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    Head Lice, the Unwelcome Hitchhikers...

    Who, how?

    Head lice don’t spread disease, but they sure aren’t welcome guests. It’s possible for even the cleanest of heads and the cleanest of households to end up with a case of head lice since it has nothing to do with cleanliness. Lice DO NOT hop, jump or fly. They spread mostly by direct head-to-head contact, sleepovers, summer camp, etc. Sharing hats, hairbrushes, and clothing can also spread head lice, though the CDC tells us this is less common.

    What do I look for?

    It is a good to be aware of what to look for so you can catch a possible infestation early. Signs include a tickling/itching feeling on the scalp, irritability, and loss of sleep. If there is intense scratching, sores could develop. Nits (eggs) are very tiny and can be seen attached to the hair shaft closer to the scalp. Nits attach to side of the hair shaft. Nits are often easier to see than lice (bugs). Lice are tiny and move on and close to the scalp.

    Is this a nit (egg) or just dandruff?

    When gripped between your fingers it’s possible to slide a nit up and down the hair shaft. A nit won’t be moved off the hair by blowing on it as dandruff would. If you see something, and it blows off it’s most likely dandruff.

    What to do!?

    If you suspect a case of head lice, contact your child’s pediatrician for guidance on how to treat it. Over-the-counter and prescription medications are available. They are applied to the hair like shampoo. It is important to manually remove all nits and lice from the hair. A special fine comb is used for this. Treatment usually involves a follow up application 7 to 10 days after the first treatment. Follow package instructions carefully. Nitpickers (yes, they are real) can be hired to do the work of removing the lice and nits for you, usually without chemicals, but this tends to be expensive.

     Who else can help?

    A confidential phone call to your school nurse can help. You will receive support (hey, it’s not your fault) and additional information.