Adult lice

These microscopic bugs often spread through schoolchildren like wildfire in the fall and winter months.

The cooler days of fall typically lead to the first lice outbreak at public schools.

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, head lice are a small tan or grayish-white insects, about the size of a sesame seed, with six legs, that live on the human scalp, feeding on human blood. They make small bites in the scalp to suck the blood out of their human hosts. When they bite into the human scalp they secrete a coagulant to keep blood from clotting, this secretion is what causing your scalp to itch.

This week parents are complaining about a lice outbreak at a Palestine Elementary School.

Palestine Independent School District issued this statement Monday:

“Head lice, although not an illness or a disease, is very common among children and is spread very easily through head-to-head contact during play, sports, or nap time. Palestine ISD's procedures for students who are observed to have head lice will be referred to the campus nurse. The nurse will contact the student's parent and discuss a treatment plan. After the student has undergone one treatment, the parent should check in with the school nurse to discuss the treatment used. The nurse can also offer additional recommendations, including subsequent treatments and how best to get rid of lice and prevent their return.
Please do not hesitate in contacting the campus nurse for further information or assistance in treatment. It is extremely important the campus nurse is made aware of cases in order to follow our established procedures.”

In light of the recent outbreak, we thought we would share five things you need to know about lice, based on information from the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Lice isn't a sickness

A child isn't sick or unclean if they have head lice. Taking baths and washing your hair won't kill lice or keep you or your child from getting it.

Signs of lice

Signs that you or your child has lice include: constant scratching of the head and lice eggs, known as “nits” on hairs on the head, around the nape of the neck and around the ear area

Lice need a host to live

Lice cannot hop, jump or fly but can crawl from child to child anytime they are close together. The can live up to 30 days on a person's head and lay from 50 to 150 eggs. Lice cannot live without a host to feed on. If the louse falls off a person, it dies within two days. Pets and other animals don't carry head lice and can't contract it either.

At-home treatments

You can take care of your child's head lice without seeing a doctor.

There are many over-the-counter treatments that you can buy at drug stores and in the shampoo aisles of most department stores. Medications that are FDA approved for treating head lice, prescription or over-the-counter-treatments are safe and effective. Using poisons or flammable liquids, like kerosene, could harm your child more than lice. Cutting your or your child's hair won't get rid of them. And old-fashion home remedies are completely reliable.

Treat the whole house

Treating your or your child's hair is not enough to keep lice from coming back. You must also launder clothing, bedding, furniture and clean your car seating. Laundry water must be at least 130 degrees to kill lice. You should also vacuum furniture, curtains and carpet where nits or lice might have fallen. Clean combs, brushes and other hair items in lice shampoos in a pan of 130 degree hot water. Stuffed toys, pillows and items that can be washed should be sealed in plastic bags for two weeks to make sure lice and nits die before being used again.

For more information contact the Department of State Health Services, School Health Program at www.dshs.state.tx.us/schoolhealth/lice.shtm or call 512-458-7279

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