Head Lice Information
Where children are gathered in groups, there may be pediculosis … head lice! Pediculosis affects all socio-economic and ethnic groups and is not a reflection of poor hygiene. If you discover lice in your home, don’t feel embarrassed or alone! We can work with you to eliminate this nuisance!
Please contact the school via email or phone (the teacher, the front desk, and/or the school nurse) to let us know if you have lice at home so that we may take precautions in your child’s classroom to help prevent the spread of lice at school, and so that we can be of assistance to help you rid your child and home of this common childhood nuisance. Your contact with the school will be treated with confidentiality.
Please click on the headers below to help you learn how to check your child for lice at home and how to treat your child at home, if needed. “Parent power” is the single most important factor to help eliminate lice. I am available to your family every step of the way: to help you check your child’s hair if you are not sure what you are looking for, to talk through the treatment process, and to be an extra set of eyes to check your child after treatment before returning to school.
Lou Jones, RN
School Nurse, The Geneva School
What to Look For When Checking Your Child for Lice
Examine your child’s dry hair in a brightly lit room, looking through the hair slowly in 1” sections, row by row, starting at the base of the neck and moving forward. A comb, chopstick, or wooden pencil can help you part the hair to move through section by section. Look on both sides of the section of hair paying close attention to the hair within an inch of the scalp. If you are not sure about what you find, place it in a plastic zip bag and take it to the school nurse to verify.
Head lice and their eggs, called nits, are tiny, can be difficult to spot with some colors of hair, and can be easily confused with dandruff or other head debris. Live bugs are can be reddish to dark brown, about 1/16th inch long, and move quickly through the hair. Nits are tiny yellowish to cream colored, oval shaped, and glued at an angle to the side of a hair shaft. With an active infestation of lice, the nits will be laid close to the scalp, which provides heat to incubate them, and they hatch in one week. Nits can resemble dandruff, but dandruff can be easily removed from the hair shaft. Nits are more difficult to remove and require a comb to pull them out, fingernails to pick them out, or scissors to snip them out.
WATCH THIS HELPFUL VIDEO to show you what you are looking for and how to use a LiceMeister comb to remove any bugs or nits.
THE PICTURE ON THIS WEBSITE will help you discern nits from hair debris.
Guidelines for Treatment of Lice at Home
If you see nits or live bugs in your child’s hair, you will need to treat your child, or the infestation will continue. It is not easy, but each of these steps is necessary to end a cycle of lice. If you follow these steps carefully your child will be lice-free.
Kill the live lice: There are several options available for initial treatment of hair to kill live lice, and even experts and authorities differ on what should be recommended.
- There are shampoos available at drug stores designed to kill lice, but some of them contain pesticides that could be toxic to your child, and the lice may have developed resistance to the pesticides! If choosing an over-the-counter option, look for one labeled NON-TOXIC. Non-toxic options are also available at health food stores.
- Cetaphil is a gentle skin cleanser available at most grocery and drug stores that can be used to suffocate live bugs. See the this website for detailed instructions and pictures to use this method effectively.
- Others recommend putting natural products like olive oil, baby oil, or mayonnaise on the hair and sitting with a shower cap for 2-3 hours to suffocate live bugs before washing out.
- You may wish to consult with your pediatrician for their recommendation.
Remove any nits (eggs) to prevent a new lice cycle: THIS NEXT STEP IS THE MOST IMPORTANT AND MOST EFFECTIVE yet involves the most time. Nit removal is rather simple IF you use a good metal lice comb, like LiceMeister, available at most drug stores. Wet and towel dry the head. With a regular brush or comb, work some conditioner through the entire length of the hair to remove knots. Get a bowl of water to dip the nit comb. Dip the comb into the water and comb through each section of the hair. Make sure to scrape along the scalp each time, as the nits are usually very close to the scalp. After each stroke, wipe the comb onto a moist white paper towel to remove the nits and dead lice (they will be visible against the white background of the towel). Do this to the entire head section by section. NIT REMOVAL IS THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP TO RID YOUR CHILD OF LICE!!
Clean your home environment: Cleaning your home environment involves items that have had recent or frequent contact with your child’s hair. Washing in hot water in a washer or dishwasher, sealing items in a plastic bag for two weeks, vacuuming, or drying in a clothes dryer on high heat for 30 minutes can all be effective means of cleaning, depending on the item. Items that should be cleaned at home include:
- Bedding where child has been sleeping in the past two weeks (sheets, pillows, pillow cases, blankets). If your child moves around at night and sleeps with siblings or parents, you may have to wash more than one set of bedding
- Stuffed animals that your child sleeps with or has recently played with
- Towels that child has been using
- Hats, scarves, and jackets child has been recently wearing
- Clothing or dress-up clothes your child has been recently wearing
- Brushes, combs, and hair accessories should be soaked in hot water or replaced
- Book bags and gym bags
- Rugs and carpets should be vacuumed
- Couches, sofas, and easy chairs your child uses should be vacuumed; throw pillows should be washed or bagged
- Car upholstery and car seats should be vacuumed
If you discover more nits or bugs in your child’s hair after your initial treatment of your home environment, you will want to repeat the treatment of your home environment.
