Head Lice – All you need to know

Head lice are a parasitic insect found on the head, eyebrows and eyelashes. They feed on human blood several times a day, live close to the scalp. They have 3 forms; egg (also called nit), the nymph, and the adult. Head lice are not known to spread disease. They are not unique to UNIS and or Vietnam.

How do they move/how are they spread?
Head lice move by crawling, they cannot hop or fly. They are spread by direct contact with the hair of another person with head lice. Head to head contact during play at school, home and elsewhere. It is very uncommon for spread by contact with clothing. Personal hygiene in the home has nothing to do with getting head lice.

Signs and Symptoms:

  • Tickling feeling or something moving in the hair.
  • Itching caused by the bites of the head louse.
  • Irritability, difficulties sleeping as the lice are most active at night in the dark.
  • Sores on the head from scratching.

Detection
Head lice are not preventable but with regular checks, you can ensure early detection. We recommend weekly inspections using the wet combing procedure (same for detection and treatment).

Treatment Options

  • Chemical options
  • Wet combing

Chemical options contain insecticides and must be treated with caution. They can only be used with live lice – they have no effect on eggs.

Most important – lice and eggs, (nits) must be removed every 3 days to ensure no re infestation.

  WET COMBING PROCEDURE

  • Wash the hair in the normal way with shampoo or wet with water.
  • Rinse shampoo out and put on lots of conditioner
  • Comb hair with normal comb to get rid of tangles
  • Change to the lice comb
  • Divide the hair into sections and work one small section of hair at a time
  • Place the comb at the base of the hair follicle
  • Draw the comb through the hair to the tip
  • Work around the entire head repeating the above
  • Check the comb for lice after each stroke by wiping on a towel or rinsing the comb in a bowl
  • When completed the entire head –rinse out conditioner
  • Lice are easier to see in bright light

  The first combing should remove all hatched eggs but it will not remove the eggs.     Picking the nits (eggs) off the hair with fingers may be necessary. Repeat every 2-3   days for 2-3 weeks or until no lice found. Weekly combing should be carried out to   prevent/ and or detect any re –infestation

Commitment
Treating and combing for lice is time consuming, however, this must be done frequently. Combing remains the responsibility of the parent.

Exclusion
There is much debate regarding exclusion from school. At UNIS Hanoi we advise that if your child has head lice you inform the School Health Centre so appropriate notifications and support can be provided.

References
Centre for Disease Control and prevention, CDC online access 5 November 5, 2013 www.cdc.gov/parasites/lice/head

UNIS Hanoi Head Lice Brochure for Parents

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