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With winter cold and falling temperatures comes an even better chance that lice can spread at schools.
Although some parents have mentioned problems at schools on The Sentinel-News’ Facebook page, district officials said they are not aware of any major issues.
Traci Early, the district health coordinator, said she has not heard of any outbreaks but added that she’s ready to help.
“Parents can certainly contact me for help, or they can ask for help at the youth service centers at the schools,” she said.
North Central District Health Department District Director Renee Blair said her office, which is located on Henry Clay Street and serves Shelby, Henry, Spencer and Trimble counties, said she has not heard of a widespread outbreak either.
“We haven’t heard anything at this point, from schools or anyone else,” she said. “If there’s a widespread outbreak, it should be reported to us.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, head lice, which lay eggs called nits, are roughly two to three millimeters long and move by crawling. They cannot hop or fly. They are most commonly spread by close person-to-person contact and cannot be transmitted by dogs, cats or other pets.
The district’s policy, Early said, is to send home students who are discovered to have live head lice home, with instructions to the parents to remove the lice or use the over-the-counter or prescription shampoo.
“We do recommend that parents talk to their pediatricians first before using even the over-the-counter shampoo,” Early said. “They are not required to use any chemicals.”
The next day, parents are asked to accompany their child to school so a check can be made. If no live lice are found, then students are allowed to attend school, even if the nits, or eggs, are still present.
“That follows the American Academy Pediatrics recommendations,” she said.
According to the AAP’s Web site:
“A child should not be restricted from school attendance because of lice, because head lice have low contagion within classrooms. Some schools have had ‘no-nit’ policies under which a child was not allowed to return to school until all nits were removed.
“However, most researchers agree that no-nit policies should be abandoned.…no-nit policies are unjust and should be discontinued, because they are based on misinformation rather than objective science.”
The shampoos have had success, but some believe that head lice are becoming resistant to the pesticides. Early said she believes the best way to combat head lice is to just be nit picky.
“You have to be diligent at home,” she said. “Go through the hair each night, use the comb, vacuum the carpet, furniture, mattresses and car every day, put away the stuffed animals for a while and put all the blankets, pillows, coats, hats and scarves in the dryer for a full cycle on high heat. That should take care of them.”
However, she added that it could take up to 14 days for all the nits to hatch, so parents must be diligent.
“You really don’t have to use the chemical shampoo if you don’t want to, but you have to stay on top of it,” she said. “It’s a lot of work, but that’s really the only way to get rid of them.”
There are home remedies out there, but Early said she has never read anything about them working. Some suggest olive oil or mayonnaise.
“I have had parents tell me that products with tea tree oil in them work, but I’ve never read that anywhere,” she said.
A home remedies Web site also lists washing hair with vinegar or Listerine mouthwash as ways to kill lice, but the site also states that maintaining a close watch on possibly infected clothing and furniture is very important.
Early said that lice can live up to three days without a food source, and nits can take up to two weeks to hatch, so continuing to wash, vacuum and dry items on high heat for a minimum of two weeks is very important.
Head lice facts
· Lice cannot jump, hop or fly, they can only crawl, so don’t share hats, coats, scarves or brushes or combs.
· Nits must be laid by live lice, you can’t catch nits.
· They are about the size of sesame seeds.
· Lice live for about 30 days and a female can lay up to 100 nits.
· They cannot live on dogs, cats or other pets.
· Lice do not pose a health rise and don’t carry diseases