Head Lice Fact Sheet
General Information About Head Lice
Lice are small insects or bugs that live on the human body. They are a grayish-brown in color and smaller than a sesame seed. The eggs of lice are called nits. Nits attach to hair strands. Nits can remain viable on clothing for about 1 month. Head lice can survive for about a week off of their human host. Lice are transmitted from person to person with close contact or by sharing personal items. Lice may crawl from host to host, but they do not hop, jump, or fly.
In order to prevent the spread of lice, children should not share clothing, hats, helmets, combs/brushes, or bedding. Please periodically remind your child of this. Various insecticide sprays are marketed to target head lice on inanimate objects such as helmets, furniture, and flooring, but these are very dangerous to children and are no longer recommended. The district is using an all-natural environmental spray that has promising reviews and seems to be successful at helping us curb “outbreaks”. The success of this product strongly depends on parents letting us know when their child has lice. Once we’re aware, we can treat the classroom environment in the evening. We are also continuously reviewing possible avenues of potential transmission at school and are promptly eliminating or fixing those. I would encourage you to look for transmission sources at home and other activities outside of school, too.
We do not do routine, random screenings for lice at school because “current evidence does not support classroom or school-wide screening as a method to stop head lice transmission “ (IDPH). The Iowa Department of Public Health suggests that weekly screenings at home provide the best opportunity for prompt recognition and treatment of head lice. These screenings take time (most resources say at least 15 minutes per child). I recommend that you screen your child at least once a week and if you find live lice or nits, follow the health department’s or your child’s healthcare provider’s treatment guidelines. If you need help with treatment or product, please don’t hesitate to contact me. If you’re having trouble with treatment failure, please contact your child’s healthcare provider to discuss other options.
There are several causes of treatment failure. The following is taken directly from IDPH guidelines:
_ The symptoms are not caused by an active head lice infestation.
_Applying the treatment to hair that has been washed with conditioning shampoo or rinsed with hair conditioner. Conditioners can act as a barrier that keeps the head lice medicine from adhering to the hair shafts; this can reduce the effectiveness of the treatment.
_Not following following the treatment instructions carefully. Some examples of this are not applying a second treatment if instructed to do so, or retreating too soon after the first treatment before all the nits are hatched and the newly hatched head lice can be killed, or retreating too late after new eggs have already been deposited.
_Resistance of the head lice to the treatment used. The head lice may have become resistant to the treatment. Many strains of lice have developed resistance to the permethrin and lindane insecticides. Also, all products have minimal ovicidal (nit killing) activity so nits remain viable, resulting in nymphal lice emerging after treatment, thus a second treatment 7-10 days later is recommended.
_Reinfestation. The person was treated successfully and the lice were eliminated, but then the person becomes infested again by lice spread from another infested person. “
Please remember, lice has no social or economical preference….they don’t care how clean a head is or how often someone bathes…..they just want hair and a scalp to call home. If you find lice or nits, PLEASE let the school know. We can’t help reduce the risk of transmission if we don’t know. We will not single your child out or tell other parents about individual students. Per IDPH guidelines, students will not be excluded from school because of lice.
Feel free to contact Kathy Campbell with questions or concerns regarding this matter. You may reach Kathy by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.