Pediculosis, also known as a head lice infestation, is one of the nuisances that kids and families sometimes experience with going back to school. Head lice is spread extremely quickly from head to head in classrooms, in movie theaters, on playgrounds, and anywhere else where people are in close contact.
September is head lice prevention month, so we’ve compiled some information about head lice and about how to prevent and treat an infestation.
What are Head Lice?
Head lice are a kind of insect. They live in human hairs and can cause itchiness as they move around on the head and feed on blood from the scalp.
They are very small, and they attach their eggs, called nits, to individual hairs. In order to completely be rid of an infestation, all lice and nits must be removed.
Misconceptions and Stereotypes
There are several misconceptions about head lice that can cause distress to someone who is experiencing an infestation.
- Head lice are only found on people who are dirty: this is not true. Head lice spreads easily from one person’s head to another, no matter how clean or dirty they are.
- Head lice spread diseases: This is also untrue. Head lice themselves can spread quite easily, but they do not carry or spread diseases.
- Head lice are dangerous. Again, this is simply a misconception. Head lice are certainly annoying, but they are not dangerous.
Ways to Prevent Head Lice
There are a few things you can do to prevent head lice in your home and on your head, especially if an infestation has broken out at school.
- Wash everything – especially bed sheets and pillowcases, stuffed animals, carpet, furniture and clothes. Place items that cannot be washed in an airtight bag for at least two weeks.
- Do not share hair brushes, hats, headbands, hair ties or anything else on which some head lice could hitch a ride to another head.
- If someone in your family gets head lice, check every other family member carefully for nits or lice.
Ways to treat it
There are several different kinds of shampoos and lotions with special medication designed to kill lice. Many are available over the counter and can be found at your local drug store. However, some medications may not be safe for younger children. Talk with your child’s doctor about which kind of medication will be safest and most effective.