Human head lice are not known to spread disease. However, they can be an annoyance. Direct head-to-head contact, with someone with head lice, is the most common way it is transmitted. Lice crawl but do not fly or jump. Information on transmission, prevention and treatment is available at http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/lice/head/gen_info/faqs.html.
Head lice may be prevented by avoiding head-to-head contact. Not sharing towels, combs, brushes, bedding, or head gear may reduce the risk of transmission. Keeping long hair pulled back or braided is also helpful. Please check your student once a week for signs of lice such as the following: complaints of head itchiness, lice eggs (nits) which are oval shaped, feel like a grain of sand and stick to the hair. Most often they are seen in the hair behind the ears or near the neck. Nits may be easier to see than lice. An adult louse is about the size of a sesame seed, has six legs and may appear darker in someone with dark hair than in someone with lighter hair. Both insecticidal and non-toxic lice treatments are available over the counter. Head lice shampoos or rinses contains pesticide. Some lice are resistant to lice pesticides. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends using pesticides only as a last resort. Lice sprays for the house are not recommended. Nit-removal combs with metal teeth, such as Licemeister, used daily on wet hair for two to three weeks helps remove nits before they hatch into lice.
The Edmonds School District has updated head lice protocols based on the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics in its August 2010 journal, Pediatrics.
. Consequently, classroom head lice screenings and letter notification of cases in a classroom have been discontinued. The Snohomish Health District recommends that students with head lice remain in school since head lice are not a public health hazard.
Susan Christiam, RN, BSN
Educational Health Specialist, Edmonds School District