If you have children in school you may notice there are times of the year when you hear more about head lice outbreaks than usual. It is not your imagination. It does happen.
You may find that you hear about head lice more often after school has been out for a long vacation period. This can include after summer break, spring break and Christmas/holiday break.
So why does this happen?
Family and friends are coming to town to visit and staying overnight. Kids are crawling in and out of sleeping bags, sharing hats and coats, and maybe even exchanging hair accessories or sharing hair brushes.
It is not uncommon for a family that has been struggling with head lice to visit another and share their head lice infestation. Lice travel on the head of their host and all it takes is a hug to crawl from one person to another.
This does not mean you need to be concerned about having family and friends come to visit. However, it is a good idea to know the signs and symptoms of head lice so you will know if it is time to check your children for head lice crawling in their hair.
The most common sign of a head lice infestation is an itchy scalp. Watch for children scratching consistently at the back or top of their head.
If you notice your child scratching, check for lice eggs (nits) and live lice crawling around. Head lice like to congregate in the warm areas behind the ears and at the nap of the neck so check in those areas first and then move inward.
Lice eggs can be confused with dandruff, dry scalp or hair spray. If they separate easily from the hair strand, they are not nits. Nits will remain firmly attached.
A few other facts about head lice
Head lice do not fly or jump. They are passed through direct contact from one host to another. Therefore teaching your children not to share personal items, such as pillows, blankets, and hair brushes and accessories, can be helpful at preventing head lice.
You cannot give head lice to your pets or get it from your pets. If you notice your dog or cat is scratching obsessively, check for fleas.
Head lice prefer clean hair; they are not a sign that someone is dirty.
Just because one person is infested in your household, it does not mean that all family members are infested. However, if one of your family members does have head lice, it is a good idea to check everyone’s head.