This information is provided by Valerie Alberti, RN, Brown School Health Office:
Several cases of head lice have been identified at Brown School. Head lice are not a source of infection or disease; they are simply a public health nuisance. They are a problem in many communities, and do not reflect poor hygiene or social status. Anyone can get head lice. They are spread mostly through direct head-to-head contact with someone who has lice, or possibly from sharing brushes, combs, hats, helmets, and other personal items. Social encounters and sleepovers are very common points of transmission. Research has shown that only a small percentage of cases have been transmitted in the school setting.
However, we can take steps to minimize transmission.
- Parents should check their child(ren) daily for the next few weeks and on a regular basis thereafter. Lice infestation is much easier to treat if caught early.
- If your child has long hair, please pull it back into a pony tail, braids, etc. before sending them to school.
- Please read the attached Head Lice Fact Sheet. It contains information about head lice, and the most current advice for management.
If you discover lice or nits on your child’s hair:
- Contact your Health Care Provider for treatment recommendations.
- Notify your child’s school nurse.
- Notify the parents of your child’s playmates. This step is critical in preventing further transmission, and re-infestation of your own child.
- After treatment, it is essential that you use a long-toothed metal lice comb everyday for at least 2 weeks to remove the nits that may have survived after treatment. It only takes 2 live nits to hatch & start the spread all over again.
- After treatment, upon return to school, your child will need to be cleared by the school nurse before returning to class.
Parents are the first, middle and last line of defense against head lice. Routine screening at home – by all parents – is far more effective in terms of prevention and early identification than mass screenings in school can ever be.
Thank you for your cooperation. If you have further questions, please contact the school nurse.
Valerie Alberti, RN, Brown School Health Office, 203-245-6407
Madison Public Schools Health Services
Head Lice Fact Sheet
Where do head lice come from?
Head lice do not come out of the air or from the ground. They are human parasites that survive on human blood from the scalp. They do not thrive on pets. Head lice do not jump or fly and generally cannot survive longer than 24 hours away from a human scalp. Each female louse can lay about 6 eggs (nits) per day that they “glue” to a hair within ~¼ inch from the scalp.
What do head lice look like?
Live head lice are very small reddish-brown insects that crawl and may move faster when exposed to light. Their nits are even smaller pale oval eggs that are easily confused with dandruff or hair spray drops. One way to tell if it’s a nit is that it is close to the scalp and is very sticky to the hair.
Do head lice carry or transmit disease?
No. They are not like tics that transmit Lyme disease.
How are head lice spread?
There needs to be direct prolonged and close head –to-head contact for head lice to transfer from the hair of one child to the hair of another. Social encounters and sleepovers are very common points of transmission. Lice can also be spread through the sharing of personal articles like hats, helmets, towels, brushes, and fabric such as a pillow or blanket. Only a small percentage of cases are actually transmitted in school.
How common are head lice infestations?
It is estimated that 6-12 million children per year get head lice in the United States. Most children have head lice for about one month before they are detected.
What is the proper procedure for checking for head lice?
- Have the child lean their head forward.
- Using your fingers or a fine toothed comb examine the hair close to the scalp at the back of the neck, around the ears, and along the crown – pay close attention to areas where there is itching.
- Lice may move quickly when exposed to light.
- Unhatched nits will be very close to the scalp; egg casings or killed nits can stay on the hair as it grows.
- Any live lice or nits within ¼- ½ inch from the scalp should be considered a case of head lice that needs to be treated.
What product should I use to treat my child?
There are no over-the-counter or prescription treatments to kill lice that are totally safe and scientifically proven to be 100% effective against head lice and nits. Please ask your health care provider for suggestions on appropriate medicated products to use on your child’s scalp. Don’t use mayo, olive or mineral oils. Repeated efforts should be made to use a long-toothed metal lice-comb to remove all possible nits- it only takes 2 live nits to hatch & start the spread all over again.
How do you treat a home or school for lice?
Homes or schools don’t get head lice – people do. Head lice are human parasites and require human blood to survive. Vacuuming is the safest and best way to remove lice or fallen hairs with attached nits from fabric furniture, rugs, stuffed animals or car seats – wherever someone with head lice ma y have rested their head.
Pesticidal sprays can be very dangerous and are not recommended.
Do I have to treat everyone in the house?
Everyone else in the home should be checked and treated only if they have head lice.
Do I have to bag stuffed animals and other items?
No. Since lice cannot survive without human blood, this is unnecessary. You can also put bed linens, stuffed animals and other items in a dryer for 30 minutes – the heat will help kill the lice.
Other Resources: In addition to your health care provider, a good internet resource is www.headlice.org