Monday, February 25, 2008

Head Lice

Pictures of the stages of a Louse:
nit, nymph, and adult.

Dear Mari-Linn Families:

To our dismay, Head Lice have been discovered on students at Mari-Linn. There is no cause for alarm; Lice are fairly common among school aged children. There are about 8 to 12 million cases each year. A case of lice does not mean the infested person has poor hygiene. Lice infest both clean and dirty heads alike.

Generally, the first symptom of head lice is persistent itching or scratching at the back of the head or around the ears. If your child is observed repeatedly scratching his or her head, check the hair shafts and scalp closely for head lice or their nits (eggs). It is important to check for head lice in good daylight with a magnifying glass. They are very difficult to see, especially in light hair. Scratching the area of infestation may cause sore scalp or worse, open wounds. This may cause skin infections.

Head lice are tiny gray or red-brownish parasitic insects that infest human hair, feeding on the host’s scalp. They lay their eggs on hair shafts about 1/8” above the scalp. Lice suck blood by grasping the human scalp with tiny hooks that surround their mouth, and painlessly pierce the skin, feeding several times a day. Most importantly, Head Lice neatly glue their eggs to the hair shaft, usually within ¼ inch of the scalp. The tiny, pearl-like eggs (they look like miniature wax tear drops or tiny sesame seed) stick alongside the hair so tightly that they can be dislodged only by being torn from their neat sleeve of biological glue by fingernails, lice comb or enzyme cleaners.

Sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference between nits and dry scalp. A quick test is to hold on to the hair shaft and flick it with your finger. If it moves, it is dry scalp. If it does not move, it is most likely a nit. Lice have an approximate lifespan of approx. 25-30 days. Adult lice each lay over 100 nits or eggs about a week after they have hatched out. The nits hatch within 7 to 10 days. After hatching they take 8 to 9 days to become adults at which time the female louse starts laying more eggs and the cycle repeats itself. Although lice cannot live without a host, the nits do seem to survive off the head.

While studies, at this time, show that lice do not carry disease, they are contagious through contact. They spread by shared brushes, combs, hats, scarves, bed sheets, etc. or through head-to-head contact with an infested person’s head. Lice do not jump; only walk from hair strand to hair strand. Head lice can cause decreased attention span in students as well as irritability in some cases. Students may also feel self conscience about them.

The good news is that Head Lice can be safely treated at home. Contacting your child’s doctor for information regarding treatment and prevention remedies is suggested. Your assistance is so important in eliminating lice from our school as soon as possible:

** Examine every head in your home very carefully for any sign of nits and/or lice.
** Tell your children to avoid head to head contact and any sharing of personal items.
** As a courtesy to other parents, please contact your child’s teacher if you find lice or nits on your child’s head. Your child’s name will remain confidential.

Please help this community stay healthy & happy by doing your part. Look & correct the problem ASAP. Thank you!