Return to School, Return of Lice
Back to School
For many of us, it’s been over a year since our children have returned to in-person school. Although our children are thrilled about returning to their teachers & friends, there is something else that is also thrilled about the kids returning to school. That something is lice. Pediculus humanus capitis is the scientific name given to these blood-sucking parasites that infest the hair of our little ones and humans as a whole. Although there is no “season” for lice, there is typically an increase in cases when our children return to school from summer and winter break. So what do we know about them?
What Are Head Lice
Head lice are wingless insects that are about the size of a sesame seed. Their only mode of transportation is by walking or by clinging on to objects that are in motion (like a hairbrush or a hair tie). They only like humans and will not attack or stay on pets or other animals. In fact, lice like humans so much that human blood is their favorite food. Lice also find that the scalp of a human head is generally the best place to live and reproduce as well.
An adult lice will generally suck & consume human blood for 4-6 hours a day. When an adult female has had enough blood, she will then lay 5-6 eggs a day. Due to the warmth of the area, eggs are generally laid about a ¼ inch from the base of the scalp. The lice eggs will hatch in about 9-12 days. An adult will live for about 30 days but interestingly, will only live for about 2 days if removed from a human. Generally, by the time an infestation is discovered, the lice have been in the hair for at least 2-3 weeks.
Signs of an Infestation
Even though lice live close to or on the scalp, most times the first sign of an infestation is not visual. Typically, that first sign comes in the form of an itchy scalp. The scalp becomes itchy due to an allergic reaction to the saliva, feces, and the carcasses of the lice against the skin of the head. It is about as gross as it sounds.
To determine if you have more than a dandruff problem, you will need to inspect the scalp. Always do so with gloves to prevent further transmission, especially on to yourself. Place the scalp to be inspected under a bright light. Move the hair in sections. If lice are present, you will notice their whiteish, yellowish eggs, called nits, attached to the hair near the scalp. These nits are securely attached to the hair follicle and will be difficult to remove using your fingers. You may also notice adult lice or the nymphs (lice babies) and they will be a greyish white to a tan color, again about the size of a sesame seed. The most common places to find evidence of lice is in the hair behind the ears or around the nape of the neck.
I Have Lice, Now What?
So you inspected your child and are pretty sure that they have lice. Now what? Please remember, it’s not the end of the world. There are over 12 million cases of lice reported in America each year. Also, lice do not spread any disease nor will they kill you or your child. Really, they are an annoyance and a blood sucking one at that. There are over-the-counter products that you can buy to destroy and rid your child of lice. Keep in mind that there are various levels of success with these over-the-counter products. The most assured way to end your lice problem is to see a medical professional or visit a children’s urgent care clinic.
My Child’s School Announced a Lice Outbreak
Did you get an email today from your child’s school saying that there have been reported cases of head lice at the school? If you did, don’t worry. Sit your child down and follow these steps.
- Check your child’s hair for lice (as described earlier)
- Check your child’s clothes that they wore over the last 2-3 days for nits & carcasses
- Check your child’s bedding and pillow for nits & carcasses
- Check your child’s other items such as towels, hats, & rugs for nits & carcasses
- Instruct your child to NOT share or touch items that have contact with someone’s hair
After going through these steps you believe your child has head lice, we strongly suggest that you book an appointment today.