Let’s talk lice: Q&A with a school nurse

By Guest Blogger Amy Yglesias, Wadena-Deer Creek Elementary School Nurse

A four year old boy scratching his  itchy scalp from head lice

Let’s face it. Lice are gross, they’re inconvenient, and there’s a real possibility that your child could come home one day with a scalp infested with them.

But don’t worry! Aside from the “yuck!” factor, a case of lice isn’t all bad news. The symptoms are mild, and reliable treatment exists. You may even be able to ward them off.

Here are some quick tips and common questions to put your mind at ease:


What is the best way to prevent lice?

Lice are spread by head-to-head contact, so avoid touching your head to others. One way we do this all the time is for pictures. Be careful when taking those selfies with others! Also, do not share combs, brushes, hair ties, helmets or hats with others. Lice DO NOT jump or fly to another person.


What are signs of lice to watch out for?

Parents should watch their children for itching of the head and neck.


What causes/attracts lice?

Lice have no preference over which head they land on, clean or dirty. They are attracted to our specific body temperature and humidity of the human scalp. Anybody can get lice.


Are lice harmful?

Lice do not carry disease and do not pose a significant health risk.


If your child’s classmate has lice, what should you do?

Check your child’s hair frequently. Remind your child to avoid head-to-head contact. The smell of tea tree oil has been known to repel lice. Put a couple drops in hair detangler or a water bottle and spritz hair. Also, lice do not like the smell of coconut. There are over-the-counter preventive items you can buy.Mother using a comb in child's hair to look for head lice


What should parents do if they find out their child has lice?

Do not freak out. It will be OK.

Check all family members/people that live in your house. Treat everyone who has lice all at the same time.

Decide which treatment you will use. There are prescription, over the counter and natural treatments. Some people chose to go to a lice clinic to be treated. If needed, your doctor could help you decide which treatment is best for you. Click here for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention treatment guidelines.

Follow the product directions carefully. With most products, you will need to treat again in seven to 10 days. Removing the nits, or eggs, is an important part of the treatment of lice. Continue checking the head and combing hair daily for two weeks. If all nits within 1/4 inch of the scalp are not removed, some may hatch and your child will get lice again.

Wash clothing worn in the last three days, bedding and towels in hot water and dry in a hot dryer for at least 20 minutes before using again.

Stuffed animals, backpacks and other cloth items can be put in a plastic bag for two weeks. Vacuum carpets, upholstered furniture, mattresses and seats in the car thoroughly.


Is there anything else you think parents should know about lice?

If your child gets lice, it is not the end of the world and certainly nothing to be ashamed of. It can happen to any family.

 

family photo of the author of the blog story with her family.

Amy and her family.

About the Author: Amy Yglesias is the school nurse at Wadena-Deer Creek Elementary School. She has been a licensed practical nurse for 18 years and just started her fourth year at the school. Before that, she worked at the TCHC Wadena Clinic. Yglesias is married and has two daughters, a sixth grader and a third grader, and a spoiled mini schnauzer named Princess.

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