Aug 27, 2019

It’s Never Too Early to Learn About Head Lice

Head Lice 101 Fact Sheet image

Although Pickerington Schools has not seen widespread cases of head lice this year, it’s never too early to become informed about them.

An estimated 6 to 12 million infestations occur each year in the United States, most commonly among children ages 3 to 11.

Parents frequently ask us how to identify lice and what to do if lice hit their home.

What are head lice?

Head lice are tiny, wingless insects that live close to the human scalp. They feed on blood. The eggs, also called nits, are tiny, teardrop shaped eggs that attach to the hair shaft. Nits often appear yellowish or white and can look like dandruff, but cannot be removed or brushed off. The nymph, or baby louse, is smaller and grows to adult size in one to two weeks. The adult louse is the size of a sesame seed and appears tan to grayish-white. An itchy and inflamed scalp is a common symptom of lice. Although not common, persistent scratching may lead to skin irritation and even infection.

Who is affected by head lice?

Head lice are not related to cleanliness. In fact, head lice often infest people with good hygiene and grooming habits. Infestations can occur at home, school or in the community. Head lice are mostly spread by direct head-to-head contact—for example, during play at home or school, slumber parties, sports activities or camp. Less often, lice are spread via objects that have been in recent contact with a person with head lice, such as hats, scarves, hair ribbons, combs, brushes, stuffed animals or bedding.

What to do if an infestation occurs?

If you think your child has head lice, it’s important to talk to a healthcare provider to discuss the best treatment approach for your family. While many over-the-counter products are effective, resistance to these head lice treatments has been reported, but the prevalence of resistance is not known.

There are new prescription treatment options available that are safe and do not require nit combing. For more information, you may download the following fact sheets:

Head Lice 101

Frequently Asked Questions About Head Lice

If you have specific questions, you may wish to contact your school’s nurse. You can find contact information for each school nurse on the district’s health services webpage.

You also can find information at that link on the district’s head lice management guidelines.