-- Robert Preidt
FRIDAY, Jan. 24, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- It's that time of year
when your children are back in school -- and you need to be on the
lookout for head lice, an expert says.
Most common among kids in preschool, grade school and day-care
settings, between 6 million and 12 million cases of head lice show
up on the scalps of children aged 3 to 11 in the United States each
year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Contrary to popular belief, poor hygiene is not to blame. Head
lice are spread mainly through direct head-to-head contact with an
infected child. Because younger children tend to play closely
together, they are at highest risk for infestation, explained Dr.
Patricia Brown, a dermatologist at the U.S. Food and Drug
Thankfully, there are ways to lower the odds of infestation for
your children. Teach them to avoid head-to-head contact with other
children, and not to share clothing -- especially hats, scarves and
bandanas -- and other items such as towels, hair ties, headphones,
brushes and combs.
Do not allow your children to lie on beds, couches, pillows,
carpets or plush toys that have recently been in contact with
someone with head lice.
For any area that has been occupied by a person with head lice,
thoroughly vacuum the floor and furniture. When possible, clean
smaller items by machine washing them in hot water and putting them
in the dryer on high heat. Whatever is not washable should be
drycleaned or sealed in an airtight plastic bag and stored for two
When head lice fall off a person's scalp, they only survive for
a day or two if they cannot feed, according to an FDA news release.
These blood-sucking insects do not fly or jump, and can only move
If, despite your best efforts, an infestation happens, there are
a number of prescription and over-the-counter treatments for head
lice. But many "are not for use in children under the age of 2, so
read the label carefully before using a product to make sure it is
safe to use on your child," Brown said in the news release.
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist for recommended treatments
based on your child's weight and age, follow the dosing
instructions, and don't use a product more often than directed
unless told otherwise by a health care professional.
Once you have the medicine in hand, apply the product only to
the scalp and scalp hair, not on other parts of the body. After
rinsing, use a fine-toothed comb to remove dead lice and their eggs
(nits), Brown said.
After you have completed the necessary treatment, the entire
family should be checked for lice again a week later. If the
treatment was not successful and lice are still found, contact your
health care professional for advice.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about
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