As the end of the school year approaches, are summer camp head lice worries replacing the ones you had daily as your child headed to school? You’ve made it through the school year without bringing head lice into your home, and now your kids will soon be off to camp and you can start worrying all over again! Unlike the school year where you could check your child daily, they will be gone for days, sharing sleeping environments and other close contact that makes the threat of head lice from school pale in comparison.
No parent wants to get a phone call telling them that their child has head lice. Perhaps worse than that, no parent wants to learn that their child has brought lice home! Both these situations are bad; having it come into your house is clearly the last thing you want.
What are Head Lice and where do you find them?
Head lice are insects and parasites which can be found on a person’s scalp, behind the ears, and near the neckline at the back of the neck. Sometimes head lice can event be found on eyebrows and eyelashes. Head lice are most common in preschool and elementary school children. The egg of a louse (called a nit) are very small – about the size of a knot in thread – and they can be very hard to see. Sometimes they may be mistaken for dandruff or hair spray droplets.
Keep your head lice infestation in perspective.
While head lice do not transmit disease, they are a tremendous nuisance. When parents learn their child has head lice, they often get upset, or even angry. Take a breath; having head lice is a fairly common problem and has nothing to do with good hygiene or good parenting. In fact, good health, and hygiene habits and/or a clean house or school have nothing to do with getting head lice.
Who gets head lice?
That being said, who is it that gets head lice? Basically, anyone who has head-to-head contact with someone who already has head lice is at the greatest risk. Children 3 to 11 years old are the most likely to get head lice. Anyone living in the same house as a person who has head lice can also often get head lice. Although it is much less common, head lice can also spread through contact with objects and personal items, like hats, scarves, coats, or hair ribbons that were recently used by a person who has head lice. It is also uncommon to spread head lice by using someone else’s combs or brushes because lice have difficulty hanging on to smooth surfaces. Though rare, head lice can be spread by using a pillow or bed that was used recently (emphasis on recently) by someone who already had lice.
Head lice are NOT your pet’s fault!
As you work to solve your head lice problem, don’t blame your pets; dogs and cats don’t get or spread human lice! Lice are a species-specific parasite that only feed off their chosen species. While your child’s head lice may pass to a family member, your pet will not be infected. Human lice need human blood to survive, while dog lice need dog blood, and so on.
Immediate treatment for head lice is essential.
If your child or other family members have head lice, it is important to treat them right away. Several products are available over the counter or with a doctor’s prescription. The CDC website provides more information about treating people and the household. If you discover that your child has head lice, be sure to advise your child’s camp or school immediately so that others can be sure to check their children. CDC does not recommend treating people who do not already have head lice – only those that are confirmed to have them.