Friday, October 8, 2010

My future: Head Lice

So what's with the title? Well, I'm just going to make the assumption that once the boy enters school, at some point, he will bring home lice. Just think, I'll have some great samples for my collection, right?

I was prompted to write this because I recently received an email asking about managing head lice. There, of course, are a lot of home remedies out there swirling around via word of mouth and now, the internet. I'm not going to mention specific home remedies here because I really don't want to perpetuate things that have not been scientifically proven to work.

First of all, do not panic. Lice are not know to transmit any diseases. You can contact your physician, school nurse or the Texas Department of Health for instructions on how to treat lice. The major items that you will most likely do are:
1. use an effective head louse treatment
2. remove nits (eggs) from the head (via combing hair- there is a special comb for this task)
3. remove lice & nits from the household (vacuuming, laundering and/ or freezing/ heating of objects)
4. daily head checks & nit removal until infestation is gone; then weekly checks to avoid reinfestation
5. contact those who have been in close contact with the infested person (school, friends, etc.)

If you find out about a lice infestation at your child's school, inspect the child's hair daily and then treat if necessary. If a member of your family is discovered with lice, then all family members must be inspected and treated if necessary.

There are head louse shampoos that should be used with care. It is very important to read and follow all label instructions. You will need to do two shampoo treatments, spaced 7-10 days apart. Remember, you are applying an insecticide, so use gloves when shampooing and keep the shampoo in the head hair region only. You may want to wash the person's hair in a sink to make sure the product gets rinsed out without being in bath water or rising over the body during a shower. You may want to consult you or your child's physician to get product recommendations.

Combing the hair to remove nits is a crucial part of a lice management program. There are special lice combs that are specific to this purpose. Have the person comb/ brush their hair to remove any tangles (this comb/ brush will need to be either bagged and stuck in the freezer or washed well in hot, soapy water). Then they should sit under a bright light so you can divide their hair into sections. Examine the sections for nits and lice and work the comb through the hair. You can clean the comb by dipping it into hot, soapy water. If you are treating a child, even maybe some adults, you may want to pop in their favorite DVD before starting. It may take a bit of time to thoroughly inspect their hair.

Clothing and bedding should be laundered. If items cannot be laundered, dry cleaning is another option. Stuffed animals can be placed (non-washed) into the dryer on high to heat for around an hour. Items that cannot be washed or put into the dryer- headphones, bike helmets, etc.- can be placed into a sealed plastic bag and stuck in the freezer for a couple of days. Vacuum the home well, making sure to get under couch cushions, along edges, under furniture, etc.

For more information on lice and images, read Human Lice. It's a pdf file, so it might take awhile to download.