Head Lice Parent Letter
As you may know, head lice cases are common among school aged children. An estimated 6-12 million infestations occur each year in the United States, most commonly among children ages 3-11. This letter is for ALL parents to help you learn what you can do if lice hit your home.
What are head lice?
Head lice are tiny, wingless insects that live close to the human scalp. They feed on human blood. The eggs, which are also called nits, are tiny, teardrop shaped eggs that attach to the hair shaft. Nits are yellowish or white in color and look like dandruff but unlike dandruff they cannot be easily brushed off. The nymph, or baby louse is smaller and grow to adult size in 1-2 weeks. The adult louse is the size of a sesame seed and is tan to grayish white. An itchy scalp is the most common symptom of lice. Although not common, persistent scratching may lead to skin irritation and even infection.
Who is affected by head lice?
Head lice are not related to cleanliness. In fact, head lice often infest people with good hygiene and grooming habits. Infestations can occur at home, school or in the community. Head lice are mostly spread by direct head to head contact- for example during play at home or school, taking a selfie together, slumber parties, sports activities, or camp. Less often lice are spread via objects that have been in recent contact with a person with head lice such as hair ribbons, stuffed animals or scarves.
What is the school nurse's role?
The National Association of School Nurses, American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC all agree that classroom and/or school wide head lice screening programs have not had a significant effect on the incidence of head lice in the school setting over time and have not proven to be cost effective and therefore no longer recommend this practice. Doing these screenings also makes it impossible to protect the privacy and confidentiality of the students.
What is the school policy for head lice?
If your student is found to have nits or live lice at school they will not be sent home from school. However, the school nurse will call you to notify you of what was found. You will be expected to treat your student before sending them back to school.
How to treat head lice:
There is no clear evidence that home remedies such as homeopathic shampoos or mayonnaise work, and they may end up prolonging the problem. Others have depended on over-the counter medications, but recent data shows that some head lice may be resistant to the main ingredient of these medicines. A 2016 study showed that 48 states now have lice that are genetically predisposed to resistance to commonly used treatments. Treatment failure may also be caused by incorrect use of the product, misdiagnosis of the original condition, or re-infestation.
Periodic head checks by parents, resulting in early detection, treatment and removal of live lice and nits, is the most reliable method for controlling lice.
LICE FUN FACTS
- Head lice have been around since pre-historic times and even mummies have been found with evidence of head lice.
- Adult lice are commonly the size of a sesame seed.
- The most common way to get lice is by direct head to head contact with an infested individual; head lice cannot hop, jump or fly.
- A new strain of lice, termed super lice, now represent 98% of all infestations today. Super lice are resistant to drugstore treatment products, which also contain harmful chemicals and pesticides.
- It is a myth that lice only infest people with poor hygiene. It is a fact that lice actually prefer clean hair, and everyone is at risk.
- Only 50% of people with head lice will show common symptoms, such as scratching or irritations, so it is very possible to be infested and not know!
- Shaving your head will not treat head lice. The nymphs (baby lice) can embed in the scalp and they will still develop into adult lice if not properly removed.
- Because of their specialized claws, lice cannot move very well on surfaces other than human hair, and will die within approximately 24 hours after being off the host’s head.
- Lice can hold their breath for up to 2 hours, so washing your hair won’t drown them.
- It is a myth that traditional home remedies such as tea tree oil, mayonnaise, olive oil or coca-oil can either prevent or treat head lice. To reduce your risk use a professional lice prevention spray daily.