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    It's that time of year again.  When yellow school buses, cross guards and children carrying book bags abound.  Therefore the Henry and Stark County Health Departments would like to remind area residents of the facts pertaining to head lice and how to treat it.

 

    Head lice are spread most commonly by direct head-to-head (hair-to-hair) contact. However, much less frequently they are spread by sharing clothing or belongings onto which lice have crawled or nits attached to shed hairs may have fallen. The risk of getting infested by a louse that has fallen onto a carpet or furniture is very small. Head lice survive less than 1-2 days if they fall off a person and cannot feed; nits cannot hatch and usually die within a week if they are not kept at the same temperature as that found close to the scalp.

 

    The following are steps that can be taken to help prevent and control the spread of head lice:

 

     * Avoid head-to-head (hair-to-hair) contact during play and other activities at home, school, and elsewhere (sports activities, playground, slumber parties, camp).

     

     *Do not share clothing such as hats, scarves, coats, sports uniforms, hair ribbons, or barrettes.

 

     *Do not share combs, brushes, or towels. Disinfest combs and brushes used by an infested person by soaking them in hot water (at least 130°F) for

5-10 minutes.

 

      *Do not lie on beds, couches, pillows, carpets, or stuffed animals that have recently been in contact with an infested person.

 

      *Machine wash and dry clothing, bed linens, and other items that an infested person wore or used during the 2 days before treatment using the hot water (130°F) laundry cycle and the high heat drying cycle. Clothing and items that are not washable can be dry-cleaned OR sealed in a plastic bag and stored for 2 weeks.

 

     *Vacuum the floor and furniture, particularly where the infested person sat or lay. However, spending much time and money on housecleaning activities is not necessary to avoid reinfestation by lice or nits that may have fallen off the head or crawled onto furniture or clothing.

 

    Although head lice are difficult to see, they are easy to recognize.  One sign is a persistent itch of the scalp, often accompanied by infected scratch marks.  Closer inspection, aided by a hand lens will reveal small silvery eggs attached to the hair shaft.

 

    Head lice infestations among children and adults are common.  Lice are unbearably itchy and highly contagious; they require immediate, thorough treatment.  Alas, there are no non-toxic products for killing lice, but there are effective over-the-counter products such as Nix and Rid.  But if you do use one of these preparations, follow the instructions exactly.  Delouse clothing, bedding and combs according to directions; as well as, head and body. 

 

   Remember to take all possible steps to protect other members of your household, and to notify people who might have been exposed through direct bodily or household contact, and to prevent re-infestation.

 

    To help control a head lice outbreak in a community, school, or camp, children can be taught to avoid activities that may spread head lice.  For more information, contact your family health care provider, school nurse or visit our website at www.henrystarkhealth.com or find us on Facebook at Henry and Stark County Health Departments.

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