Head lice (or pediculosis) is an infestation of tiny parasitic insects that live against the scalp and in the hair of a human. Girls are more susceptible than boys, likely because of their longer hair and tendency to put heads close together with others. Although there is a stigma of uncleanliness or poverty with lice, they affect people from all socioeconomic backgrounds. Because infestations are more common during the warmer months of the year, lice are commonly detected in the fall when school is resuming. The USC School District has a “no nit” policy, meaning that students who have head lice are not permitted to be in the school until all nits are gone and no evidence of infestation remains.
Lice are found on the head in one of three stages of development: the nits (or eggs), the nymph (or young insect), and the adult. The female louse lays 10 eggs every 24 hours, generally at night, and very close to the scalp on the hair shaft. These nits are most commonly found behind the ears or where the hairline meets the neck at the base of the scalp but can be found anywhere on the head. Nits hatch in 8 to 9 days, and mature over the next 12 days, laying eggs of their own.
Many children have no symptoms of headlice. Often there is itching of the scalp, or a rash-like appearance on the neck (from bites). The definitive diagnosis is seeing a live louse on the head, or the nits on the hair shaft. Empty egg sacs are easier to see, they appear like tiny white specks close to the scalp on the hair. They are different from dry skin or dandruff, as they do not brush away, and are firmly adhered to the hair shaft.
- Over the counter treatments such as Rid or Nix
- The Center for Lice Removal https://centerforliceremoval.com/
- Household cleaning
- Wash all bed linens and pillows in hot water, followed by a hot dryer
- Combs and brushes should be thrown away or run through a hot dishwasher
- Clothes, hats, scarves, hair ties, etc. all must be washed in hot water and run through a hot dryer
- Any items not able to be washed should be placed in plastic airtight bags and sealed for 2 weeks (upholstered pillows, hair items that can’t be washed, clothing that cannot be washed, stuffed animals)
- upholstered furniture, carpets and rugs should be thoroughly vacuumed daily.
Instruct children to avoid close contact of heads with friends, sharing of items that come into contact with the hair (combs, brushes, hair elastics or decorations, hats, etc.)
If you suspect your child may have head lice, please contact your school nurse and your child’s primary care physician.