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

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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.

I-CAN Prevent Diabetes

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Pat Lorentz (in red) celebrates Christmas with her children and grandchildren.

Pat Lorentz (in red) celebrates Christmas with her children and grandchildren.

With a family history of diabetes, Pat Lorentz was worried about her health. When she received her pre-diabetes diagnosis and was advised to take prescription medications to help her avoid being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, the Wadena native knew she had to make some lifestyle changes. After hearing about a new, free program called I-CAN Prevent Diabetes (offered by Tri-County Health Care in partnership with the University of Minnesota Extension) she decided to give it a try.

Utilizing a group approach, participants in the ‘I CAN Prevent Diabetes’ program find support and offer encouragement to one another. The trained program facilitator educates participants about pre-diabetes and shares practical approaches on how to feel better and become more active in every part of their life.

The class met for 16 weeks and continued with individualized monthly support and additional learning sessions to round out a year of support.

Within 16 weeks of weekly sessions, Pat lost 12% of her weight, nearly double from the original goal shared by Marilyn Hofland, U of M program coordinator. She is down two dress sizes and with daily walks at Sunnybrook, Blacks Grove and the Maslowski Wellness and Research Center she continues to lose weight.

“The sessions were very informative and motivational,” said Pat. “Most days I get a minimum of 60 minutes of exercise a day, instead of the 60 minutes of weekly exercise I was getting prior to this program.”

In addition to losing weight, Pat was very proud to learn at her last appointment that her A1C had gone down enough for Shaneen Schmidt, MD, to take her off her pre-diabetes medications. “It is nice when other people notice the weight loss,” said Pat. “But, the main thing is that I am off my medications and I can tell a difference. I want to be healthy and watch my grandchildren grow up.”

Each session consisted of a weigh-in, a healthy snack and general information and sometimes exercise activities. Pat’s favorite part was the accountability that came from meeting others with the same battle. The group supported each other, celebrated accomplishments and kept one another accountable.

Pat Lorentz loves spending time with her grandchildren. They are one of her reasons for participating in the “I-Can Prevent Diabetes” program and her motivation for staying healthy.

Pat Lorentz loves spending time with her grandchildren. They are one of her reasons for participating in the “I-Can Prevent Diabetes” program and her motivation for staying healthy.

“I have learned that label reading, portion control and journaling what we eat is very important for consistent weight loss,” said Pat. “The main thing was being aware of what we were eating and being less nonchalant about the food in our mouth. I learned when times were stressful to make better food choices.”

Pat believes that we should be accountable for what we put in our mouth, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy our food. She is an advocate of the 90/10 philosophy – 90 percent of what you eat should be good for you. “And, if you don’t enjoy it, don’t eat it!”

If a doctor is telling you that your numbers are creeping up, or if you are pre-diabetic, Pat encourages you to learn more about “I Can Prevent” program. “There is so much to live for, and these sessions are held in a positive environment and really focus on teaching us to make balanced choices. It made a huge difference for me,” said Pat.

icanpreventRisk Assessment:

Do you think you may be at risk for diabetes? Take this short, 10-question CDC (Center for Disease Control) questionnaire to assess your risk. Always speak with your doctor about any medical decisions.

About this program:

Tri-County Health Care is pleased to partner with the University of Minnesota Extension to offer the ‘I CAN Prevent Diabetes’ Program. In this FREE program, participants learn how to create a healthier lifestyle and to help them prevent the onset of diabetes. Participants will meet with a trained life-style coach to learn how to lose weight, eat healthier and increase physical activity.

The I-CAN Prevent Diabetes program will be kicking off with a new group later this fall. You are invited to be part of this exciting opportunity! If you are interested in participating, please contact Sara Stone, TCHC Medical Social Services Manager at sara.stone@tchc.org.

Watch other participants speak about the program…