The Least Favorite Back to School Guest

As we enter September and school is back in full swing, there is one concern that should always be in the back of our minds - hopefully not literally. We are talking about head lice; the small, wingless insect may hitch a ride home with your child. Contrary to popular belief, lice are not a sign of uncleanliness. In fact, every child is at the same risk of coming home with head lice.

Head lice is one of the most common human parasitic infestation worldwide and can be very difficult to eliminate. The most common symptom of a lice infestation is persistent itching, particularly around the ears, the back of the neck and the crown of the head.

Adult female lice, called louse, can lay up to eight eggs, or nits, a day. These nits are usually found in the warmest spots on the head. It then takes about six to nine days for them to become small lice, or nymphs. After seven days, nymphs become adult louse and the process starts over.

Dealing with head lice can feel like a daunting task, but this three step process can help eliminate your child’s head lice infestation:

  1. Kill all live lice
  2. Remove all nits by combing and manually nit picking
  3. Clean the infested person’s belongings and home environment to prevent re-infestation

For schools, the goal is to eliminate head lice, provide help if necessary, and keep families and classmates informed when it is found.

It is important for parents to know that school district #25 has a policy requiring all children with lice receive appropriate treatment and be nit-free before he/she may return to school.

There are several over-the-counter products for removing head lice, but manual removal – the most time consuming part of the process – plays a key role in eliminating the infestation. Additionally, all bedding, towels and clothing must be washed separately from other items. Items that cannot be placed in the washing machine can be sealed in a plastic bag and stored for 14-20 days outside the home. All affected family members should be treated simultaneously to avoid reinfection.

Help Control the Spread

Lice are contagious and can easily travel through direct contact. To help prevent and control the spread of head lice consider the following preventive measures:

  • Avoid head-to-head contact during activities
  • Do not share clothing such as hats, scarves and coats
  • Do not share hair accessories, headphones or sporting equipment
  • Keep girls hair in a braid or bun
  • Avoid hanging coats and hats on the same hook as other classmates or place personal belongings in a plastic bag
  • Avoid sitting on furniture recently occupied by someone with head lice
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