Head lice infestations are a common problem in child care facilities and schools for reasons that aren't clearly understood. It is clear, however, that head lice are not a sign of poor hygiene and that children from all socioeconomic groups are affected.
Although lice do not pose a real danger to humans, the thought of them infesting our children is upsetting. And, getting rid of them is a real nuisance! Knowing the facts ahead of time helps reduce anxiety.
The louse is a bloodsucking insect that lives its entire life on a person’s head. Ordinarily it does not live on animals other than humans. It exists in three forms – the egg or nit, the nymph and the adult. The egg or nit is yellowish to greywhite and is about the size of a pin-head. It attaches itself to the hair shaft within a quarter inch from the scalp by a cement-like substance. Small clusters of nits are usually found around the nape of the neck and behind the ears. Nits found farther along the hair shaft are either dead or hatched. About one week after the egg is deposited, it hatches a nymph. The nymph looks like an adult but it is not able to reproduce for another 8-10 days.
Frequent head scratching may be the only symptom. So, unless you know that the child has been in close contact with someone who has head lice, you will probably not think to check the head. That’s why an infestation may be well-established by the time it is discovered.
Parents and child care providers are often reluctant to reveal the presence of head lice. There is still a stigma surrounding the problem. However, if your child or a child in your child care program becomes infested, you have a responsibility to inform others who come in close and frequent contact with the child. With this information, the other parents can periodically inspect their own children. If nits or lice are found, start treatment promptly and nip the problem in the bud (“nipped in the nit”). A child who has lice and has not been treated should not be allowed to attend child care.
Reprinted with the permission of BANANAS, Inc. © 2007 BANANAS
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