Head lice: every parent’s nightmare – Ogden Clinic provided source, Standard-Examiner 7/28/2015
OGDEN - Head lice – it’s every parent’s nightmare.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports an estimated six to 12 million infestations occur each year in the United States in children between the ages of three and 11. But teenagers and adults can get it too and it doesn’t discriminate. Rich kids, poor kids, clean kids, dirty kids, musical kids, athletic kids can all get head lice.
Head lice can be contracted anywhere, from the school playground to football helmets, wrestling mats and summer camp. Cleanliness has nothing to do with head lice and forget about blaming the family pet. Cats and dogs do not play a role.
“If someone does get head lice, it does not mean that they are dirty, or have poor hygiene habits,” said Dr. Noel Nye, a pediatrician at Tanner Clinic. “Lice don’t care if you’re rich or poor, male or female, just as long as you have some hair to hold on to, and some blood to feed on. “
Head lice is most commonly contracted through contact with the hair or scalp of a person with head lice. It is believed that it can also be contracted through objects that touch a person’s hair, like combs, hats, bedding, towels, etcetra, said Dustin Havey, a physician assistant in pediatrics at Ogden Clinic.
“It cannot be contracted through pets and the lice do not jump or fly,” Havey said.
Head lice is a small insect (pediculosis capitis), typically grayish white that infests the hair and scalp, said Chase Bailey, a family nurse practitioner at Ogden Clinic. The life span of a louse is approximately 30 to 40 days. Once female louse is transmitted, it can lay approximately seven to 10 eggs in a week. Nye said although the lice do not jump or fly, taking off your shirt or brushing your hair can throw the louse three feet or more.
“Many times, patients with mild investigations do not suffer symptoms at all. They may experience a feeling of itching or irritation around the scalp, neck and ears,” Bailey said. “Generally speaking, this is a result of the irritating saliva that lice tend to excrete.As the eggs hatch become more visible on the scalp and patients will notice the eggs.”
Nye said the small parasitic insects have been around for over 10,000 years and head lice is very contagious.
“It is the second most-common communicable disease seen in elementary schools, behind only the common cold,” Havey said. “A possible complication to not treating the condition is secondary skin infection, usually with staph bacteria.”
Bailey, Nye and Havey said there are several products available both over-the-counter and prescription, which essentially act as insecticides. Your doctor can also prescribe a variety of prescription liquids, and oral treatments which may assist.
“Generally speaking, topical treatments are applied liberally after washing the hair and left on for specified amount time and then washed out,” Bailey said. “Nits are removed with a comb.”
A second treatment may be recommended or needed approximately one week after the initial treatment. This is used in conjunction with combing the hair to remove nits and dead louse.In the case of resistant infestation, which is becoming more and more common, your medical provider may prescribe an oral medication.
Havey said after treating the head lice, make sure to wash any bedding, towels, clothing, combs or other things that have come in contact with the affected hair in very hot water. If there is anything you cannot wash in hot water you may also stick it in a plastic bag and seal it for two weeks to kill the lice.
“The louse can’t live away from a person for more than one to two days,” Nye said. “One should not use those things for at least two days, or to be sure there is no chance of re-infestation, one can put those items in a plastic bag, close it up and leave it for two weeks. This will kill all the live bugs, and if there are any nits in there, when they hatch in nine days, those lice will die within a day.”
The CDC has issued the following steps that can be taken to help prevent and control the spread of head lice:
• Avoid head-to-head (hair-to-hair) contact during play and other activities at home, school, and elsewhere (sports activities, playground, slumber parties, camp).
• Do not share clothing such as hats, scarves, coats, sports uniforms, hair ribbons, or barrettes.
• Do not share combs, brushes, or towels. Disinfest combs and brushes used by an infested person by soaking them in hot water (at least 130°F) for 5–10 minutes.
• Do not lie on beds, couches, pillows, carpets, or stuffed animals that have recently been in contact with an infested person.
Machine wash and dry clothing, bed linens, and other items that an infested person wore or used during the two days before treatment using the hot water (130°F) laundry cycle and the high heat drying cycle. Clothing and items that are not washable can be dry-cleaned or sealed in a plastic bag and stored for two weeks.
Vacuum the floor and furniture, particularly where the infested person sat or lay. However, spending much time and money on housecleaning activities is not necessary to avoid reinfestation by lice or nits that may have fallen off the head or crawled onto furniture or clothing.
Do not use fumigant sprays or fogs; they are not necessary to control head lice and can be toxic if inhaled or absorbed through the skin.