Head lice are a common community problem. An estimated 6 to 12 million infestations occur each year in the US, most commonly among children ages 3 to 11. Teachers often refer students to the health room for symptoms related to head lice. It’s also extremely important for parents/caregivers to check their child’s head often for head lice.

    It is the procedure of District Five Schools that a child who continually scratches his or her head be sent to the school nurse to be discreetly examined. Should active lice be present, the parent will be called and student will need to be picked up as soon as possible.  The student will need to be properly treated before returning to school. At no time will an entire class be checked for lice nor will letters be sent home should a case occur. We feel that this is in the best interest of our children!

    Here is some information about lice:

    • Everyone is at risk for head lice. Infestations can occur at any time and on anyone’s head. Head lice are not picky, they are just looking for a head to live on.

    • Head lice are not dangerous. They do not transmit disease, but they can be very irritating. The skin may be very sensitive to the head lice causing severe itching. This in turn may cause redness, bleeding, or even infection of the scalp.

    • Head lice are small, wingless insects about the size of a small ant or sesame seed and they may be grayish-white, brown, or black. They live close to the human scalp. They feed on human blood and lay eggs (nits) that cause itching and discomfort.

    • Nits are small white specks firmly attached to the hair shafts and should not be confused with dandruff which is easily flicked off. Nits are “cemented” to the hair and are not easily removed. The female louse lays about six eggs daily. These nits will hatch in seven to ten days.

    • Head lice are spread mostly through direct head to head contact.They cannot fly or jump but can crawl and find another host through contact. For example-touching heads in close proximity, during play, at sleepovers, sports activities, and even theatres. Lice are also spread through sharing of personal items such as combs, brushes, hats, towels or toys. The greatest risk of transmission is between people who have had direct head-to-head contact when one person has an active case of head lice.

    • Finding a louse on the scalp is a good indication of an infestation. Lice are commonly found around the hairline, behind the ears, and at the back of the head. Lice run from light and camouflage themselves well.

    To aid in prevention, carefully inspect your child’s hair at least once a week. Please advise your students to not share hats, combs, brushes, hair accessories, coats, sweaters, etc. Should lice be present, a special over the counter lice shampoo or conditioner can be used. Follow the directions on the bottle completely to ensure proper treatment. Or contact your health care provider for additional treatments. All belongings that could harbor lice or nits must be completely cleaned.

    If you need more information or assistance in treating head lice, please contact me.

    Debbie Levasseur, RN, BSN

    School Nurse

    Wellford Academy of Science and Technology