Head Lice Management
Byron Public Schools Health Services follows the recommendations from the Olmsted County Public Health Services regarding head lice management for school-aged children. Their recommendations are evidence based and reflect the recommendations of the Minnesota Department of Health, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Centers for Disease Control.
Head Lice Facts
Head lice are a common problem for children in schools and child care because children are in close contact with one another throughout the day. Anyone can get head lice. They are not a sign of uncleanliness and head lice do not spread disease.
Head lice are very small (less than 1/8 inch long), tan colored insects which live on human heads. They lay their eggs (called nits) on the hair close to the scalp and the nits are attached to the hair by a strong "glue-like" substance which make them hard to remove. The nits are tiny (about the size of a pencil dot) and grey or white in color.
Head lice are annoying parasites that feed on small amounts of blood once or more often each day. The bite does not hurt but can cause itching and scratching. Once hatched, lice can survive on a human head for up to 30 days.
Lice are spread primarily by direct, head-to-head contact with an infested individual. Heads should be carefully checked before and after attending a sleepover or camp where sleeping quarters are shared. Indirect spread through sharing of personal items such as combs, brushes, barrettes, hats, scarves, jackets, blankets, sheets, and pillows is less likely but possible.
Lice do not jump or fly. They crawl and can fall off the head. Head lice do not live longer than 48 hours off the human head. They only lay their eggs while on the head. Nits which are more than 1/2 inch from the scalp are dead or empty and will not hatch. The eggs do not hatch if they fall off the head. Lice do not spread to or from pets. It takes 7-10 days from when the eggs are laid until they hatch. Lice can spread as long as there are live lice on the head.
Watch for symptoms of itching of the head and neck. Look for crawling lice in the hair, eggs (nits) glued to the hair, often behind the ears and at the back of the neck; and scratch marks on the head or back of the neck at the hairline. If one person in the home has head lice, others should be checked too. Encourage your child to avoid head-to-head contact with others. Never share hair grooming items or hair accessories (barrettes, combs, brushes, etc.).
We recommend strict adherence to the 14 Day Treatment Plan. Further, call your health care provider or pharmacy for advice about specific treatment products. Recommended treatment includes using either a store-bought or prescription lice-killing product. Be sure to follow the package directions carefully for they vary among different treatment options.
Daily removal of nits for at least 2 weeks is an essential treatment component. We recommend metal, versus plastic, nit-removing combs.
Combs, brushes, and other hair accessories should be cleaned with hot soapy water. Launder recently worn clothing, bedding, and towels. Vacuuming carpets, furniture, mattresses, and car seats may control the spread of head lice. Insecticide or lice-killing sprays are not recommended.
Students with active head lice do not need to be sent home early from school. They can go home at the end of the day and return to school after treatment has been started. This exclusion guideline is supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Association of School Nurses. A student with an active infection has likely had an infestation for over one month. The risk of further transmission is low. Students with head lice may return to school after the first application of lice killing treatment.
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