Q: [School-Aged] My kids spent their whole vacay in the hotel kids’ club, much of it mashed in with new friends taking group selfies. Now I am looking at the pics with a shudder after catching both of them itching their scalps…yep, lice. How could this happen?
A: As school vacation approaches, families look forward to a break from the demands of the daily routine. You want to come home relaxed and renewed after travels. You certainly do not want your children to return from hotel kids’ clubs or a cruise with an unexpected souvenir like head lice, turning a dream vacation into a nightmare!
Having lice is not an indication of poor hygiene. Some experts believe that lice prefer clean hair because it is easier to crawl through. Lice do not jump, swim or fly. They are specifically adapted to move through hair on the human scalp. They do not live on your pets either.
So, how does someone get head lice? The best opportunity for the lice to transfer is through direct head to head contact. Children should try not to touch their heads together during play or when posing for pictures. If possible, they should not share a pillow as there is a high likelihood that their heads will touch. Securing long hair in a ponytail or braids may help to reduce the risk of exposure.
Lice die within 48 hours of not living on the human scalp. Because of this, it is not common for lice to be transmitted by objects such as combs, or articles of clothing. Even so, it is wise to tell children not to share combs, brushes, hats or hair accessories, especially if they have just been used.
It takes 4-6 weeks for a person to develop symptoms of a lice infestation the first time, so check your child’s head weekly. Live lice, being the size of a sesame seed, are fast and difficult to see. The eggs, often referred to as nits, are more easily identified. They are tiny beige or tan specks that are firmly glued to the shaft of a hair near the scalp. They are very difficult to remove without using a nit comb.
Krista Lauer is medical director of Lice Clinics of America. About 150 lice clinic owners in the U.S. and 90 in other countries use a FDA-cleared medical device called AirAllé to kill lice and eggs by dehydrating them with heated air. Lice Clinics of America and AirAllé are brands owned by Larada Sciences, Inc. www.liceclinicsofamerica.com