Head Lice: Do I Need to Bug Out?

“Mom, my head itches.” What do I do now? While it can be one of every parent’s nightmares, it’s important to remember head lice is more of a nuisance and not a serious disease or a sign of poor hygiene.

Head lice infest the head and neck and attach their eggs to the base of the hair shaft. Lice are spread by person-to-person contact. They move by crawling, and are unable to hop or fly.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published its latest report on head lice in 2015 which stressed the need for diagnosis by trained observers, and by no circumstance should the child miss school due to head lice or nits. The AAP and Center for Disease Control (CDC) have fought hard against “no nit” policies in schools to reduce absences associated with head lice.

Families should be notified, children allowed to finish the school day, treated with over-the-counter topical medication, and return the next morning. It is not necessary to treat all the children in a classroom, or family members living in the same house, unless sharing a bed with the affected person. However, it is important to have everyone checked out and treated if necessary.

The AAP does not recommend excessive environmental cleaning, such as home pesticides which can be toxic if inhaled or absorbed through the skin. However, washing pillow cases and treating bristle hair care items is reasonable. Parents should consider using over-the-counter medications as a first choice for active infestations.

After applying the product according to the manufacturer’s instructions, parents should follow with nit removal and wet combing. The treatment may be reapplied. Make sure to read and follow label instructions. When these efforts do not work, it is time to pay a visit to your health care provider a visit.