This head lice reference guide is provided courtesy of the Spruce Street School PTA. Please be advised that Spruce Street School is not able to endorse or recommend any of the following treatments or companies.
Lice. If your family has experienced it…you know the panic that comes with hearing your child has it. Head lice are a common occurrence, easily transmitted, and NOT an indication of poor hygiene. In fact, lice prefer clean hair to dirty hair, unto which they can move about and attach their eggs. And as many of you know, many of the classrooms at Spruce are experiencing cases of lice at alarming rates. It is crucial that all families regularly and diligently check their children’s hair and scalps, and begin treatment immediately. Head lice can be treated at a professional head lice treatment center, and many of them make house calls. But with patience and diligence, and often little cost, lice can be treated at home with a few essential items and no chemicals.
What are lice? They are a type of parasite that lives on the scalp and hair shaft of humans — surviving for up to 30 days on small amounts of blood obtained from the individual. The official/medical term for head lice is pediculosis. They are usually found in school-aged children and like to lay their eggs along the base of the hair shaft — close to the scalp (their source of heat) — behind the ears and/or back of the neck. They do not jump, hop, or fly…however they crawl at an extremely fast pace and hide very well. Lice do not spread disease.
What causes lice? Head lice do not survive long (estimated 24-48 hours) once they fall off a person’s head and cannot feed. Contracting lice happens to those who:
come in contact with an infected person through play, school,
sports, home, sleepovers, etc.
wear the clothing of someone that has the parasite.
share personal care items such as…brushes, combs, towels, hats, and other accessories that are contaminated.
lay on bedding, carpets, and/or furniture that a person with head lice was previously laying on.
Ultimately, if you or someone in your family develops head lice, you will want to take care of the problem as soon as you become aware.
Ways to treat at home: There are many natural methods available to use at home and many are fairly inexpensive. While diligence and patience is needed, the treatment process does not have to be painful, for parents and/or children. Below is a tried and true tested process as shared by one of our very own families and is a method used by many of the lice facilities as well.
What you will need: Pantene or other thick white conditioner Plastic lice comb – available in any over the counter lice kits White towel White paper towels Metal lice comb – can be found on Amazon and drug stores. Buy one now whether your child has lice or not! You don’t want to be running around looking for one while you’re dealing with an infestation. Scissors Oil of your choice, olive or any essential oil such as eucalyptus/lavender oil
Step 1: Removal of the LIVE bugs Cover the lap with the white towel and the white paper towels on top of that. Part hair into at least 4 sections using the plastic lice comb. Working with one section at a time, completely saturate the section of hair with Pantene/conditioner. This will “paralyze” the live bugs making them unable to quickly crawl and hide, and easier to remove. Continue to comb through each section, cleaning the comb each time with the white paper towel. Once you feel you’ve removed the live bugs, proceed to step 2.
Step 2: Shower. Repeat the process again, but with the metal lice comb in order to start removing the nits. Examine each section carefully, combing through small portions of hair and remove any nits either by comb, hand, or cutting out the strand of hair. ** What do nits look like?? Nits are oval shaped and translucent, about the size of a sesame/poppy seed and sometimes you will notice a small black dot in the center. You will often, but not always find them closer to the scalp, stuck to the hair shaft, as they need the body heat from the scalp to survive and hatch. If you can brush, blow, or pick it away easily with your fingers, it is NOT a nit. Nits are very sticky and need to be pulled down the length of the hair or cut off.
Step 3: VERY IMPORTANT. For the next 14 days it is very important to continue looking for and removing the nits. It may also be very helpful to rub a small amount of oil in the scalp and through the strands. Lice find it very difficult to maneuver through or attach their eggs in oily hair.
Step 4: Maintenance. Continue applying oil daily, to the scalp and hair, to make your child an uninhabitable host and unsuitable home for parasites. Once lice-free, check your children’s hair every few weeks to see if they have a few nits. If you can catch an infestation in it’s early stages, removal of lice is very easy. Generally you can remove the nits by finger and comb out the lice easily. Keep an eye on your children scratching their heads and complaining about itchiness. During cold and dry seasons, your children may have dry scalp and their scratching may be normal, however; if they are hosting lice and scratching, the dandruff may be an obstacle to seeing the lice. Be diligent and thorough.
Treating bedding, stuffed animals, and other personal items:
Wash all bedding and clothing that the infested person has been in contact with in hot water (at least 130° F). After washing, run all items through the dryer at the hottest setting for at least 30 minutes.
Consider dry-cleaning items that cannot be washed and dried at home.
Place items, such as stuffed animals and pillows, which cannot be cleaned in a tightly sealed plastic bag for 10-14 days.
Soak all hair care items (such as combs, brushes, and hair clips) in hot water (at least 130° F) for at least 15 minutes to kill any lice or eggs.
Vacuum your home thoroughly including the mattress and furniture the infested person has been in contact with.
Remember that heat is most effective in killing lice and their eggs, so 20-30 minutes in the dryer is generally the best method used.