For many parents one of the scariest things this Halloween will be the note their little monster brings home from school saying that a case of head lice has been detected.
“While the make-believe vampires are prowling for candy, head lice are looking for a real blood meal,” says Dr. Andrew Bonwit, a pediatric infectious disease expert at Loyola University Health System.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 6 to 12 million infestations occur each year in the United States among children aged 3 to 11.
Although head lice biting feed on blood the bite will rarely, if ever, be painful. In fact, the two main consequences of lice infestations are itching and emotional distress, particularly of the parent!
Myth 1: Lice are caused by being dirty. Personal hygiene and socioeconomic status have nothing to do with having or transmitting head lice. The head louse is an equal-opportunity pest!
Myth 2 Pets spread lice: Animals are not known to carry head lice nor to transmit them to people
Myth 3: Beware sharing hairbrushes and personal items to avoid lice. Although it’s probably best not to share such items as combs, hairbrushes and hats, these do not seem to transmit the pest. Transmission of lice seems to occur only by direct head-to-head contact from one person to another
Myth 4: Kids with lice should be sent home from school immediately. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not endorse “no-nit” policies that exclude children from school because nits are present. In fact, even the presence of mature head lice is not considered a valid reason to exclude children, only a cause for prompt referral to the physician for treatment
Myth 5: Lice carry disease. Head lice do not transmit serious infectious.
Having got that straight, it’s worth emphasizing that lice are very treatable. A simple over-the-counter or prescription insecticidal shampoo or lotion applied to the scalp, left on for a specified time and rinsed off is usually all that’s needed. As the life cycle of lice is about seven days from the laying of the eggs to the hatching, a second treatment, seven days after the first is recommended to prevent further infestation.