How to Prevent the Spread of Head Lice in Children

Prevention of head lice begins with an awareness of the menace. Head lice are a menace that affects more than 12 million Americans, 70 percent of which are under 12 years old.

The 10 facts on lice about lice spread and prevention should be heeded by parents, day-care workers, teachers and others who work with children to prevent the spread of head lice in kids:

1.) Discourage the sharing of
hairbrushes, combs, hats, radio
headphones, dress-up clothes,
winter hats and scarves, sports
headgear.

2.) Encourage your child’s
school to assign individual coat
hooks or lockers to prevent the
transmission of lice by personal
items and outerwear. Of all
infested persons, 59 percent
have another infested family
member.

3.) At home, try to keep
children in their own beds.
Sharing beds and personal belongings
puts children at risk of
infestation.

4.) Make a weekly ritual of
head checks during “lice season,”
which peaks from September
through November.
Lice prefer to feed behind
the ears, at the back of the head
and at the nape of the neck.

5.) There are 3,000 types of lice, but
only three survive on human
beings: the head louse, the body
louse, the pubic louse.

6.) Lice and nits are visible to
the naked eye and are easiest to
spot in full, natural light. A
magnifying glass will help. Lice
can be cream colored, tan or
black. They move fairly quickly
on the scalp and have the same
size and shape of a sesame seed.

7.) The nits, or eggs, are pearly
white and are firmly attached to
individual strands of hair. They
must be hand-picked (hence the
term, “nit-picking”) or combed
out with a fine-tooth or specially
made lice comb.

8.) After towel drying a child’s
hair, check the towel for signs of
lice. Also examine the child’s
closet to see if the lice have
spread from garment to garment,
particularly hats or caps.
There are three necessary
steps to killing any existing lice,
removing the nits and preventing
a re-infestation:

9.) Use of a lice-killing product
to rid the scalp of nymphs, adult
lice and nits. Some doctors now
recommend against traditionally
used shampoos such as Kwell
that contain lindane, a strong
pesticide that can have dangerous
side effects if misused. A
new prescription product, Nix,
is a creme rinse that requires
only one application after a
regular shampoo.

10.) Removal of nits by hand or
with a fine-tooth comb. After
each comb stroke, wipe off the
comb on a tissue or towel.
Thorough cleaning of the
environment (house, household
items, clothing, dress-up items
shared by,children, beef linens,
towels, coats, etc.) to remove
adult lice and nits.