My son’s class has already had two lice episodes this school year. Personally, the possibility and thought of bugs hanging out on my head or my kids’ head creeps me out. However, amongst school-aged children know that there is a possibility that at some point your child’s head could be lice paradise. According to the CDC, there is around 6-12 million infestations of head lice amongst school-aged children every year. This highly-contagious, however, non-threatening nuisance occurs mostly in school-aged children. Why? School-aged children are always playing, so head-to-head contact is not unusual on the playground. It is also common with students who participate in sports, sleep overs at their lice infested friend’s house, or sharing hair brushes. Unlike fleas, they are not able to jump from host-to-host, due to their short stubby legs.
The main head lice symptom is itching! So, why does your head itch? As lovely as it sounds the itching is due to an allergic reaction from louse bites. Louse, or head lice, are wingless insects that feed exclusively on human blood. It takes 4-6 weeks for symptoms to appear, meaning you or your child could have lice for weeks before the itching begins. You may feel a sensation that someone or something is moving your hair. You may also have sores on your head from scratching.
Here’s a fun fact “one adult louse can lay + or – 100 eggs during their 30-day lifespan”. That’s anywhere between 3-5 eggs/day and they hatch between 7-10 days. BARF! However, an adult louse cannot survive longer than 24 hours off a host.
Your child may complain of an itchy scalp. So, inspect your child’s head, looking for eggs, nymphs, and adult lice. Look behind his or her ears and neck. You will see oval-shaped nits that resemble a grain of sand, that are gray, light brown, yellow, or white in color. They may be difficult to see as they are so tiny, so you may need a flashlight and a comb to really get to your child’s scalp. If you find lice, or suspect lice, don’t panic. Just remember this is a disgusting, but treatable and common issue that does not harm your child’s health.
Unfortunately, many over-the-counter treatments and shampoos are no longer effective in combating lice infestations. Lice have developed resistance to these treatments. Present to a Lice Clinic or medical professional if you have any questions on lice and to discuss treatment options. Make sure to inform the child’s school and to keep the child at home unless instructed by your physician and school. Also, the CDC recommends checking all household members every 2-3 days, if a member is positive for lice infestation.
There is one positive to head lice though, having a head lice infestation might help you build immunity against body louse. Body louse can transmit diseases, such as: epidemic typhus, trench fever, and relapsing fever. More over body louse at a later time. Happy lice hunting!