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Don’t be Bugged by

Head Lice


hy does head lice

sound like such a frightening

couple of words? When my

sister was in kindergarten

and I was in fourth grade,

she came down with a case

of head lice, and, when my

mother arrived in the parking lot of my school to pick me

up, my little sister jumped out of

the car and shouted with glee that

she didn’t have to go to school because she had headlights!

I was mortified, not by her mispronunciation but by

the fact that she had this gross affliction. I prided myself

on my long, blond

hair and was terrified

by the idea that if I

got anywhere near my

sister, I, too, would

have bugs crawling

through my hair.

Experts say head

lice or “nits” are

a nuisance, not a

serious disease or a

sign of poor hygiene.

Education is the

key to managing

a breakout of lice,

and the Charleston

County School

District Health Services Department offers a downloadable

document called “Head Lice Help” on its website. (www.


SignS of head lice:

• Frequent head scratching;

• Redness behind ears or on the back of the neck.

Head lice are most common among preschool and

elementary school age children and their household

members and caretakers. They are primarily transmitted

by direct head-to-head contact and sharing of personal

grooming items such as brushes, headphones, hair

accessories, helmets and hats. Once a family member is

identified with head lice, all household members should

be checked. The American Academy of Pediatricians does

not recommend excessive environmental cleaning, such

as home pesticides. However, “washing pillow cases and

treating natural bristle hair care items that may have been

in contact with the hair of anyone found to have head lice

are reasonable measures.”

how to get rid of head lice:

• Use a special shampoo (most lice shampoos need to

be used a second time, seven to 10 days after the first

treatment, to make

sure new lice that

hatched are killed;

• Nits can be removed

using a fine tooth


• In some areas,

lice have developed

resistance to


medications and may

require prescription


In May 2015, the

American Academy

of Pediatrics updated

its report on head lice. The current recommendation says

a healthy child should not be restricted from attending

school because of head lice or nits (eggs): “Pediatricians are

encouraged to educate schools and communities that no-

nit policies are unjust and should be abandoned. Children

can finish the school day, be treated and return to school.”

The worst part about head lice is the inconvenience

factor. I was lucky that I avoided my sister’s case of

“headlights,” but, with two boys still in elementary and

middle school, my luck may run out. As parents, all we

can do is arm ourselves with information and a good


By Amy mErCEr