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Getting ahead of head lice

November 08, 2019 by Kayla Houp

Two local school districts, Lakeland Union?High School and Lac du Flambeau Public School, have reported suspected cases of super lice, head lice which have become resistant to traditional lice treatments, such as over-the-counter shampoos.

“It’s really difficult to think of a number, because there’s so many kids that I don’t even see, that are affected,” LUHS school nurse Kathy Reimer said.

Though Reimer said it was hard to estimate exactly how many students were affected at LUHS, she said she was getting more students coming in after a notice was sent to parents.

“It’s more than what we usually see, and it seems like it keeps coming back,” she said.

Lac du Flambeau Public School is having a similar problem.

“We did an all school (head check) and I would say we had about 25-30 cases,” LdF Public School nurse Angela Godard said.

While Reimer said she couldn’t confirm the cases as super lice, she said the cases she had were consistent with super lice, due to how frequently the lice returned.

According to Reimer, head lice is spread primarily through head-to-head contact, but it can also be spread through contact with clothing, such as hats and scarves; however such tranmission is uncommon.

“What we send kids home with for parents is a ‘what to do’ kind of thing, with pictures,” Godard said.

Godard said LdF Public School conducted head checks twice a year and as needed.

A?day in the life of a louse

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the life cycle of a head louse has three stages: egg, nymph and adult.

Eggs, or nits, are hard to see and are often confused with dandruff, take approximately one week to hatch and are usually located close to the scalp.

Eggs then hatch to release nymphs, which mature into full adults after three molts. 

“Females are usually larger than males and can lay up to eight nits per day,” the CDC website reads. “Adult lice can live up to 30 days on a person’s head.”

Adult lice rely on feeding off the host several times a day to survive, and without feeding, a louse will die within a couple days of falling off the host.

Super lice center

Godard said the area could benefit from the services of a head lice removal clinic like the one in Stevens Point.

“It would be wonderful to have something like that in the Northwoods,” she said. “And the treatment’s guaranteed.”

Preventing reinfestation

According to the CDC, since head lice do not live longer than a day or two after falling off a person, spending much time and money on housecleaning outside of basic preventative measures is not necessary to avoid reinfestation.

A news release from Reimer details these steps for parents, including checking around the nape of the neck and around the ears for eggs, and choosing a super lice treatment option, such as RID Mac or Happyheads.

The release recommends washing all bedding, jackets, shirts, and hats that have been worn or used within the past 24 hours in 130 degree water and dried on high heat while non-washable items should be put in a sealed plastic bag for two weeks. 

Other steps for preventing reinfestation includes vacuuming the furniture and floor where the infected person has sat or lay, soaking combs and brushes in 130 degree water for 5-10 minutes and removing all eggs from the hair with a nit comb.

“It’s a crucial step to make sure you remove all the eggs,” Reimer said. 

Godard said most people did a second treatment after seven to 10 day to make sure all lice and eggs have been removed.

“It’s a lot of work,” she said.

Kayla Houp may be reached via email at [email protected]


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