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Understanding Head Lice

Every year, millions of children get head lice. It can happen to any child, so having head lice is nothing to be embarrassed about. The more you know about head lice, the better prepared you’ll be to completely eliminate head lice from your family and home.

If your child has head lice, it is very important to inform the school. The Escanaba Area School District has a “no-nit” policy, which means that a child must have been properly treated, and all of the head lice and nits (eggs) must be removed before a child returns to school. An adult is required to bring the child back to school, and trained school personnel will check the child’s head to make sure nits and head lice are eliminated. This will help to prevent spread to other children in the school, and therefore decreasing the likelihood that your child will be re-exposed. In addition, none of the treatments on the market can kill all of the nits, so they may hatch and cause a new infestation.

If your child has had head lice, it is important for a parent to do daily head checks for at least two weeks (ideally for one month), and then weekly thereafter. Nits are often difficult to see, and are missed frequently. Frequent parental head checks after treatment are necessary to decrease the chances of re-infestation, and to catch new cases early.

What are head lice?

Head lice are tiny insects that feed on human blood. Head lice are about as big as sesame seeds and live on the human scalp. Head lice cannot jump or fly, but they can crawl very quickly. They only live on humans (not on animals). Head lice can be passed around on shared combs, brushes, hats, or by direct head-to-head contact.

What are the symptoms of head lice?

The most common symptom of head lice infestation is itching. However, checking your child’s head regularly, about once a month, is recommended even without any symptoms being present. The most common areas for head lice are behind the person’s ears, or at the back of the head at the neckline. It is unlikely that you would be able to see the actual head lice because they are so fast. Look for the eggs that the lice lay (also called nits.)

What are nits?

Head lice hatch from eggs called nits. Nits are smaller than lice and vary in color from yellowish-brown to white or gray. Newly laid nits are almost transparent.

Other important nit facts

  • Nits are attached to hair with a waterproof, glue-like substance that can’t be washed out or blown away.
  • Nits can be found on the hair shaft, close to the scalp.
  • Nits must be combed out of the hair with a special comb. Most schools, including Escanaba Public Schools, require that a child be “nit-free” before returning to the classroom.
  • Nits hatch in about one week. They are fully mature in about 9 to 12 days after hatching.
  • Female lice are capable of laying eggs once they reach maturity.

Lice Elimination System

Proper lice elimination requires several steps:

  1. Kill lice on infested family members
  2. Comb out nits
  3. Clean home to kill lice and prevent spread of infestation
  4. Continue with daily head checks for at least two weeks, removing any nits that may have been missed.

For more information on head lice detection and treatment, call your school nurse, Public Health of Delta and Menominee Counties at 786-4111, or click on the following recommended website: www.headlice.org

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