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School is back in session – and homework is not the only thing making kids scratch their heads. Millions of children – and the adults and people who care for them - get head lice each year, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.  While lice is very unpleasant, it is treatable and preventable. Click on the links below to learn more:

What is head lice and how do you get it?
Lice are tiny, wingless parasites that nest in human hair and feed on blood drawn from the scalp. This condition is most common in children ages 3-11 (and subsequently their families and caregivers). In its egg form, lice are called nits. Most often found at the base of the scalp, nits are oval, whitish, and often confused with dandruff.  In its adult form, the parasite is called a louse, and can often be seen moving on the scalp.

Head lice is a very contagious condition, and the parasite will busily crawl from scalp to scalp, particularly when children are playing with heads close together. Lice can also spread through shared hats, bike helmets, clothing, sleeping bags, bed linens, towels and hair accessories, combs and brushes. Pets cannot catch head lice and pass them on to people (or the other way around).

Lice do do not discriminate between clean or dirty hair – the condition can affect anyone. Lice do not carry disease.  However, lice can make the scalp very itchy, irritated and even infected as a result of constant scratching. 

Find and treat lice
Although schools may conduct mass lice screenings, we strongly recommend that you check your child’s scalp consistently after playdates, sleepovers, camp or other environments and activities where children share tight quarters.

American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines emphasize that a diagnosis of lice is not a health hazard and should not keep a child out of school

The first sign of head lice may be an intense itching and crawling sensation. Lice is visible to the naked eye, and may be found by carefully inspecting of the back of the ears, crown and nape of the neck with a fine tooth comb and if necessary, a magnifying glass. You may see bites or scratch marks, and there may be irritation. Common conditions that may be mistaken for head lice include dandruff or peeling scalp skin.

Once lice is suspected, it must be removed manually.  This is the only proven way to eradicate the parasite.  Following manual removal of lice, a treatment shampoo will help to kill living lice on the scalp.‘De-lousing salons’ will professionally remove lice from the scalp, however, it is possible to treat this condition at home.

Watch this video to learn how to identify and treat lice on the scalp.

Once removed from the scalp, lice do not live more than 2-3 days.  However, a basic housecleaning routine is advisable, and includes the following steps:

  • Wash bedding and clothing in hot water; dry them on a hot setting
  • Vacuum rugs, floors, and inside cars
  • Store stuffed animals in a closed bag for a couple of nights
  • Discard combs and brushes

If lice return after treatment, or if you doubt your initial diagnosis, see a dermatologist for a more thorough examination.

Prevent lice
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following guidelines for preventing and controlling head lice:

  • Avoid head-to-head (hair-to-hair) contact during play and other activities.
  • Do not share clothing such as hats, scarves, coats, uniforms or hair accessories.
  • Do not share combs, brushes, or towels. 
  • Do not lie on bedding or furniture that has 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 two days before treatment using the hot water (130°F) laundry cycle and the high heat drying cycle.
  • Vacuum the floor and furniture, particularly where the infested person sat or lay.
 


 

 

 

Petaluma Office
165 Lynch Creek Way
Petaluma, CA 94954
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(707) 762-5531
Fax: (707) 762-5976

 

 

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500 Alfred Nobel Dr., Ste. 245
Hercules, CA 94547
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At Dermatology Associates of the Bay Area, our board-certified dermatologists serve patients at our Petaluma and Hercules offices. We are committed to the highest standards, and we offer a full range of cosmetic, medical, and surgical dermatology procedures, as well as quality skin care products.

Dermatology Associates of the Bay Area
165 Lynch Creek Way | Petaluma, California 94954 | Phone: (707) 762-5531 | Fax: (707) 762-5976
500 Alfred Nobel Drive, Suite 245 | Hercules, California 94547 | Phone: (510) 741-7418 | Fax: (510) 741-7456