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5
Sep 2018
New School Term-New Head Lice Infestations

Soon your children will be returning to school and the annual problems of head lice and nits will once again appear. Head lice are tiny insects which live by sucking blood from the scalp. They lay eggs which hatch after 7- 10 days. It takes about 10 days for a newly hatched louse to grow to an adult and start to lay eggs. Nits are the empty white egg shells which are left when the lice hatch.

Head lice live in hair and are common among school children 4-11 years old. Head lice are spread by direct head to head contact. They climb from one person’s hair to another’s. They’re very small whitish or grey-brown insects that range from the size of a pinhead to the size of a sesame seed. The only way to be sure someone has head lice is to find a live louse by combing the hair with a special fine-toothed comb. This is called detection combing. Once detached from the hair, head lice will usually die within 12-24 hours

Exploding the myths

There are many myths about head lice and how they are transmitted. Here are some facts

  • They can’t fly, jump or swim
  • They are very unlikely to be spread by objects such as hats, combs and pillows
  • They don’t have preferences for dirty, clean, short or long hair
  • They only affect people and can’t be caught from animals
  • Head lice are not just caught at school- close family and friends may be the source of the infection.

How to do Detection Combing

Detection combing can be done on dry or wet hair. Dry combing takes less time but wet combing is more accurate. To use the wet method you:

  • Wash your hair with ordinary shampoo and apply plenty of conditioner
  • Use an ordinary wide toothed comb to straighten and untangle the hair
  • Once the comb moves freely from the hair, switch to the louse detection comb
  • Make sure the teeth of the comb slot into the hair at the roots, with the edge of the teeth lightly touching the scalp
  • Draw the comb down from the roots to the ends of the hair with every stroke and check the comb for lice every time.
  • Remove the lice by wiping the comb with tissue paper or rinsing it
  • Work through the hair section by section, so that the whole head is combed through
  • Do this at least twice to help ensure you haven’t missed any areas and keep going till you find no more lice
  • Repeat this procedure on days 5, 9 and 13
  • Detection combing should be done again on day 17 to check for any live lice.

Treatment

If you find head lice, you should check the rest of the family. Treat everyone found to have head lice on the same day.

There are 3 main ways of getting rid of head lice : physical insecticides, chemical insecticides and wet combing.

Physical

  • Dimeticone 4% lotion or lotion spray- applied and left for 8 hours (usually overnight)
  • Dimeticone 4% spray gel- applied and left for 15 minutes
  • Isopropyl myristate and cyclomethicone solution- applied and left for 5-10 minutes

Chemical

Permethrin or Malathion

With these products, treatments need to be done twice-seven days apart- to make sure any newly hatched lice are killed. Detection combing should usually be done two to three days after finishing treatment and again 7 days after that to check for any live head lice.

Self-care tips

Examine children's hair regularly- use a detector comb as part of a weekly routine at home

Check clothes and bedding regularly for black spots ( which are head lice droppings)

Inform all close contacts if lice are found.

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