--GUIDELINES FOR TREATING HEAD LICE—

HEAD LICE CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE

Getting head lice is not everything you may think it is.  It is not a sign of poor health habits or being dirty.  It does not happen only to the poor, or to racial or ethnic groups.  Head lice can occur at any age, and to either sex.  It doesn’t just happen to “other people”…it could happen to your or your family.  So, it’s best to learn how to recognize head lice infestation, how to treat it, and how to prevent if from happening.

WHAT ARE HEAD LICE?

They are tiny insects that live in human hair.  They hatch from small eggs, called nits, which are attached to individual hairs with a glue that firmly attaches the nits to the hair close to the scalp.  It takes 16 days for a nit to become a female louse capable for laying more eggs.  An adult female can deposit 6-8 nits in 2 days!

HOW DOES SOMEONE GET HEAD LICE?

Head lice can be transmitted in a number of ways – not only by physical contact.  Lice don’t fly or jump; they can only crawl.  Borrowing a comp/brush from a person who has lice is one way.  Also, they can be transmitted from borrowed coats, hats, ribbons, scarves or other head coverings.  Sharing towels or pillowcases can also spread head lice.  Even a stray hair that has nits can transmit head lice.  A common myth is that only people with long hair can get head lice, or that you only get it in the summer.  These myths are not true.

WHAT SIGNS SHOULD I LOOK FOR?

Persistent itching of the head and back of the neck can indicate head lice.  You should also look for infected scratch marks or a rash on the scalp.  Most important of all, look for nits attached to individual hairs.  Some people confuse nits with dandruff.  Here are some pointers to help you identify nits:  Nits are tiny and yellowish-white, and sometimes gray.  Dandruff is larger and white.  Dandruff can be easily flicked away with your finger.  Nits can’t.  Nits are hard to remove from your hair.  Nits feel like little grains of sand stuck to the hair, so you may feel them before you see them!

TREATING HEAD LICE:  THE SOONER THE BETTER!

To get rid of the lice, you must do two things; kill the live lice on the head, and remove ALL the nits from the hair.  Using a combination of combing and lice treatments has been proven effective.  There are chemical-based and chemical-free lice treatments available over the counter at any pharmacy.  Follow directions carefully!  Another alternative is an oil-based treatment using olive oil/mayonnaise.  Saturate the head with the oil or mayonnaise, wrap the hair in plastic wrap or a shower cap, and leave on the head for a minimum of 30 minutes up to 2 hours.  Using a nit comb, remove the lice and nits.  Then shampoo.  CONTINUE TO REMOVE NITS TWICE A DAY FOR 2 WEEKS!

YOUR HOUSE SHOULD BE TREATED TOO

Off the head, adult lice usually cannot survive for more than a day or two.  Clean the house the same day you apply the first lice treatment.  Vacuum rugs/carpets, car seats, chairs and couches, pillows from a couch or bed (wash the pillowcases), bed mattresses, stuffed animals in contact with head and neck.  Wash bath towels, sheets, blankets, and pillowcases, coats, hats and scarves.  Wash items using hot water or dry items in the dryer using high heat for 30 minutes.  Sanitize brushes, combs, nit combs, barrettes, hair holders, detachable foam pads from bike/sport helmets in ¼ cup bleach to 1 quart cold water for one hour.  For items not safe to wash, place them in a plastic bag and close tightly for 2 weeks.  During these 2 weeks, the lice and nits will not have food (human blood) and will die.

SHOULD OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS BE CHECKED?

Yes!  If one member of your family has head lice, all family members and people that have been in close contact with the affected member should be inspected daily for 2 weeks.  If lice/nits are found begin treatment promptly.  The sooner the treatment begins, the more manageable it is.

HOW CAN I HELP PREVENT HEAD LICE IN THE FUTURE?

All family members should avoid borrowing/lending personal items from each other or from friends.  It is best for everyone to use only his/her own personal items.