MCS Head Lice Notice
Recently, there have been a few cases of head lice at MCS. Those students and families have been treated, but it is important to be proactive in monitoring your child’s head for lice.
Head lice are parasitic insects that can be found in the hair. They do not carry disease, and are not harmful. There is no connection between head lice and hygiene.
Lice lay their eggs (nits), which attach to the base of the hair shaft. Nymphs hatch from the eggs in 7-10 days, and grow to adults capable of reproduction in 9-12 days, with a life span of 30 days. It is important to note that itching may not occur until 4-6 weeks after infestation.
The adult louse is about the size of a sesame seed, and is tan to grayish-white in color. The eggs or nits are hard to see and are often confused for dandruff. The nits are firmly attached to the hair shaft and, unlike dandruff, are very difficult to remove. Nits are oval and usually yellow to white in color. Newly laid eggs will often be found within ¼” from the scalp.
Lice are transmitted from person to person by direct contact (lice can only crawl, they cannot jump, swim or fly). Nits (or eggs) are not contagious, only live insects. Though uncommon, lice can be transmitted by sharing clothing (hats, scarves,etc). Please discourage your child from sharing these items.
*Transmission of head lice in the classroom is uncommon.
*The key to getting rid of lice is to “nit pick”! Any treatment should be combined with manual removal of all remaining nits. Check your child periodically for at least two weeks, to ensure that you did not miss any nits that may have hatched.
Only students with active lice infestation (live lice as opposed to only nits) need to consider the use of a chemical treatment. Over the counter products include shampoos/creams containing either Pyrethrin (Rid and others) or Permetherin (Nix). Though there is some research to suggest that lice have become immune to the chemicals in these treatments, if used as directed and combined with manual removal of any surviving nits and lice they can be a good option. To avoid side effects and toxicity, dose and duration of treatment should be followed according to label instructions. Retreatment after 7-10 days is usually recommended to assure that no eggs have survived. Prescription medications are also available from your pediatrician.
Many people choose to use more natural products, in combination with methodical nit picking. This is also a good option, especially if you want to avoid harsh chemicals that may not be effective. Be sure to check the safety and efficacy of any “natural” remedy, as some are safer than others.
There are services (LiceXchange, Licenders, Hair Fairies) that will provide lice treatment for your child, your whole family (and your home!). Most of these services do not use harsh chemical treatments. However, they are often quite expensive. We use LiceXchange for screening at MCS, and their prices are more reasonable than others.
It is recommended that you wash all bedding, towels and clothing that have come into contact with the person with a lice infestation. Wash in hot water and dry at high heat for at least twenty minutes. Anything too hot or too cold for humans will kill lice, so make good use of boiling water and your freezer! Soak combs and brushes in boiling water for 5-10 minutes and consider putting them in the freezer in a plastic bag overnight. Hair accessories should be washed/soaked/dried in high heats, and/or put in the freezer for 48 hours (or thrown out). Anything that cannot be washed (stuffed animals) can be placed in an airtight bag for 3-4 days. Give the floor and furniture a good vacuuming. Lice cannot survive for more than 24 hours without a human host, so removing them from your home is not difficult. Pets cannot become infested with head lice, so no precaution is required.
More information about symptoms and treatment for head lice is available at the National Pediculosis Association website and from your School Nurse.