It seems that not everyone saw the message in the Friday newsletter two weeks ago about lice, so we thought it might be helpful to re-send this as a stand-alone. There was at least one new case of head lice earlier this week (11/15), that student's class was checked at school. Apparently at least one of the other elementary schools in town is also having an outbreak, if it is any comfort :).
Several children at MCS have been found to have head lice (pediculosis) this week. All children in the affected classrooms have been checked by school staff, but we recommend that parents of all our students also check their children every several days for the next few weeks and treat promptly if any new lice or nits are seen.
As you probably know, head lice are not a health hazard, merely an itchy nuisance, but they can be quite contagious. The school is taking extra precautions to clean the areas involved, but you can help by reminding your children not to share combs, brushes, hats or any hair accessories. It is also somewhat helpful for children with long hair to wear it tied up or braided. Clean hair is always nice, but is not a lice deterrent; the insects may actually prefer clean hair and are thought to be able to hold on to the clean hair shafts better.
There are many treatment options for lice, but unfortunately, no simple, sure-fire cures. Resistance to the chemical treatments (pediculocides) has been on the rise dramatically over the past ~20 years, so none of the chemical treatments is 100% effective any more. Lindane should not be used as it can be toxic, and no chemical treatments should be used on infants or women who are pregnant or nursing. Best results for eradication will probably be obtained by combination strategies involving nit removal, chemical and/or oil treatments, and, perhaps most importantly, persistence. None of the treatments is very good at killing the eggs, so it is important to repeatedly check for nits and consider repeating treatment. Caution should be exercised in re-applying the pediculocides, especially if more than 2 treatments are needed. Because there is so much resistance and repeated treatments are often needed, I really like the “5-step Battle Plan” laid out at the website
. They stress the importance of frequent surveillance to find new nits and lice before they can get to reproductive age and using combing and oil for removing and suffocating the insects. The basic steps are:
1. Use a pediculicide (optional).
2. Apply olive oil treatment. Massage oil into the scalp well and leave on overnight or for at least 6-8 hours. They recommend using a shower cap held in place by a bandana tied over it for this.
3. Clean the environment (wash clothes and bedding, see website for more cleaning details).
4. Comb out the lice and nits. Shampoo oil out with a “clarifying” shampoo for oily hair, you will probably need to lather twice.
5. Check for nits regularly, and reapply olive oil on days 5, 9, 13, 17, 21 (if you choose not to use a pediculicide, add day 2 to the above list), following each application with careful nit combing.
They have more details at the website, as well as an entertaining and informative short movie (http://www.youtube.com/watch?
) on how to approach the problem and do the treatment, and even a cute children’s story (http://www.headliceinfo.com/
) that might be comforting to children who are upset that they have lice.
Aria Arrizabalaga, MD
Wellness Committee Chair