Advice on Lice Treatment from Derm Doctor

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Are head lice a sign of poor hygiene? Are they dangerous?

Head lice do not discriminate between clean or dirty hair. These past associations with poor hygiene were based on a poor understanding of head lice. Head lice are not dangerous. Unlike body louse, head lice are not vectors for any diseases.

My son seems to be scratching his head a lot recently. Does he have lice?

It's possible that your son has lice, but there are many reasons that someone can have an itchy scalp, such as dry skin. Sift through your son's hair carefully to look for possible signs of infestation such as the presence of nits.

I've been told by the school that my child has head lice. Can it spread to everyone else in the family?

First, confirm that your child does in fact, have head lice by looking for lice or nits in their hair. Check other members of the family for signs of infestation. Lice can spread quickly through direct contact. If your other family members do not show symptoms of lice, they do not need to be treated. Do not share bedding or clothes that come into contact with hair, which can be a point of contact, clean the sheets, and vacuum the floor.

Lice cannot live long when it when it is not attached to human hair. If you are careful about prevention, chances are good that the infestation can be contained to one child until the lice is successfully treated.

We have a pet dog, and are worried about passing it onto him. How can I prevent this?

Pets will not become infested. Head lice are species specific, and have adapted in a specialized way to stick to human hair only.

Do lice jump from head to head?

Lice cannot jump. They cannot fly, and their short legs do not allow them to jump. Their bodies are adapted to clinging to human hair, but they are not efficient travelers. This myth likely became perpetuated as a result of how easily lice can be transmitted.

Why is re-treatment often required to remove lice?

Many lice treatments kill active adult lice, but not the eggs. As eggs do not have a nervous system, they are not affected by certain insecticides. Re-treatment after 7-10 days ensures that the missed eggs are treated.

How long should I keep my infested child out of public schools?

Each school should have a policy with regards to children that are infested with lice. It is important that schools take action that prevents the spread of lice, as they can spread very quickly in a crowded environment where there is plenty of opportunity for contact.

In general, we recommend following your child's school policies. After a child has been treated with anti-lice shampoo, they are not considered a threat to spread lice. The American Academy of Pediatrics share the view and most schools no longer have a "no nit policy" in place.

How do I prevent infestation from occurring again to my child?

As children frequently pick up louse in a crowded school environment, complete prevention is often not realistic. However, there are some things that you can teach your child to reduce the chance of catching lice:

  • Tell your child not to share brushes, combs, hats, scarves, and other accessories that come into contact with the head
  • Tell your child to keep their clothes on their hanger at school as it reduces the chance of coming into contact with other children's clothes