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Lice and School Children (Lice)
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Lice and School Children

Bonnie Kuehl, PhD

Lice are tiny wingless bugs that live in human hair, feeding off of blood in the skin. They are transmitted from host to host through direct contact, or through shared clothing. School, where children congregate in large numbers, and participate in various activities, is a common ground for your children to get lice. Contrary to popular belief, lice do not prefer dirty hair, and there are no connections between personal hygiene and lice. They do, however, tend to prefer clean loose hair, making girls especially susceptible. September, during the back to school rush, is the peak season for the spreading of lice. For more information on identifying or treating lice, visit lice.ca.

Identifying lice can be tricky as they are small bugs, and can move rather quickly. A common sign of lice is if a child is constantly scratching their head or neck area, however, it can take weeks for these symptoms to show after the lice has been transmitted. Lice or nits can be found in their hair through careful combing.

Lice are often found in the nape of the neck or behind the ears. If lice or nits are found on your child, treat immediately, and clear up the infestation, and notify the school as fast as possible. If an infestation occurs in the classroom, lice will spread very quickly to other children. Keeping longer hairs in braids, or using conditioners and other styling products may offer some minor help by making the hair more difficult for lice to grab.

These measures should control lice infestation once it has been found:

  • Purchase a lice comb, an extremely fine comb made for the purpose of removing lice and nits. Using this comb, remove all nits that are close to the skin. Combing should be done daily for two weeks.
  • The hair and scalp should be treated with a medicated anti-lice treatment. Kwellada-P®, R&C™ 2in 1 Shampoo+Conditioner, and Creme Rinse- Nix™ are all products designed for lice removal.
  • Fine combs (you can buy one made for the purpose) can be used to remove lice and nits. Try to remove all the eggs that are close to the skin. Repeat every other day for two weeks.
  • Treat the scalp and hair with insecticide (a medicated anti-lice treatment). There are a number available including R&C™ 2 in 1 Shampoo+Conditioner (a single-step product)- Kwellada-P® Creme Rinse- Nix™ Creme Rinse. Follow the instructions carefully.
  • Towels, clothing, and bed linens should be washed in hot water of at least 50 degrees Celsius, and dried using a hot dryer for twenty minutes or more.
  • Plush toys should be sealed in a plastic bag for two weeks, as lice cannot live long without contact with their host.
  • Children should be kept home until the lice and nits are removed.
  • Visit http://www.lice.ca/treatment/permethrin_pyrethrin_work.html for more information about lice treatment options.

Lice can spread very quickly if it is not detected quickly. While it is impossible to completely contain lice in an environment like school where regular contact with hundreds of other children are common, early detection and prompt treatment can avoid an epidemic from occurring.

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