Let's talk about…Head Lice
Each year at this time we see cases of lice in Central Oregon affecting children of all family types and backgrounds. A lice infestation is quite common, causes no medical harm and the condition doesn't spread disease. There's no need for alarm if there is an outbreak in the school and it's best not to overreact if your child is exposed.
How is it spread?
It can be spread by close contact such as sharing beds, or even sharing common items such as hair brushes, headphones, and hats. It is also be spread by close contact of articles of clothing, such as adjacent coat hooks in school. Lice do not jump,fly, or travel on pets and lice can typically survive about 48 hours on most surfaces.
How do I know if my child has head lice?
Often children don’t have any symptoms while some may have an itchy scalp, especially behind the ears. If you get a notice from your school that lice has been detected, just monitor your child's scalp every day for a week or so. If you see any suspicious signs, check closer.
To look for lice, wet the hair and use a fine tooth lice comb. Comb from the scalp to the end of the hair and examine the comb after each stroke for live lice or eggs (nits). Lice can move quickly through hair and are often hard to see. Nits are attached securely to the hair shaft just above the scalp. Mature lice are about the size of a sesame seed.
How do I treat head lice?
You can use an over-the-counter product such as permethrin 1% rinse. If your child is under 1 year old, see your doctor before choosing an over-the-counter treatment. Make sure to wash sheets, clothes, towels, hats, etc in hot water the same day you do the treatment to prevent re-infestation. Items that cannot be washed should be dry-cleaned or stored in an air-tight plastic bag for two weeks. You may need to repeat the treatment in 7 days to kill any lice that may have hatched because this treatment can’t kill the eggs, only the live lice.
Some head lice are resistant to this treatment, and if the infestation continues you'll need to see your pediatrician to discuss a prescription medication.
The most important thing to do if your child has lice is to relax, encourage family members to remain positive and start the treatments. Lice has been with us for eons and will keep coming back every year to just "bug" us. And, if you have any concerns, please call our Ask A Nurse line. That's what we're here for!