Head Lice Information
District Guidelines for Head Lice
Head lice infestations are a common problem for children in child care settings and schools. Anyone can get head lice. These lice guideline were developed to assure that students with head lice attend school.
Head lice are very small (less than 1/8” long, about this size [--]), brownish-colored insects that live on human heads and lay their eggs (nits) close to the scalp. The eggs are tiny (about the size of the eye of a small needle) and gray or white in color. Adult lice move fast and do not like light.
Lice are passed from person to person by direct contact or on shared personal items (combs, hats, pillows, headphones) or by lying on infested furniture, carpeting, or bedding. Lice do not jump or fly. Lice do not spread to or from pets.Head lice do not live longer than 48 hours off the head. They only lay nits on the head. Lice do not spread to or from pets. Symptoms include itching around the scalp and neck. Tiny red blood spots (louse bite marks) on the scalp are also signs.
Head lice can be a nuisance, but they have not been shown to spread disease. Personal hygiene or cleanliness in the home or school has nothing to do with getting head lice. Students noted as having live head lice do not need to be sent home early from school; they can go home at the end of the day, be treated, and return to class after appropriate treatment has begun. Nits may persist after treatment, but successful treatment should kill crawling lice.
- A routine head check of classrooms is not advised. Head lice screenings programs have not had a significant effect on the incidence of head lice in the school setting over time and have not proven to be cost effective. (NASN position statement 2004)
- When 1 case of active head lice is identified in a classroom within a 2 week period, a fact sheet on head lice will be sent home with the students in K-5.
- The LSN will work with the affected families to educate then on treatment and transmission of head lice and attendance at school.
Data does not support school exclusion for nits.
Treatment and Prevention
Check your child(ren) for head lice. If you find lice or eggs, use the information provided below.
- Call your school nurse, healthcare provider or pharmacist for advice. Recommended treatment includes using either a prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medicated (lice killing) product. Use products that contain permethrin, a synthetic insecticide or a pyrethrin-based shampoo.
- Follow the product directions carefully (especially the amount of product to use, length of time on the hair, and whether to use on dry or damp hair). Directions will vary, depending on the product used.
- Treat a second time (for certain products) 7 to 10 days later to kill any lice that may have hatched after the first treatment.
- Allow 24 hours for products to kill lice.
- Many alternatives to OTC or prescription head lice control products have been suggested. Although there is little scientific evidence to support these treatments, people often use alternative treatments when the usual treatments haven’t worked, or when there is concern about the toxicity of using head lice control products repeatedly. Some of the treatments being used include mayonnaise, oils (vegetable, olive, mineral, etc.), and petroleum jelly (Vaseline). When applied to the hair, these materials may suffocate and/or make it hard for the lice to move, but do nothing to kill the nits. Some of these products are very difficult to remove from the hair.
- Lice treatment products are not 100% effective in killing lice, especially nits. Removing the nits (nit picking) is an essential part of the treatment for controlling the spread of head lice. The nits are glued onto the hair shaft as they are laid, and require effort to remove. To remove the nits use a metal nit comb, cat flea comb, or your fingernails to slide eggs off the hair shafts. Continue checking the head and combing the hair daily for 2 weeks. If all nits within ½” of the scalp are not removed, some may hatch and the child will be infested again. Remember: it takes at least 2 weeks to get rid of lice.
- Check all household members for head lice. Treat only household members with head lice, and treat all at the same time.
Control and Prevention:
- DO NOT share combs, brushes, other hair grooming items and other hair accessories (barrettes, etc.), towels, bedding, clothing, hats, and headgear, such as personal headphones and sports helmets.
- Hang coats, jackets, and caps in individual lockers or on assigned coat hooks.
- Check your child’s head frequently throughout the year. If one person in a household, school, etc., has head lice, check others also. Sleepovers are a common setting in which head lice are spread. When your child returns from a sleepover, check the child’s head and launder any bedding that they bring home.
- Clean all combs, brushes, other hair grooming items and accessories (barrettes, etc.) by doing one of the following:
- soaking in the treatment product for 10 minutes
- cleaning with hot, soapy water
- boiling for 5 minutes
- Vacuum carpets, upholstered furniture, mattresses, and seats in the car(s) thoroughly. Insecticide sprays are not recommended because this will expose household members to unnecessary pesticides.
- Wash clothing worn in the last 3 days (e.g., jackets, hats, scarves, pajamas), bedding, and towels in hot (130°F or higher) water and dry in a hot dryer for at least 20 minutes before using again. Clothing that cannot be washed or dried, linens, and stuffed toys can be dry cleaned or sealed in plastic bags for 2 weeks.
For more information, contact your health office at your child’s school. It is also important to note that if any of the treatment, prevention and control is not followed, head lice will return.
Reference: Hennepin County Human Services and Public Health Department/June 2008