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Headlice in School


The problem of headlice is common to all schools. With the support of all the parents and girls in the school we are currently engaged in an initiative to try and reduce its incidence and to make life a little easier for parents dealing with the issue. For three weeks after Easter, we are allocating Thursdays as a day when we are asking parents to check and to fine comb their childrens hair. Each family will receive a kit from the HSE and the children will have no homework on those days in order to facilitate time for fine combing. One of our parents will also talk to the senior classes and explain the process to them. If everyone plays their part it will go a long way towards reducing the incidence of headlice.


It's best to treat head lice quickly once they're found because they can spread easily from person to person.

Signs of Head Lice
Although they're very small, lice can be seen by the naked eye. Here are things to look for:

Lice eggs (called nits). These look like tiny yellow, tan, or brown dots before they hatch. Lice lay nits on hair shafts close to the scalp, where the temperature is perfect for keeping warm until they hatch. Nits look sort of like dandruff, only they can't be removed by brushing or shaking them off.

Unless the infestation is heavy, it's more common to see nits in a child's hair than it is to see live lice crawling on the scalp. Lice eggs hatch within 1 to 2 weeks after they're laid. After hatching, the remaining shell looks white or clear and stays firmly attached to the hair shaft. This is when it's easiest to spot them, as the hair is growing longer and the egg shell is moving away from the scalp.

Adult lice and nymphs (baby lice). The adult louse is no bigger than a sesame seed and is grayish-white or tan. Nymphs are smaller and become adult lice about 1 to 2 weeks after they hatch. If head lice is not treated, this process repeats itself about every 3 weeks. Most lice feed on blood several times a day, and they can survive up to 2 days off the scalp.

Scratching. With lice bites come itching and scratching. This is actually due to a reaction to the saliva of lice. However, the itching may not always start right away — that depends on how sensitive a child's skin is to the lice. It can sometimes take weeks for kids with lice to start scratching. They may complain, though, of things moving around on or tickling their heads.

Small red bumps or sores from scratching. For some kids, the irritation is mild; for others, a more bothersome rash may develop. Excessive scratching can lead to a bacterial infection (this can cause swollen lymph glands and red, tender skin that might have crusting and oozing). If your doctor thinks this is the case, he or she may treat the infection with an oral antibiotic.

You may be able to see the lice or nits by parting your child's hair into small sections and checking for lice and nits with a fine-tooth comb on the scalp, behind the ears, and around the nape of the neck (it's rare for them to be found on eyelashes or eyebrows).

A magnifying glass and bright light may help. But it can be tough to find a nymph or adult louse — often, there aren't many of them and they move fast.

See your doctor if your child is constantly scratching his or her head or complains of an itchy scalp that won't go away. The doctor should be able to tell you if your child is infested with lice and needs to be treated. Not all kids have the classic symptoms of head lice and some can be symptom-free.

Also be sure to check with your child's school nurse or childcare center director to see if other kids have recently been treated for lice. If you discover that your child does, indeed, have lice or nits, contact the staff at the school and childcare center to let them know. Find out what their return policy is. Most usually allow kids to return after one topical treatment has been completed.

Are Lice Contagious?
Lice are highly contagious and can spread quickly from person to person, especially in group settings (like schools, childcare centers, slumber parties, sports activities, and camps).

Though they can't fly or jump, these tiny parasites have specially adapted claws that let them crawl and cling firmly to hair. They spread mainly through head-to-head contact, but sharing clothing, bed linens, combs, brushes, and hats also can pass them along. Kids are most prone to catching lice because they tend to have close physical contact with each other and share personal items.