Facts about head liceHead lice, aka Pediculosis capitis, are tiny insects that cannot live without a human host. They are spread from head to head, said Lori Saari, a public health nurse with the Duluth schools.
By: News Tribune staff, Duluth News Tribune
Head lice, aka Pediculosis capitis, are tiny insects that cannot live without a human host. They are spread from head to head, said Lori Saari, a public health nurse with the Duluth schools.
No one knows where the first louse came from.
“Lice have been with us as far back as recorded history, probably longer,” said David Neitzel, an epidemiologist with the Minnesota Department of Health.
Anyone can get head lice, Saari said. It’s no reflection on the individual’s hygiene.
The little critters clearly have staying power. But there are ways to make transmission less likely, and to treat infestations when they do take place, health officials say.
Children shouldn’t share hats, scarves, combs, brushes or other objects that touch their heads, even though it’s not easy for lice to survive on those objects.
If children go to sleepovers, they shouldn’t lie too close together, Saari said. Young children should be discouraged from hugging.
“In our schools, we talk about that,” she said. “Instead of doing hugs, we’re going to do a fist bump.”
Parents should check their younger children regularly for head lice, Neitzel said, especially if they’ve recently been treated for lice.
Unfortunately, it’s easy to misidentify lice. Dandruff can be mistaken for lice, Saari said.
So can discarded eggs.
“Oftentimes what you’re looking at when you see the eggs in the hair is evidence of an infestation many months ago,” Neitzel said.
Use over-the-counter treatments first, recommended Guy Peterson, St. Louis County public health director, and follow the directions precisely. That normally will mean two treatments, seven to 10 days apart.
If lice return after two treatments, Peterson said it’s a good idea to see a doctor. Prescription treatments that may be more effective are available.
Parents should also remove the egg sacs, or nits, from their child’s hair, he said. “They’re small and it’s not easy. It takes time by loving parents to just be persistent.”
Wash and dry towels, bedding and pillow cases, using the hot cycle, Peterson said.
Vacuuming carpets and upholstery “can’t hurt,” he said, but he added, “I think you’d have to have a pretty serious infestation to have live lice living on furniture.”