Family Guide to Head Lice
"We've found head lice."
Few words upset a parent more than getting this news! This guide is designed to help Eudora Schools families feel more knowledgable -- and less panicked -- when head lice are found.
Just the facts
- Head lice do not discriminate. They like clean heads, dirty heads, children, teens and adults.
- They are six-legged insects that survive on the human scalp. They do not carry disease and are considered a nuisance -- not a health hazard.
- Lice do not have wings and do not jump or fly. In the vast majority of cases, they spread through head-to-head contact. Less often, they are spread through shared combs, hats, bedding, helmets, etc.
- They can hold their breath continuously for six hours, so bathing and swimming have no effect on whether someone has lice.
- They do not live on dogs, cats or other common household pets. Pigs are the only animal known to carry the same head lice as humans.
The life cycle of head lice is what makes treatment difficult because all bugs and nits (the sticky egg sacks that are attached to a strand of hair) must be removed -- if even one nit remains and hatches, the life cycle will begin again. Here are tips to help:
- A high quality nit-removing comb is your best friend in lice treatment because it will help remove nits more effectively than by hand or a everyday comb. Many professionals recommend purchasing a Nit Free Terminator Lice Comb to have on had, available at many large drug stores and online retailers.
- Over-the-counter products can help home treatment. The traditional Nix and Rid products use pesticides, while other products are toxin-free and use a combination of an oil that suffocates live bugs and a mousse that helps loosen the "glue" that holds the nit to the strand of hair.
- Lice removal businesses are a good option for families who are willing to pay for the convenience of a professional removing nits and/or bugs. Look for businesses that use the Shepherd Method of combing and offer a free guarantee on their service. Type "lice removal service near me" in your search bar to find businesses offering this service. Call ahead and ask about the details that matter most to you.
- Lice can live on carpet, furniture and other surface for up to 24-48 hours, so you'll need to take some steps with your home and belongings. If you learn that your child has been exposed to lice (or has an active case of head lice), here are recommendations for minimizing re-infestation:
- Place all hair brushes and/or combs in boiling water for at least 10 minutes, or in the freezer overnight.
- Wash and dry all bedding used by the exposed person. Use the highest heat setting on the washing machine and dryer.
- Wash and dry all stuffed toys and other bedding, or place in "quarantine" for 48 hours, after which time all remaining head lice will have died.
- Do NOT use chemical sprays or fumigation to treat your house, carpet or furniture. Simple vacuuming is sufficient in the vast majority of cases. Consult a professional pest treatment service if you believe more treatment is needed due to an advanced infestation, but remember that head lice that are not on a human head will die after 24-48 hours.
Hair that is short, or longer hair that is braided or pulled back in a ponytail is less likely to come into contact with other students' hair at school.
Essential oils, especially peppermint, teatree and citronella, have been shown to repel head lice. Put a few drops of essential oil in a spray bottle with water for a simple spray that can go on heads, backpacks and coats or hats each morning. This type of spray can also be purchased; check for essential oils when choosing a helpful product.
There is peace of mind when you keep a head lice comb and trusted treatment products on hand so that you can respond quickly if you suspect head lice exposure. Most treatment products do not expire.
Going to school
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment recommends that children and teens with head lice are allowed to attend school. At Eudora Schools, our school nurses work with children and families to encourage appropriate treatment options when head lice is found.