Head Lice (page 2)
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.
Before treating a child, the diagnosis of lice should be confirmed either by a health care provider or someone very experienced in recognizing head lice infestations. Siblings, parents and intimate contacts – including caregivers – should be examined the same day and start the treatment at the same time.
There are two types of lice treatments currently on the market: nonprescription (RID, Triple X, Nix and A 200 Pyrinate) and prescription. Discuss their advantages and disadvantages with your pharmacist or physician. Most treatments will require a repeat application 7-10 days after the first application. Read and follow the directions carefully, especially when treating infants, pregnant or nursing women or people with extensive scratches on their heads or necks. Use of mayonnaise, vaseline or kerosene is not recommended.
After using the shampoo, cream or lotion, the dead nits must be removed from the hair – a truly tedious job which will extend over several days. One effective method is using a metal nit comb available at pharmacies.
After treating the people, you should treat the environment. Launder clothing, head gear and bed linens in hot water and dry in a dryer. Non-washable items can be placed in airtight plastic bags and stored for two weeks, which should kill any eggs. Consider how the infestation might be spread – a toy corner with dress-up hats and veils or a favorite storytime rug that everyone likes to lie on. See that these items are either vacuumed well or thrown in a hot dryer for 20 minutes.
A treated child may return to school or child care within 24 hours if the nits have been removed. You will need to routinely reinspect the child’s head to make sure s/he has not been reinfested. A good schedule for inspecting your child’s head is to do it on Fridays after school or child care so you can treat the child on the weekend or do it on Monday morning before school or child care so you can keep your child home that day if lice are present.
For more information, call your physician, clinic, health department vector control or the Child Care Healthline (800) 333-3212. Visit www.HeadLice.org for additional information on treatment and how to identify head lice.
BANANAS Child Care Information & Referral • 5232 Claremont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94618 • 658-7353 • www.bananasinc.org
© 1978 BANANAS, Inc. Oakland, CA. Revised 2003.
Reprinted with the permission of BANANAS, Inc. © 2007 BANANAS
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