Back to school means a lot of things to parents and kids. For kids, it can mean a chance to have some time away from home and to enjoy learning while spending time with friends. For parents, it is wonderful to know the kids are in a safe place and that teachers and others are taking the time to help children learn and develop skills.
But on the other side of things there can also be some negative issues to deal with. For instance, because the kids are exposed to more opportunities to get sick, they are more likely to come down with colds and other ailments. In fact, for many, head lice can be a concern.
What Is Head Lice?
Head lice live on human hairs. Lice can spread from one child to another and in some cases, they can be difficult to eliminate.
Lice live on the hair and feed on tiny increments of blood from the scalp. Not surprisingly, they can cause annoying and irritating itching. However, because lice do not spread disease they are not considered dangerous. Even so, the itching results in scratching that can potentially lead to an infection. Obviously, at the first signs of lice you should begin treatments.
What to Look for
The first sign of lice is usually noticed when a child begins scratching – but this may be quite a while after the initial contact with lice.
Lice are small but they can be seen with the naked eye. Lice eggs are called nits. Nits are laid on hair shafts near the scalp. Nits are a yellow to yellow-tan color and look similar to small dandruff flakes – but nits do not brush off.
The eggs hatch in about a week or a little longer and the shell is left behind. In about 2 weeks the baby lice become adults.
What to Do
If you think your child is infested with head lice you should consult with your doctor. He/she may want to provide antibiotics or other treatments. Otherwise, you can use head lice treatments that are available over-the-counter at most drugstores and discount department stores.
Let your child’s school know what is going on. In most cases the child will be allowed to return to school after a single treatment.
To prevent a re-infestation you should wash the bed linens and clothes that have been used/worn by the child. Stuffed animals should also be washed or at least placed in an air-tight bag for a few days. Rugs should be washed, shampooed or at least vacuumed and the vacuum cleaner bag should be discarded.
Combs, brushes, and hair accessories should be thoroughly cleaned with alcohol.
Preventing Head Lice
Although there may not be a way to guarantee against head lice, there are some steps you and your child can take to minimize the risks. Start with the obvious, teach your child not to have head-to-head contact with other kids.
Stress the importance of not sharing hair brushes, combs, hats, caps, or hair accessories with others. If possible, tell your child not to hang his/her coat/jacket or scarf next another child’s.
Another very important point to note is that head lice can happen to anyone – it does not matter how often they bathe or shampoo their hair or how rich or poor they are. And although having head lice is frustrating, it will not last long. In fact, if the problem persists for more than a week or if the scalp is red or irritated, it is best to seek professional help from your doctor.
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