Head lice

One of the real nightmares of parents is the reappearance of head lice, which is often the usual thing with the beginning of the school year.

What is a louse?

A head louse is a tiny bug. A louse is a parasite that feeds on human blood.  Head lice live on the surface of the skin and cling to hair. Jumping or flying are not part of their nature. A lice infestation is often recognized by the presence of nits (eggs), because live lice are more difficult to observe. Nits are whitish and small (less than a millimetre) while live lice are rather greyish. 

How are lice transmitted?

Having lice is not a sign of uncleanliness. Moreover, they are not spread through a domestic animal. They are usually caught by direct contact with an infested person (e. g. hugging) or, more rarely, by contact with infested objects (e. g. sharing a brush or pillow). Lice cannot survive more than 3 days away from an infested person.

What to do in case of infestation?

Generally, the infested person will suffer from itching, which is more severe in the first hours of sleep. Itching is caused by an allergic reaction of the host to lice bites. However, sometimes the infested person does not feel itching or it does not appear instantly.  

Being sure of the presence of lice is important before starting treatment.  Preventive treatment should never be used, only persons in whom live lice have been observed should be treated. Lice are found on the scalp, especially around the ears and neck. 

Lice can be treated with several effective treatments. Talk to your pharmacist, he or she can recommend an effective and safe treatment. It is essential to follow all recommendations concerning the instructions for use of the treatment and the importance of combing.

It is necessary to notify the school or daycare so that the institution can notify the parents. Children should be examined and treated if parents find live lice.

Are there any measures that can be taken to avoid lice?

To prevent an infestation, you must prevent contact with lice.  Here are some preventive measures:

  • Avoid sharing objects such as combs, tuques, scarves, etc.
  • Hair should be tied up
  • Avoid close contact with other people

Do not panic if you receive a message from the daycare or school telling you that lice have been discovered in a child who may have been in contact with your child! Take the time to carefully observe your child's scalp, focusing on the circumference of the ears and neck.  If you unfortunately discover nits or lice, contact your pharmacist to help you with invaluable advice!

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