Photo credit: CDC
Head lice are tiny insects that live on the head and scalp. They should not be confused with body lice, which may be found in clothing and bedding as well as on the body, or crab lice that infest the pubic area. They are found only on humans, not pets or other animals.
Although small and quick moving, adult head lice may be seen with the naked eye. Head lice suck blood, and the rash caused by their feeding activities may be more noticeable than the insects themselves. Head lice attach their eggs at the base of a hair shaft. These eggs, or nits, appear as tiny white or dark ovals and are especially noticeable on the back of the neck and around the ears. Adult head lice cannot survive for more than 48 hours apart from the human host.
Head lice are primarily spread through direct head to head contact, although sharing personal items such as hats, brushes, combs, and linens may play a role in their spread between children. Children with head lice should be treated with a medicated shampoo, rinse, or lotion developed specifically for head lice. These treatments are very powerful insecticides and may be toxic if not used only as recommended. Consult your physician for a product best suited for your child. It is important to remove nits or eggs. This may prove to be a time-consuming task, but is important to prevent reinfestation.
Nits can be removed using a fine-toothed comb. Commercial preparations to remove nits should be used according to the manufacturer’s recommendations to assure that the residual activity of the insecticide is not affected.
Check all other members of the household.
Although head lice are not able to survive off of humans for more than a few days, it is important to wash clothes (including hats and scarves) and bedding in very hot water, and vacuum carpets and upholstered furniture in rooms used by person infested with these insects. Combs and hair brushes may be soaked in hot (65°C) water for at least one hour.
PowerPoint - National Association of School Nurses
- Checklist check all members of family looking for live lice or nits (eggs) attached to the hair shaft
- Consult physician regarding lice treatment, follow instructions precisely
- REMOVE ALL NITS to prevent reoccurrence. Remove nits from hair in a well-lit area. Separate hair into sections and remove nits starting from the scalp moving to the ends of the hair with a nit comb or your fingers.
- Delouse combs, brushes, headbands, hats, etc.
- Properly launder all bedding (sheets, pillow cases, blankets, bedspreads) and clothing – hot water, hot dry or dry clean if necessary
- Pillows, fabric toys, backpack or household items that cannot go in the washing machine or be dry cleaned should be vacuumed and sealed in a plastic bag for 14 days
- Thoroughly vacuum mattresses, carpets, curtains, furniture and car upholstery
- Remove and properly dispose of the vacuum cleaner bag after cleaning is finished
- Repeat treatment in 7 days as directed
- Incorporate a head check every few days as part of normal grooming activity with your child, but inspect hair every other day during lice alerts
- Live lice are about the size of a sesame seed, usually brown, and move quickly away from light.
- Nits are tiny, yellowish-white oval eggs firmly attached at an angle to the hair shaft.
- Be sure not to confuse nits with hair debris such as dandruff, hair spray, dry scalp. These items can be removed from the hair easily.
- Nits adhere firmly to the hair shaft and require manual removal with lice comb or your fingernails.
Pets do not carry or spread head lice.
Please call the school nurse with questions or concerns.
This information was compiled from facts from the CDC, Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion and Southington School Health Services policies and procedures.
For more information please visit the CDC:
For photographs of headlice: http://lancaster.unl.edu/pest/lice/photo.shtml
For more information visit the Connecticut Department of Public Health: http://www.ct.gov/dph/cwp/view.asp?a=3136&q=388318
This information is provided as a service of the Southington School Health Services. It is not meant to take the place of your doctor’s recommendations.
Disclaimer: The information provided herein is not intended as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this material. If you think you have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.