Head Lice

Link to the CDC site with recommendations on  head lice prevention and treatment.

Helpful Hints for Head Lice

1.  What are lice? Lice are small grayish-white insects 1/16 to 1/8 inches in length.
2.  Is there more than one type of louse?
There are many kinds of lice, but each kind usually feeds on a single kind of host.  For instance, human lice can establish and maintain themselves only on humans.
3.  Where do lice live?
Head lice live on the head and rarely leave the body for any reason.
4. How does a person get lice?
Lice are usually transmitted through close personal contact.  They are less frequently transmitted through the sharing of personal articles.  FOr head lice these would include combs, brushes, or other grooming aides; hats, headbands, caps, wigs, curlers, or other headgear; or through the storage of these items in shared lockers.
5.  Can lice transmit disease?
Head lice and pubic lice are not known to carry disease, but can be a problem, causing children and families discomfort and possible skin irritation.  The body louse, generally limited to those that fail to practice proper hygiene, can transmit major diseases, but this is rare in the United States and Texas.
6.  Can a louse hop or jump?
No, a head lice cannot hop or jump.  Lice are wingless insects whose legs have claws that are adapted for clinging, giving the insect a strong grip on hair shafts.
7.  How long do lice live?
Human lice are completely dependent upon human blood for sustenance.  Lice feed frequently, usually every 3-6 hours, and do not usually survive over 48 hours away from the human body.
8.  What is a "nit"?
A nit is a louse egg.  Frequently, nits are the first observable sign of head lice infestation.
9.  How many nits (eggs) does a female louse lay?
Each female louse may lay from 50 to 150 nits (eggs) in its lifetime, whereas the female body or crab louse may produce 200 or more.
10.  Where are nits found?

Head lice attach each nit (egg) to the hair shaft at the scalp with a
waterproof cement-like substance. Although lice and nits are most commonly
found at the nape of the neck and behind the ears, they can be found anywhere
on the scalp. The grayish white nits (1m.m.long) are shaped like an
elongated football with a cap at one end to admit air and allow the young
insect to escape.

The presence of nits does not always mean that a person has a current
infestation. The nits may be left from a past infestation that has been
adequately treated. To determine whether a person is currently infested with
head lice, there must a louse present or there must be nits on the hair shaft
a ¼ inch or less from the scalp.

The position of nits on the hair shaft can distinguish between current and
past infestation, because a female lice attach their eggs to the hair shaft
at the scalp. In one week, the time it takes for a louse egg to hatch, human
hair grows about ¼ inch, carrying the egg with it. Therefore, nits more than
¼ inch from the scalp have either already hatched or will never hatch. They
may remain attached to the hair shaft for months, but play no role in the
transmission of head lice. Removing these dead or empty nits with a fine
toothed comb is for grooming purposes only.

11.  How does a person know when he has head lice? Itching is the most common symptom, but most persons with very light infestations experience no symptoms at all.  Therefore, you cannot rely on itching as the only way to detect  head lice.  A thorough examination of the hair and scalp is necessary to detect head lice or nits.
12.  What is the connection between head lice and cleanliness?
Head infestations can occur at all social and economic levels and are not related to unseemliness.  Frequent bathing will neither prevent lice not eliminate infestation once it has become established.
13.  What should a person do if he suspects he has lice?
He should seek assistance from his physician, health department or the school
nurse and follow their instructions. These instructions will usually include
a schedule of a specially medicated shampoo; the laundering of bedding and
clothing and towels in hot water and the washing of combs and brushes. The
entire family and school contacts should be inspected and undergo
simultaneous treatment if necessary.
14.  Are medications available which will effectively kill both lice and eggs?
No. While recommended prescription and non-prescription medications are
highly effective in killing lice, some eggs may survive. Most
non-prescription medications require re-treatment in 7-10 days to kill any
newly hatched lice. Follow label instructions to be sure your child is
treated correctly. If recommended, this second treatment is very effective
in killing the newly hatched lice before they have had a chance had a chance
to lay eggs and continue the infestation. Failure to do a second treatment
in 7-10 days may lead to the continuation of the lice infestation. School
children with head lice may return to class as soon as they have received
their first treatment with an effective medication
15.  Can I get a safe medication to use without a prescription?
Yes. Safe and effective over-the-counter medications are available at most pharmacies.  The most widely accepted are those based on natural compounds called pyrethrins which are fast, effective killers of pests such as lice.
16.  Will soap and water kill the lice in bedding and clothing? Yes, if the water is hot enough (120° F). All clothing and bedding
used during the 2 day period prior to treatment should be laundered. Such
high temperatures are suitable for laundering purposes but not for shampooing
the head or for bathing. Dry heat, steam, or pressing with a hot iron will
destroy lice since they can only live for a few minutes in 120° F.
Most home water heaters supply water at sufficient temperatures to kill lice
and their nits. Washing in cold or lukewarm water will not kill lice, so
sufficient time between loads of laundry should be allowed for the water to
reheat. For those items of clothing which cannot be washed, dry cleaning
will also kill lice and their nits. An alternative method is to seal
clothing in a plastic bag for 2 weeks. This will kill all lice and their
17.  How are combs and brushes treated?
Combs and brushes and similar products can be treated by soaking them for 1 hour in one of the special medicated shampoos or by soaking them for 5-10 minutes in a pan of water headed on the stove to 120°F.
18.  Should a home or school be sprayed, dusted, or otherwise treated with insecticides when and inhabitant has lice?
No. Lice do not hide in wall crevices and floor cracks like cockroaches or household pests.  Treatment of homes, schools, or other dwellings with insecticides would therefore, be wasted and possibly harmful. Cleaning of carpets, upholstered furniture, etc., should be limited to simple vacuuming.
19.  Do commercial hair dryers attain temperatures high enough to kill head lice?

No.  If temperatures hot enough to kill lice were produced, extreme discomfort or burns would result from these dryers.
20.  Will hair dressings keep nits from sticking to the hair?
No.  Hair oils, pomades, or other non-medicated grooming aides do not prevent attachment.
21.  Do vinegar rinses help control lice?
No.  Vinegar will not dissolve the cement-like substance used to attach the egg to the hair shaft.
22.  Should the hair be cut in severe infestations of head lice?
No.  Persons with long hair should shampoo thoroughly with additional shampoo as needed.  Studies have indicated that long hair is not more likely to be infested than short hair.
23.What can my family do to avoid becoming infested?
Family members should be inspected and undergo treatment if necessary, and be
taught not to share other people’s combs, brushes, scarves, etc. At the
school or day care center, children’s clothing and other personal items, as
well as cots, cot covers, and pillows, should be kept separate from those of
other students (e.g., on pegs, in separate storage areas, or on the backs of
chairs). A school screening program can help keep head lice from becoming an
24.  Should a child be excluded from school if he or she has nits?
Nits found on hair within a ¼ in. of the scalp in a person who has not been
treated should be considered evidence of an active infestation which requires
treatment. Children found to have nits within a ¼ in. of the scalp should be
treated for their infestation and may return to school immediately after the
first treatment. They should still receive a second treatment 7-10 days
later if recommended by the shampoo label instructions. Nits found on hair
which are over a ¼ in. away from the scalp have either hatched or are dead.
They play no role in the transmission of head lice to others. Therefore,
children with nits over a ¼ in. away from the scalp should not be excluded from school.


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