Treat Head Lice Quickly, Thoroughly
Published by Contra Costa Times
Posted on Fri., Oct. 17, 2007
By Francie Wise, RN, MPH
THE SCHOOL YEAR is in full swing again, and so are head lice outbreaks. Lice infected almost every classroom at one local elementary school. These pesky little insects spread fast, so it's important to treat your children quickly and thoroughly.
Treating head lice is simple, but it takes time and persistence. Over-the-counter medications are effective, and some local hair salons offer treatments.
Parents should inspect their children's heads if there is an outbreak at their school or day care, even if the child doesn't complain of itching.
Often, though, the scalp does itch. This is caused by the lice biting the scalp, which is annoying but not dangerous.
Lice eggs, called nits, are tiny white or gray specks that cling to the hair and can best be seen on the hair shaft close to the scalp at the back of the head. They look like dandruff but cling to the hair shaft and, unlike dandruff, are hard to remove.
Head lice travel by crawling. They don't fly or jump like fleas. Group settings, such as day care centers and schools where children come into close contact, are perfect environments for lice to spread.
Head lice (one is called a louse) are spread from one infested person to another through close contact, so:
If the head lice problem persists despite treatment, ask teachers and other parents to check children for lice. If two treatments of over-the-counter lice products don't work, call your doctor.
For more information, visit the Contra Costa Health Services Web site at http://www.cchealth.org. The state health department has useful head lice brochures for parents, schools and child care facilities available in both English and Spanish on its Web site under the head lice section: http://www.dhs.ca.gov/ps/dcdc/disb/disbindex.htm.
Wise is director of communicable disease programs and public health nursing for Contra Costa Health Services. Healthy Outlook is written by the professional staff of Contra Costa Health Services, the county health department. Send questions to series coordinator Dr. David Pepper at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more health information, go to www.cchealth.org.