Information About Head Lice (Pediculosis humanus capitis)
Head lice are parasiticinsects that are not a health hazard and are not responsible for the spread of any disease. Thus, infestation is principally a nuisance rather than a major threat to the student’s well being. Head lice are not a sign of poor hygiene or unclean homes or schools. Students of all socio-economic groups can be affected.
Head lice are brown-black in color, less than 1/8 inch in length that feed on blood from the scalp. Lice eggs, called “nits,” attach firmly to the base of the hair shaft until they hatch into live lice. Nits often appear yellow or white but can also appear to be the same color as the person’s hair. Nits more than ¼ inch away from the scalp are unlikely to hatch or are empty casings. Nits usually hatch within 8-9 days. Head lice and nits can be found on the head, eyebrows, or eyelashes, but usually are found on the head and neck, especially behind the ears and base of the head. Lice move by crawling, and cannot hop or fly.
Mode of transmission
Transmission of head licemost commonly occurs by direct contact with a live lousethrough head-to-head contact. Dogs, cats, or other pets do not play a role in transmission of lice. It is uncommon for thelice to be spread from inanimate objectssuch as hats, scarves, coats, pillows, or movie seats or personal items like combs, brushes, helmets, headphones or hair ribbons. This is because head lice are not able to hold onto these items or survive without the warmth and blood source of a human scalp. Head lice cannot survive away from the scalp for more than 2 days at room temperature. Nits are not easily transmitted because they are glued to the hair shaft. Anyone can contract head lice, but it is more common in preschool to elementary school aged children and their household members.
Signs and Symptoms
- Itching on the head and scalp
- A tickling feeling of something moving on the head or in the hair
- The detection of live lice
- Nits (lice eggs) or empty cases from hatched lice attached to hairs
- Sores or scratch marks on the head caused by scratching
- Irritability and trouble sleeping (Head lice are most active in the dark)
Immediate or long-term exclusion is no longer recommended. Students with live head lice can remain in class and go home at the end of the day, be treated, and return to school after proof that appropriate treatment has begun. Students can return to school with nits following treatment. Nits may persist after the initial treatment, therefore, students with nits will be allowed backin school the next day following a successful treatment that kills the crawling lice.
In order to maintain confidentiality, only the parents of the child with head lice will be notified. Notification letters to the entire classroom or school are not requiredand will not be sent home.
Over the counter or prescription treatments are available. It is important to follow the package directions. Treatment is typically repeated in 7-10 days. Combing hair with a nit comb is also recommended to remove nits and lice. Wash bedding, pillows, and recently worn clothing and dry at high heat. Vacuum carpets and padded furniture. Items that cannot be laundered can be placed in a sealed plastic bag for two weeks. Soak combs and brushes in hot water (at least 135 degrees) for 5-10 minutes. Chemical sprays are not necessary and can be toxic if inhaled or absorbed through the skin.
For more information regarding head lice or treatment, please feel free to contact the school office or your healthcare provider.
East Valley School District Head Lice Protocol
The following describes the protocol that shall be taken when dealing with head lice infestation.
- Educational information will be shared with parents through our newsletters, social media, and school letters explaining the following:
- The potential for the appearance of head lice and nits.
- How parents can identify nits or head lice.
- How parents should treat nits/head lice if found on their children.
- When a student is suspected to have live lice or nits, an individual private inspection will be conducted by a staff member (school nurse if available) to determine if lice or nits are present. Care will be taken to maintain and support confidentiality for the student.
- If a student is found to have signs of live lice, the following steps shall be taken:
- Siblings shall be checked for signs of lice.
- The student’s parent(s)/guardian(s) shall be contacted. The student will stay at school until the end of the day and be treated at home.
- Parents will be told their child may return upon proof of treatment.
- The child or parent/guardian will need to present the label from the treatment bottleto the school office as proof of treatment.
- The child will be reinspected 10 days after treatment.
- The office will log the data using the Head Lice Tracker form.
- Information from the Washington State Department ofHealthabout home control and treatment willbe sent home.
- Before returning to the classroom, the student will receive a head check by office personnel.
- If no live lice are found, the student may return immediately to class. The parent will be reminded that a second treatment may beneeded in seven to ten days.
- If live lice remain, the parent/guardian will be contacted. The student will remain at school in class until the end of the day and be treated at home as outlined above.