Yes, that’s right, there is an entire month dedicated to the louse.  My guess is the lice prevention movement was started by a group of first grade teachers.  Now that school is back in session, what do you need to tell your pediatric patients and their families about the dreaded pediculi?

What Exactly are Head Lice?

Pediculus humanus capitis, also known as head lice are wingless insects that live exclusively on the human scalp and feed on human blood.  Nasty.  Female lice lay eggs, also called nits on the hair close to the scalp.  Lice cannot fly or jump, however they do crawl and may temporarily land on clothing or another vector allowing their transmission from scalp to scalp.

Who Get’s Head Lice?

With the exception of the common cold, head lice is the second most common communicable disease among children.  In the U.S., 6 million children are treated each year.  Caucasian children between the ages of 3 and 10 are the most commonly affected by this condition.  Contrary to popular belief, lice actually prefer clean hair to dirty hair so routine bathing and hair washing will not prevent a lice infestation (No, parents, this does not mean you should stop washing your child’s hair).

How Do You Treat Lice?

The National Pediculosis Association recommends avoiding the use of pesticide-containing lotions and shampoos for treatment of lice.  These treatments can be dangerous and are often not effective against eggs resulting in incomplete treatment of the infestation.  Wet combing every 3 days to remove nits is the most effective form of treatment.  Oil-based shampoos such as coconut oil shampoo have also been shown to have natural pesticide properties and can be used in conjunction with wet combing.  Bedding, clothing and personal hygiene products must also be disinfected.

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