Back to school means el­e­vated risk for lice

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - YOU AT YOUR BEST - METRO CRE­ATIVE SER­VICES

Mil­lions of chil­dren will soon be head­ing back to the class­room. Although the re­turn of school may elicit smiles from par­ents who have spent the en­tire sum­mer try­ing to keep kids busy and out of trou­ble, when kids start bring­ing home no­tices of head lice out­breaks, those wide grins may fade.

Although head lice can strike just about any­one any­where, it seems to pro­lif­er­ate in close quar­ters, like those of a typ­i­cal class­room. Chil­dren who keep back­packs and be­long­ings be­side other stu­dents’ items may un­wit­tingly pick up lice and bring them home, where they can in­fect the child and other mem­bers of the fam­ily.

The Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion says lice are par­a­sitic in­sects that can be found on peo­ple’s heads and bodies. ice feed on hu­man blood. There are three types of lice that live on hu­mans: head louse, body louse and pu­bic “crab” louse. Only the body louse is known to spread dis­ease.

ice are wing­less par­a­sites that can only crawl to their host for feed­ing. They can­not jump or y like eas. By and large, lice are rel­a­tively harm­less crea­tures, though they can be a nui­sance. ice bites are known to cause ir­ri­ta­tion and in am­ma­tion on the scalp. Per­sis­tent scratch­ing may lead to in­fec­tion. ice do not sig­nal that a per­son has bad hy­giene, and a child who con­tracts lice should not be em­bar­rassed. ice are a com­mon prob­lem among stu­dents.

ice are small and gray­ish-white in ap­pear­ance, and they are usu­ally no larger than a se­same seed. They can move fast, so usu­ally lice in­fes­ta­tion is identi ed by spot­ting the lice eggs, which are called nits. These look like tiny, yel­low or tan dots be­fore they hatch. ice lay nits on the hair shaft close to the scalp. This is the ideal tem­per­a­ture for keep­ing the eggs warm un­til they hatch. Many lice nymphs will feed on blood ev­ery day to grow into adult lice. How­ever, a louse can sur­vive up to two days off of the scalp. That means a per­son can “catch” lice from a hat or a piece of cloth­ing if a louse climbed into the ma­te­rial.

Treat­ing head lice means rid­ding the head of all nits and adult lice. A spe­cial comb is used to cap­ture the tiny eggs. This can be a painstak­ing process, par­tic­u­larly for chil­dren with long hair. Top­i­cal in­sec­ti­cides in lo­tion and sham­poo are used to kill the lice. How­ever, these prod­ucts may not pen­e­trate the nits, so the top­i­cal so­lu­tion may need to be ap­plied sev­eral days later to kill any emerg­ing lice.

The best way to com­bat lice is to em­pha­size pre­ven­tion. Chil­dren should not share combs, brushes, scarves, hats, or other cloth­ing. They also should avoid close phys­i­cal con­tact with some­one who has lice.

Should a child get lice, he or she should stay home from school and the nurse should be noti ed. Wash all ob­jects that the child has used and laun­der all clothes, tow­els, linens, and other items in hot wa­ter to kill any lice. Vac­uum the home fre­quently to re­move lice or fallen hairs with at­tached nits from up­hol­stered fur­ni­ture and rugs.

Back to school sea­son rein­tro­duces kids and their par­ents to lice. Par­ents and their kids can take cer­tain pre­ven­tive mea­sures to greatly re­duce young­sters’ risks of com­ing down with lice.

Re­turn­ing to school means keep­ing an eye open for head lice.

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