Lice prevention

Published 7:00 am Friday, March 30, 2018

Ask any parent and an infestation of lice is probably on their top ten list of greatest fears. While head lice are not known to carry transmittable diseases, they are still highly contagious and are extremely difficult to exterminate.

According to an article published by the National Institutes of Health, lice infestations affect hundreds of millions of people worldwide. In the United States, between 6 and 12 million children are affected every year. While lice can spread to anyone, primary school children are the most likely to become, the article states.

Head lice spread easily, and are capable of passing from person to person if there is close contact, the article states. If left untreated, thousands of lice can infest a person’s head. Since each louse bites an average of five times per day, even small infestations can quickly become unbearable.

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Lice are a particularly big problem within schools. Since children spend the day together in close proximity with each other, it is easy for an outbreak to occur within a school.

Since lice are more active in warmer weather, schools across Pearl River County could be faced with an increase in outbreaks.

Tasha Dillard, LPN at Roseland Park Elementary,

said if a student happens to get lice, the school requires parents to take the child home immediately and provide treatment. Chemical shampoos are normally used to kill live lice. While these chemicals do not kill the eggs, if the live lice are killed, the school will allow the child to return to class. Upon the child’s return, Dillard said parents are required to turn in a signed letter promising that they treated their child. After rechecking the student for signs of lice, Dillard gives the final okay for him or her to return to class if the inspection shows no signs.

Picayune School District school nurse supervisor Jan Sweet said that there are no schools in the district with a “no-nit” policy. All schools allow children to return to class once they have been treated.

While this is the case, however, it is still best to take preventative measures to ensure children do not get lice in the first place.

Lice eggs, or nits, can hatch more than a week after they are laid. Because lice shampoos do not kill the eggs, Dillard said it can take several days, or even weeks to completely rid a child’s head of lice.

Dillard said the use of preventative shampoos, in combination with parents checking their children’s hair on a regular basis, can prevent outbreaks. She said that lice are most often spread by sharing personal items such as jackets, coats and scarves. Because of this, it is important to teach children to be careful when sharing personal items.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website lists several steps that can be utilized to prevent an outbreak. The site recommends encouraging children to avoid head-to-head contact when playing with others and to tell them not to share personal items and clothing. In addition, if a child with lice comes was discovered to have been in a home, thoroughly vacuum the floor and furniture where they may have sat, and wash any clothes or linens that were used.