I am hearing more and more reports about lice in schools and I'm seeing them in my own patients too.

Head lice are common among children. They seem to occur most often in the 3-12 year old age group. Head lice do not spread disease and are not due to “being dirty” or because of “poor hygiene”. The CDC estimates that in the United States there are 6-12 million lice cases per year.  What these millions of infections do do is cause a huge amount of parental angst.

Lice outbreaks are seen secondary to direct head to head contact, as lice cannot jump, hop or fly. While they can crawl, they really don’t live well off of the hair as they are obligate parasites.  Lice have feet that are perfect for holding on to human hair, and they have a hard time gripping onto other materials.  While a louse can live up to 30 days on the head, it dies within a day or two after falling off the scalp, so they are not walking around your house just waiting to crawl onto your head. 

Patients also ask me if their pets gave their children lice and the answer is no, so no need to shave your pet.  

If you find your child comes home from school with not only homework, but lice.....it is best to start treatment with an over the counter (OTC) product that contains permethrin.  Follow the package directions EXACTLY and in many cases another application is recommended in 7-10 days after the first.  It may take up to 8-12 hours for the bugs to die after being treated. Use the nit comb to comb dead lice and nits from the head. I would continue to watch the scalp and use the nit comb every 2-3 days for a while after treatment to improve the chance of success.

Wash all clothes and linens from the infected child, in hot water (130 degrees), but you do not have to wash every linen in the house if the child has not had contact with it!!! Soak combs and brushes in hot water for 5-10 minutes as well.  You can also soak head bands, barrettes and other hair “stuff” in rubbing alcohol or lysol for about an hour.  

If OTC products fail, there are numerous options now available by prescription, so give your pediatrician a call before you start contemplating drastic measures.....a crew cut is an easy alternative for boys, but just not as cute on school aged girls.