Head Lice and School Vacation

Believe it or not, school vacations are a prime opportunity for head lice transmission. Quite often there are sleep-overs with friends and loved ones. Perhaps your child has been on a school trip with their sports team or dance troupe. Groups of children travelling and sleeping together set the stage for lots of head-to-head contact, which is predominantly how the critters get around.

For many, itching is often the last (or non-existent) symptom of head lice infestation. This occurs when the host has built up an intolerance to the bug saliva. You may not even discover the buggers for another 1-4 weeks after initial exposure! EEEEEWW!

Here is a bit of lice advice…

Boy Scratching14137609

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Headline: Lets talk head lice

Any one can get head lice and they can be easily treated, but it does require a consistent approach

For any parent leaving their children at school for the first time is an emotional milestone. How will they get on, will they make friends, love going and do well?

In my first blog last year I talked about the stigma of skin disease and how children can be treated at school, so please go back and read it again. The word stigma means “shame, disgrace, dishonour and humiliation”, there is one aspect of school life that can be associated with these words; head lice.

My granddaughter recently started school and I was picking her up with my daughter when I noticed the little visitors in her hair, my daughter was horrified and was talking to another mum who came out with the usual myths; “Oh I thought they were only found in dirty hair”. I also remember telling my youngest daughter’s teacher once that I had found head lice and you could feel the negativity and disgust from the other mothers in the room. Was I bothered – not at all, but many are.

Any one can get head lice and they can be easily treated, but it does require a consistent approach. I duly gave my daughter the advice to check the other two children and yes my other granddaughter aged 18 months also had them. My daughter was at the supermarket and thought she would ask at the pharmacist what she could use on the little one and was told by the pharmacist babies don’t get head lice they don’t have hair! As part of any skin assessment there should be a systematic approach to the assessment, which includes the scalp, and hair, which means as a children’s nurse I frequently find them. They can be missed though if you are not used to spotting the signs of an infestation, I was asked by a registrar once to look at a child’s scalp as he couldn’t find any skin disease causing the itchy scalp. He was horrified when I pointed out the head lice that had fallen on to the desk during his examination. So, let’s clear up some of the myths surrounding head lice:

·      They can’t fly, jump or swim but are spread by head-to-head contact, climbing from the hair of an infected person to the hair of someone else.

·      An infestation isn’t the result of dirty hair or poor hygiene. All types of hair can be affected, regardless of its length and condition.

·      Head lice only affect humans and can’t be passed on to animals or be caught from them.

How should these be treated? The following issues should be discussed with the parents and supported by additional information/resources:

·      Dispel the myths.

·      Define the terminology: nits or lice.

·      What do they look like?

·      How to detect them?

·      Life cycle of head lice.

·      Treatment options.

So lets start talking about head lice and dispel the myths and stigma associated with them.


British Association of Dermatologists. Head Lice, 2014. (accessed 1 April 2016).

Community Hygiene Concern. CHCBug Busting. (accessed 1 April 2016).

NICE. Clinical Knowledge Summaries, Head Lice, 2015. (accessed 1 April 2016).

NHS Choices. Head Lice, 2014. (accessed 1 April 2016).

Heads-Up on Lice for Happy Campers

Aaahhh! It’s camp season! And every season is lice season, wherever and whenever children gather in groups of any size there is camping lice. Most camps conduct head-checks on admission day. But in this environment there is a very good chance that a certain percentage of newly hatched lice (nymphs) and nits (eggs) will be missed, due to their size and camouflaging ability. So here are some tips:

How to Handle Camping Lice

camping lice*Get a well constructed metal lice comb, and comb your child’s hair before sending them off.

*Use mint-based products on hair (which have a 92-95% success rate in repelling lice).

*Have your child put their hair in a ponytail, braid or bun especially if it’s long. Since head-to-head contact is the culprit this will make it slightly more difficult for the buggers to do their worst.

*Don’t share pillows!

*Check and comb their hair with the lice comb immediately returning from camp.