Aug 28, 2019
Parents warned to prepare for the start of head lice season
Experts provide tips on how to hunt ‘super lice’
Not Peer Reviewed | People
Dermatologists are warning that with the start of the new school year many parents will find their children bringing home more than just homework. The start of classes tends to also mark the start of head lice season, as lice previously contained to small networks over the summer spread from child to child.
Research from 2017 found that 45 per cent of children had head lice in the past five years, most commonly affecting those between the ages of six and nine1. But the more prepared you are the quicker the problem can be resolved, and the less likely it is that the lice will get the chance to spread to other family members.
With the rise of what have been dubbed by some as ‘super head lice’, strains of the parasite which are resistant to traditional chemical insecticides, it can be a bit confusing about how best to manage a head lice outbreak.
To this end, the British Association of Dermatologists has provided some simple steps for preparing for and managing an outbreak:
- Make sure that you have the essentials at home already:
– A large bottle of conditioner
– A nit comb
- Check for nits pre-emptively at home using a nit comb to identify infestation early, prompt treatment helps prevent further spread
- If you do find evidence of nits, get to work with the nit comb. Lubricating the hair with a generous amount of conditioner to wet hair will make the procedure easier, particularly for curly hair. You should then comb through all the hair from the roots to the ends. Depending on the hair type and length, the wet combing process can take up to 45 minutes
- The comb must be immediately cleaned after each pass to remove lice and eggs. This is best done by wiping on clean white paper or cloth
- Check family members for head lice – they may have spread
- To ensure all head lice are removed, you should repeat this wet combing process two or three times within the first two weeks following infestation
- Continue to check for head lice every week for a month to ensure that they have not returned
Holly Barber of the British Association of Dermatologists said:
“Although it’s important for parents to be prepared for the increased risk of head lice infestation in their children ahead of the new school year, chemical treatments shouldn’t be used as a preventative measure. This can encourage the resistant head lice to develop, making them even harder to get rid of.
“Instead, the British Association of Dermatologists recommends regular examinations with a nit comb in order to detect an infestation early, as starting treatment sooner rather than later will help prevent further spread.
“Parents should also keep in mind that head lice can spread to anybody, no matter how clean their hair or home is. It is unnecessary to keep children home from school if they have head lice, however, treatment should be started immediately.”
More information can be found in the BAD’s patient information leaflet on head lice.
1Hitchen, N., McPherson, T. and Warnapala, D. (2017). How common are head lice? Are smartphone/tablet devices to blame?
The British Association of Dermatologists is the central association of practising UK dermatologists. Our aim is to continually improve the treatment and understanding of skin disease. For further information about the charity, visit www.bad.org.uk
The British Association of Dermatologists publishes two world-renowned dermatology journals, both published by Wiley-Blackwell. The British Journal of Dermatology is one of the top dermatology journals in the world, and publishes papers on all aspects of the biology and pathology of the skin. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/(ISSN)1365-2133