Head lice are small greyish-white insects that can live in the hair for 3-4 weeks. They are about 2-3 mm long. They are found in the hair near the scalp and can cause intense itching and skin irritation by biting the scalp. Lice will leave eggs on the hair mostly behind the ears and at the nape of the neck. These eggs are small spots that are glued on the hair close to the scalp, and are difficult to see and remove. Eggs will hatch every 7-12 days, and the young lice will reach full maturity 9-12 days after hatching. Hatched eggs, or nits, can be seen as small white spots on the hair strands, and are usually farther away from the scalp as viable eggs are. Lice can survive for only less than 24 hours without a food source (i.e. a human head).
There are some common misconceptions about lice. For instance, head lice do not hop, jump, or fly; they crawl, and prefer to be on someone’s head. They move from child to child through head to head contact, or very rarely by sharing items such as combs, hair brushes, pillows, or hats; most lice or eggs on brushes or combs have been found to be injured or damaged, and unviable. Lice do not carry or spread any diseases. Additionally, hair length has been found to have no effect on lice infestations.
Although there is currently no Texas statute regulating pediculosis, we require any student with evidence of live lice to be sent home and treated. If only nits are found, the school nurse will communicate with the parent, and the decision to remove the student from class will be left at the parent’s discretion. Please do not preventatively treat your child. Some of the treatments (i.e. Rid, Nix, etc.), if used incorrectly, or more than recommended, can be harmful to your child. Treat only if you find lice or eggs. If you find that your student is affected, check the rest of your household, and treat all members who are affected.
To detect lice, separate the hair in sections and look closely for either live bugs, or eggs on the hair. Eggs or nits close to the scalp can be indicative of an active case. If the nits are further out in the strands, it is possible that the case has diminished, but will still need to be treated. To distinguish eggs and nits from dandruff, rub a finger over the area. If the spot moves, it is dandruff. Please do not feel that your, or any other child, is “dirty,” if he/she has lice; they prefer clean hair because it allows them to better hold on to the hair shafts.
We DO NOT recommend using the aforementioned treatments, or anything as extreme as pet insect killers like Advantage. However, if you choose to use those treatments, please be sure to use them sparingly and exactly as directed on the packaging. There are natural treatments available, such as hot oil, olive, tea tree, or peppermint oils. Wash your child’s hair with hot water (but not hot enough to burn). With a fine-toothed lice comb (you can buy one at Walgreen’s or Wal-Mart), comb through your child’s hair in sections removing lice, eggs, and nits. You may need to clean the comb a few times during this process. You can cover your child’s hair with the oil, put a shower cap on, and either soak for a few hours, or leave it on overnight. Rinse the hair and comb again. Do this for a couple of nights.
To clean household items such as pillows, stuffed animals, rugs, etc., simply put them in a garbage bag, seal it tight, and set the bag in a closet for about a week. This is sufficient time for any viable eggs to hatch, and the young lice to die due to a lack of food source. Make sure to vacuum your house and furniture every day, and wash all bedding and other linens using the hottest water available.
We are required to check your child’s hair before they can return to class. When you’re ready to bring them back, please stop by our office for us to do this.
Please do not hesitate to call your student's school nurse with questions. Further information may be found on the Department of State Health Services website (www.dshs.state.tx.us/schoolhealth) or from your physician.