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While lice are not dangerous and do not spread disease, they are extremely difficult to get rid of and can lead to intense itching, skin irritation, and skin infection. According to the Nemours Foundation, children between the ages of 3 and 12 are most prone to catching lice. Symptoms of head lice include scratching, small red sores on the head, and the presence of small, white specs in the hair. These specs are hatched lice eggs, and they are typically easier to see than the actual head lice.
The American Academy of Pediatrics states that head lice infestation is not a result of poor hygiene and all socioeconomic groups are equally affected. Prevention of lice in school-aged children is difficult, but early identification and treatment is important to prevent other family members from catching lice.
Use a lice shampoo on every member of your household. Even if some family members do not appear to be infected, nits may be present in the hair and lead to reinfection.
Remove any remaining nits in the hair after using lice shampoo. Most over-the-counter products include a special nit comb that is very effective at removing nits from the hair. A regular fine tooth comb works equally well.
Avoid washing your child's hair for two days following treatment with a medicated shampoo, and never use a hair dryer on hair that has been treated, as the ingredients in some medicated shampoos are flammable.
Treat your entire home by soaking brushes in very hot water for ten minutes, washing all bedding in the house in water that is at least 130 degrees F, dry-cleaning items that cannot be machine washed in the machine, and thoroughly vacuuming carpets, furniture, and mattresses. Items that cannot be dry-cleaned can be sealed inside an airtight plastic bag for two weeks.
Remember to wash your child's stuffed toys. Parents often overlook stuffed animals when attempting to eliminate lice from the home. Stuffed animals your child sleeps with or keeps on his bed are very likely infested with lice. Wash them in the washing machine in very hot water, or seal them in plastic for two weeks or longer before allowing your child to play with them again.
Repeat treatment on the hair one week after the first application of the lice shampoo. This enables you to catch any lice that may have hatched from nits missed during the initial treatment.
Check each member of your household for lice and nits every 3 to 4 days until everyone in the home has tested negative for lice for at least 4 weeks.
Teach your children to avoid sharing combs, brushes, hats, and jackets with other children at school. Most children catch lice from their classmates due to the close proximity of children to one another and the fact that classrooms normally keep personal items in confined spaces.
Call the school if your child becomes infected with lice repeatedly during the same school year. Insist that your child is allowed to keep her jacket and other personal belonging in a safe location, and demand that other children in the classroom are rechecked for lice before allowing your child to return to school.
Medicated lice treatments should never be used in children under the age of two years. Nits and lice will need to be removed by hand.