. It is also recommended to vacuum mattresses, carpeting and car seats.

Is lice infestation related to hygiene?

The belief that head lice are associated with poor hygiene is common but unfounded, as lice could equally be found on both clean and dirty hair. Head lice can attack anyone; even the cleanest family from the best of homes is not immune to an outbreak of lice. So, do not feel embarrassed if your child's hair is infested, all you have to do is initiate the treatment immediately.