Lice 101: Ditch the Itch

The back to school season means homework to complete, lunches to make, extracurricular activities to schedule and sometimes–much to the dismay of parents everywhere–head lice to combat.

“It’s the dread of all parents,” said Jennifer Snyder, MD, and pediatrician with Memorial Physician Services. “Head lice are extremely common and infestations occur frequently in children due to close contact while at play. So, when children share hats, combs, brushes or lean up to one another ‘head to head,’ they risk transmission.”

For many parents, it is not a matter of if; it is a matter of when. However, Snyder cautions that the critters aren’t a result of “poor hygiene,” nor do they spread any other diseases.

Other facts

  • Head lice crawl but cannot jump, fly or hop.
  • Old nits do not equal active infection.
  • Itching is the most common symptom, but itching doesn’t happen immediately following infection–which is why many people don’t realize they are infected.

Treatment options

  • NIX: Approved for ages two months and older and available over-the-counter
  • RID: Approved for ages two years and older and available over-the-counter
  • Prescription options: Ovide for children six years and older; Natroba, Sklice and Ulesfia for children six months and older

Snyder cautions that all family members and people in contact with the family should be checked for infestation in order to ensure proper treatment.

“Children should not be excluded from school due to old nits,” Snyder said. “Although it is an itchy subject that parents dread, most cases are very easy to treat if proper precautions are taken.”

For more information on lice, visit cdc.gov/parasites/lice/.

Jennifer Snyder, MD, earned her medical degree from Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield. She completed her residency at Akron Children’s Hospital in Akron, Ohio, and is board certified in pediatrics. Dr. Snyder is a graduate of the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, where she majored in cell and structural biology. Before moving to Springfield, Dr. Snyder practiced in Akron for two years.

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