Notes From the Nurse
Prescription Drug Safety
Helping Kids Handle Stress
Patricia L Barker BSN, RN, NCSN
Polaris K-12 School Nurse
6200 Ashwood St
Anchorage, AK 99507
Guidelines for Staying Home Due to Illness
Head Lice: What you need to know
I wanted to send out a little bit of information on lice. Many people panic when they hear the word, and many totally freak out when they hear a student in the school has lice.
Lice are small little bugs that like to live in human hair and eat blood from their human host. Having lice is NOT a sign of poor hygiene. If a louse finds a warm body, it is happy no matter how clean or dirty the individual is.
Lice are probably present in school every day of the school year, however, they seem to be more prevalent during the fall and the spring. Often times when a parent hears that a child has lice they want to call out the armed guard. This is very unnecessary, and there is no need to panic and cause a scare in the building. Only 1/10 of transmissions actually occur in the school setting.
Lice crawl, but they do not jump or fly. The primary route of transmission is through direct head-to-head contact. It is important to let your child know they should not share any item that touches the head – brushes, combs, coats, hats, etc. Lice can live off of the human host, but the chances of survival are very small. They definitely cannot last more than 24 hours.
Many times lice are misdiagnosed. Just because you see something in the hair or on the scalp does not mean lice are in the area. Also, there are other reasons for your head to itch besides for lice. If you suspect lice please be sure to have your child checked by someone who knows how to identify lice and/or nits. Also, if you know for a fact that your child has lice or that you just treated them for lice, please let me know asap. It is hard to gage a problem if I am unaware of it. In fact, 70% of all parents do not contact the nurse and/or health care provider at all.
One of the biggest problems with lice is how they are treated. There are several things occurring that cause the lice to become immune to current products that are available. One of the reasons is doing hair treatments when there are no lice to begin with. Many parents want to treat everyone in the house when 1 child gets lice. Not only is this unnecessary, but it can cause problems and make lice harder to get rid. Only the child diagnosed with lice should get hair treatment.
Another reason lice are hard to get rid of is because the product was not used properly. The instructions on the product must be followed. It is not going to work if you use only half a dose, or if you do not follow the instructions for treatment in the days to follow. Every step of the instructions must be done. If finances are a concern, please contact me.
Lice products kill live lice. Most do not kill the eggs that lice lay. If they are not removed from the hair, the eggs will hatch and a new case of lice will appear. The combs that come with the lice products cannot be used like a regular comb. It needs to be used in a back and forth motion on the hair in order to scrape off the eggs. Please let me know if you would like me to show you how to do this. Nits (eggs) stick pretty well on the hair shaft and so they must be scraped off. Fingernails work well too if you don’t have anything else to use.
One last important step is cleaning. All bedding and clothes need to be washed in hot water, stuffed animals need to be bagged and set outside for 2 weeks, and you should vacuum rugs and maybe even the couches and beds, just in case.
Lastly, I want to encourage you to let your child come to school after they have been treated. There is no reason to keep them at home once treatment has started. You will need to continue to check their hair frequently, but they can be in school learning.