Head lice are the second most common condition among children – second only to the common cold. Pediculosis (Lice Infestation) is a common condition. Lice infestation is not due to poor hygiene. In fact, lice prefer to live on clean heads. Head lice spread easily by direct contact About 80 percent of schools across the country have at least one outbreak of head lice per year. Anyone can get head lice. If lice is found in your child’s classroom, a form letter is sent home.
What are head lice?
Head lice are small parasitic insects. Head lice are about the size of a sesame seed and live on the human scalp. They are brownish, tan or gray in color and move by crawling.
Lice do not jump or fly, and do not transmit diseases. They feed on human blood and without it they can’t survive. Head lice can only live on human scalps.
- Lice are not known to cause disease.
- Lice infestations are not due to poor hygiene.
- Lice live on people’s scalps, not on animals.
Since head lice are extremely contagious, children discovered to have an infestation must be kept home until all lice are completely removed from the hair and do not pose a threat of transmission. A child returning to school must be accompanied by an adult, be re-examined by the school nurse or a faculty member, and returned to class if they are lice-free. In addition, returning students will be rechecked in 14 school days by the school nurse. According to the DOE policy, a child with nits (eggs) does not need to be removed from school.
How head lice are transmitted
Lice do not travel great distances on their own. In fact, they can only survive away from a human host for 48 hours. They crawl from one person to another and are spread by direct hair-to-hair contact. Other means of spreading is from the sharing of combs, hats, helmets, scarves, headphones, pillows or other personal items.
Preventing head lice
- Notify your children’s school.
- Check everyone in the family for lice or nits.
- Do not share combs or personal items worn on the head or neck.
- Check hair and scalp for 10 days. If lice, nits or eggs remain, re-treat with Lice removal product.
- Wash all clothing, bedding and towels used by infested persons in hot water (above 130ºF). Dry items at highest heat for at least 20 minutes. Dry clean items that can’t be washed.
- Disinfect hair products such as combs, brushes, and hair accessories by soaking in hot (above 130º F) soapy water for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Place stuffed toys in plastic bags and seal for 2 weeks.
- Vacuum rugs, carpets, mattresses and car seats thoroughly. Dispose of vacuum cleaner bags immediately after use.
How to detect head lice
- Check your entire family for head lice for 10 days
- Examine the head under bright natural light.
- Part the hair and closely examine the scalp, especially the nape of the neck and behind the ears. Lice will quickly move away from the light.
- To find the eggs and nits, look for small white or yellowish-brown specks that are about the size of a poppy seed. Eggs are found on the hair shaft close to the scalp. Newly laid eggs are almost transparent, so it is helpful to examine the hair from different angles of light.
- To tell the difference between eggs and dandruff, try to dislodge them from the hair shaft. If they are not easily removed, they are probably eggs.
Links for more information
- LICEMD INSTRUCTION
- Happy Heads Instuctional Lice removal video and products
- KIDSHEALTH.ORG FOR KIDS
- KIDSHEALTH.ORG FOR PARENTS
- CENTER FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION
- The life cycle of a louse is about one month.
- A nit is an egg.
- Nits take about 7 days to hatch.
- A nit can hatch off the head (for example, in a hairbrush or on a bed sheet), but the conditions must be warm enough and a host must be found quickly, or the bug will die.
- After a nit hatches this baby bug is called a nymph.
- The clear shell of the egg is still attached to the hair shaft after the bug emerges.
- The egg is stuck onto the hair shaft by a type of glue. Happyheads Bye-Bye Lice Shampoo™ helps loosen this glue.
- Nits, or eggs, vary in color, depending on the color of the hair. Lighter nits are found in lighter hair, darker nits in darker hair.
- About 10% of nits never hatch.
- Nothing kills nits except for dry heat. Blow-drying hair and flat ironing can kill nits.
- Once hatched, the bug molts three times in its life cycle, shedding its hard shell to grow.
- The nymph needs about 7–10 days before it is mature enough to lay eggs.
- Eggs are laid only by the female louse.
- Mature lice lay 3–10 eggs per day.
- The body of the female louse is more round than the male louse.
- Lice excrete in the hair. This looks like little dark sand granules and is sometimes visible in very blond hair.
- Lice only lay eggs in head hair. It is possible to have eggs in eyebrows and eyelashes, but is not common.
- Body and pubic lice are different types of lice, different than head lice.
- Head lice are human parasites and cannot live on animals.
- Off the head, lice can only survive 48 hours without a host.
- Lice do not intentionally come off the head, unless they are transferring to another head. Therefore, there are not lice all over the house.
- 99.0% of lice are spread by head-to-head contact.
- Lice do not jump or fly and are wingless. They have 6 legs.
- They are nearly transparent in color, but turn a coffee brown color after they feed (draw blood).
- Lice bite every few hours to feed. They are transparent in color, but right after they feed, they are a darker brown color due to the blood they intake.
- The bites cause itchiness and irritate the skin. They are often at the nape and behind the ears.
- 6–20 million people in the U.S. are thought to contract lice each year.
- Lice remains have been discovered on Egyptian mummies.
- Lice prefer clean hair because they can navigate without difficulty and easily attach their eggs.