Parents do a lot to help prepare their kids for elementary school. They purchase supplies, new clothes, and make sure their kids are rested and ready for a day of learning every weekday morning. One aspect of education they may not anticipate? The chance of picking up head lice at school.
The statistics are startling: Approximately 6 million to 12 million U.S. children between ages 3 and 11 become infested with head lice every year. While children of this age are more likely to get lice, any person of any age can become infested with these tiny insects.
Here’s a closer look at how to know if your child is infested and how to address it.
Head lice is an issue with younger children because they play closely and may share items such as combs, brushes and hats. These behaviors make it easy for lice to spread from head to head. Unlike fleas, lice don’t jump, but they can survive on items such as combs and hats for short periods and then climb onto another person’s head where they can start an infestation.
Lice tend to be more prominent in the late summer and fall, from August to November. If you’re not looking for them, they can be hard to spot as they are extremely small and move quickly, avoiding light. Combing the hair with a special louse comb that has fine teeth can help you spot lice. You may also see nits (i.e., lice eggs), which are tiny white spots attached close to the scalp. Nits are often behind a person’s ears or near his or her nape. Using a magnifying glass or the magnifier on your smartphone can help you spot them.
If your child has lice, consider using an over-the-counter or prescription topical medicine to kill them. Read the instructions carefully to determine how long to leave the medication on your child’s hair and scalp, and how it is to be washed. Examine your child’s head carefully eight to 12 days after treating and see if the lice are still moving. If they are not, comb any dead lice and nits out of the hair.
If the lice are still alive, contact your child’s physician about using a different type of medicine to kill the lice. Check your child’s hair every two to three days to look for lice for the next couple weeks. Remind your child not to share brushes, combs, hats and other personal gear in the future. Be sure to read the accompanying resource, which describes more about this topic.