Treating Head Lice

Health Writer

As parents, when you get a call from the school nurse with news that your child has lice, you might be horrified. But lice, while definitely a nuisance, does not reflect on your housekeeping skills or your child’s cleanliness.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 6 to 12 million children between the ages of three and 11 get lice each year. The most common way is through direct head-to-head contact with someone who already has lice. It can also be passed by sharing hats, pillows, hair ribbons, combs and brushes.

Treating lice

Wendy Wright, a Nurse Practitioner, advises: “Don’t panic.” The first course of action, she says, is to call your healthcare provider. In her practice, Wright often comes in contact with parents who have searched the web looking for ways to treat lice and end up trying several different but ineffective treatments before turning to their doctor. Using your healthcare provider as your first place for information can save you time, aggravation and money.

Another place parents often turn to is their local pharmacy. Over-the-counter treatments have been successfully used for decades. These usually involve applying a medicated shampoo and using a nit comb to painstakingly remove all nits from your child’s hair. This treatment often needs to be repeated a second time a few weeks later. Newer treatments, available by prescription, often are a one-step application. You don’t need to repeat the treatment and in some cases, don’t need to comb out the nits.

Wright points out that the over-the-counter medications sometimes don’t work because lice have become resistant to some treatment, much as some illnesses are becoming antibiotic resistant. The prescription treatments have ingredients to fight even the most resistant lice. Whether you use over-the-counter treatments or prescription treatments, it is important to wash all linens and clothes in hot water to make sure lice are not transferred back to your child’s head after the treatment.

If you are having trouble getting rid of the lice, find they continue to reappear or would like help in treating lice, there are commmercial enterprises that specialize in working with families to get rid of lice, such as Lice Happens andLice Knowing You. Companies such as these offer services such as lice checks, complete lice treatment or you can buy lice removal products. Google lice removal services to find out if there are services like these near you.

When to send your child back to school

In the past, school districts across-the-board had a “no nit” policy. That meant that you needed to keep your child home from school until there was no evidence of any nits on your child’s head. This resulted not only in your child missing school but parents taking time off from work.

Today, many schools are changing their policies after both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and theNational Association of School Nurses stated that children should not be kept home just because of lice. They do not cause a health hazard, do not carry disease and are not contagious. Despite common misconceptions, they are not easily transferred from one child to another.

Keeping a child out of school, according to the AAP, causes more hardship. Parents who rely on income from working might suffer. Children lose valuable classroom time. Children might be stigmatized, made fun of or bullied because they are “dirty” or “have bugs.”

The beginning of the school year is a good time to check with your school about its current policy. Should the situation arise, you will be prepared.

See More Helpful Articles

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Back to School: What You Need to Know About Head Lice

Back to School with Head Lice: A Dermatologist Discusses Your Concerns