With school starting, I suspect we will be seeing more cases of lice cropping up at schools around the city. September is "lice month," much to parents chagrin. Parents will begin to receive notifications saying a child was diagnosed with lice in the school or classroom, and they should have their child checked out. That’s when panic kicks in—parents get that "icky" feeling that something awful may be creeping in their home, and often bring their child immediately to the doc to be checked out.
Lice are tiny insects that live on the skin and feed on blood (yuck!). Once on the surface of the skin, they cause itching due to irritation from their saliva. Lice lay their eggs on the surface of the hair—these are called nits.
Lice are gray in colour and 2 to 4 mm long. They are hard to see on the hair and scalp. Nits are a lighter gray and stick to the hair shaft. They are difficult to remove from the hair, unlike dandruff.
Lice spreads by hair contact. Children that share their brushes, hats, or pillows are at risk of getting infested. Lice are unable to jump or fly, and require direct contact to cause infection.
Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish lice or dandruff. You may need a physician or other health care professional to help. When in doubt, see someone!
Treatment for lice regularly involves using medications applied to the lice in the hair and scalp. I recommend washing brushes, hats, bedding, clothes, and toys in hot soapy water, or placing these items in a tight plastic bag for two weeks. What kills lice? Insecticides, like Nix, have to be applied twice, 7 to 10 days apart. We don't recommend using these products in children less than two years of age. Non-insecticides, like Resultz, also need to be used twice, 7-10 days apart. However, I do not recommend using these products in children less than 4 years.
If the medications do not work, you may need to repeat the treatment—the nits and lice may not have been completely removed or the lice may be resistant to your treatment. Your child may have been re-infested, as well. Services that provide manual removal of lice and nits may be helpful. Many parents try to apply oils, vinegar, even mayonnaise to "kill" the lice. Unfortunately, these remedies have not been proven to be useful.
Lice actually prefer clean hair, so your child shouldn’t be embarrassed. It is not a sign of being dirty!
Keeping kids out of school has not been shown to minimize the risk of lice infestation. So GO TO SCHOOL! Both the Canadian pediatric Society and American Academy of Pediatrics agree that lice infestation is NOT a reason to miss school.
Don’t worry, even if your child gets lice, it is usually easy to treat and control, and your child will be in good company.
Let the Germs Begin! Nothing jolts the immune system awake quite like having a kid in daycare.
Read more about the inevitable back to school colds and viruses.