Inform your community: This is an important step to getting rid of lice and preventing a return to your family. People often don’t want to tell anyone in their community for fear of embarrassment, but there is NOTHING TO BE EMBARRASSED ABOUT! If you have lice, you got it from someone you know. They may not even know that they have lice, and you can give those people a chance to take preventive measures or get rid of their lice so they do not give it back to your family. We encourage you to tell those who have been in close contact with your child AND the school, including:
- The school nurse
- Your child’s teacher
- Anyone who has been in your home recently
- Anyone whose home your child has slept in recently
- Playmates of your child
- Babysitters of your child
- Church childcare
Follow-up: After initially treating your child for lice and cleaning your home environment, for the NEXT 2-3 WEEKS it is important to remain vigilant to CONTINUE TO EXAM YOUR CHILD’S HAIR DAILY FOR ANY MISSED BUGS OR NITS, otherwise a missed egg could hatch a live bug to start another cycle of infestation. It is nearly impossible to get every nit on the first attempt, and after all your hard work to initially treat your child, and you don’t want to go through the treatment again! Please stop by the clinic to allow the school nurse to be a second set of eyes to check for nits you may have missed before returning your child to school (ECC students should stop by the ECC front desk).
Guidelines for Returning to School
Children are welcome to return to school after their hair and home environment have been treated and the hair has been carefully combed through to remove any live bugs and nits. We expect parents to continue to comb through and inspect their child’s hair daily for any missed bugs and nits for a 2-3 week period to prevent a new infestation of bugs from any missed eggs. MANUAL REMOVAL OF EGGS AND LIVE BUGS IS THE SINGLE MOST EFFECTIVE WAY TO RID YOUR CHILD OF LICE, yet it is nearly impossible to remove them all on the first attempt, so repeated inspection at home is a must!
Our school’s “NO NIT POLICY” simply means that you, as a parent, are responsible for carefully combing through your child’s hair to remove any bugs or nits before sending him or her back to school, and are committed to continue frequent inspection for the next 2-3 weeks. OUR SCHOOL NURSE AND ECC STAFF WILL INSPECT YOUR CHILD’S HAIR ON RETURN TO SCHOOL, offering another set of eyes to ensure any tiny nits have not been missed before your child reenters the classroom. Simply stop by the clinic on the main campus (or ECC front desk) to ask for a hair check.
Guidelines for to Help Prevent the Spread of Lice at TGS
When our school confidentially hears from a parent that a child has lice, we take several measures to do our part to avoid the spread of lice at school.
- Teachers remove any loose pillows and costumes that touch children’s heads for a two week period of time, to allow for any eggs that may have been laid to die and not hatch and cause an infestation in the classroom.
- Teachers post a note on their classroom door to ask the cleaning crew to make sure to vacuum any carpets in the room, to remove any bugs or eggs that have fallen or crawled to the carpet where children sit and play.
- Teachers are encouraged to watch their students to ensure they are not sharing hair brushes and combs, hair accessories, hats, or anything else that could easily pass lice from one child to another at school and to watch for and discourage any close contact play where heads would be touching one another.
- If a teacher has a child that is complaining of itching to the scalp or is scratching his head frequently in class, the teacher may send the student to the school nurse for a hair check.
- Teachers are encouraged to point parents to the school website for treatment guidelines when the lice is reported to them, and to ask parents to seek a hair check with the school nurse or ECC staff prior to a child’s return to school.
- Teachers and our front desk receptionists are asked to share with the school nurse the names of children being treated for lice at home, if they are the one who received information from the parent. This allows our school nurse to have an accurate picture of all the lice activity in the school for the school year, and allows her to confidentially contact parents to point them to our treatment guidelines and offer to help with hair checks, as another pair of experienced eyes can help make sure you don’t have to continue to deal with lice in your home.
- “Alert letters” may be sent home to ask parents to check their child for lice and nits if more than one student in a particular grade or classroom report lice. Names of students who have been reported to the school are kept confidential. After an alert letter is sent out, it is expected that there may be a few other reports initially, as often when lice are discovered on one child, several children in the classroom already have them. An additional alert will only be sent out to the same class if the school continues to get reports of lice in that grade 2 weeks or more after the first report.
- Class screening for lice may be done at the judgement of the school nurse if several students in the same class report lice at the same time.
Myths Regarding Lice
Check out this website for seven commonly believed myths about head lice and treatment. Make sure you treat your child based on fact and not myth!
Life Cycle of a Louse
Click on this site for a picture of the life cycle of a louse.