Get Nit Picky & Know the Facts About Head Lice
A Head’s Up About Lice
New school supplies, friends and the excitement to start another school year are back in the air. So is the potential for back-to-school illnesses. The reunion of children can bring unwanted pests to your school—specifically head lice. Every year there are approximately 6-12 million cases of head lice in schoolchildren. Head lice can cause quite a nuisance, and is very easily spread in children ages 3-11. Luckily, this problem can be dealt with in simple ways.
What are head lice?
Head lice are parasites that feed on blood from the human head. A single one is called a louse. There are three main stages that lice can go through during their lifetime.
Stage one: Lice start out as something called nits. These are the small eggs that look like tiny specks on hair strands near the scalp.
Stage two: Baby lice are called nymphs. They are slightly bigger than nits, however; they take seven days to grow into their full size.
Stage three: Adult lice are the size of sesame seeds and are a tan/gray color. They can live for 30 days as long as they have a blood source.
How do they spread?
The most common way for lice to spread is through direct head-to-head contact. This type of contact can happen in many different ways, including playing games, napping, sitting together when reading books or electronics, and playing sports. Although it’s less common, head lice can also be spread through clothing or shared items such as hats, scarves, towels, brushes, pillows, stuffed animals and blankets to name a few.
What are the best ways to prevent head lice?
- Talk with students about lice and how they spread. Encourage students to not have head-to-head contact with others.
- Keep personal items such as hats, scarves and coats separate from others. Make sure students store these items in their own space, such as lockers.
- Have a nurse on staff who is familiar with identifying head lice, as he or she will be able to provide more care.
- Implement frequent head lice checks. This can be done with the help of parents/guardians as well as the school nurse.
What are common misconceptions about head lice?
Myth: Pets can spread head lice.
Fact: Pets can have their own strand of lice, but human lice require human blood to live and vice versa.
Myth: Head lice can jump or fly.
Fact: Lice can only be transferred when they have direct contact with something.
Myth: Head lice spread disease.
Fact: No need to worry about disease. Lice just cause itching and irritation.
Head lice can live on blankets or beds for weeks.
Fact: They will die after two days if they do not have a blood source.
Myth: People with bad hygiene are more likely to get head lice.
Fact: Hygiene does not play a role in getting lice. Lice spread by contact, making anyone an equal target.
Does my school need a policy on head lice?
It depends. Usually health departments do not require you to report cases of head lice, but some schools send general notices to families when lice have been detected. You may want to come up with a communication plan and/or guidelines that fit your school’s needs. For reference, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has information for schools on head lice that you can use to develop a plan.
While your school likely will not provide direct treatment for head lice, there are many treatment options that you can share with students and their guardians. Have the treatment options available on the school website or as handouts.
© 2019 The GuideOne Center for Risk Management, LLC. All rights reserved. This material is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to give specific legal or risk management advice, nor are any suggested checklists or action plans intended to include or address all possible risk management exposures or solutions. You are encouraged to retain your own expert consultants and legal advisors in order to develop a risk management plan specific to your own activities.