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Understanding head lice and what to do about it

CHAZY September is National Pediculosis Prevention Month in other words, a good time to learn about those nasty buggers known as head lice. Head lice are parasites often found on the scalp. They begin as nits, or louse eggs, that attach to the hair shaft. According to the National Pediculosis Association, they are smooth, oval-shaped and range in color from off-white to brown. The nits grow into louse which are capable of reproducing and will lay four to eight nits every day for 16 days. According to Sharron Aabye, school nurse at Chazy Central Rural School, it is important to routinely check your child for lice. If you can catch them in the early stages, theyre a lot easier to treat than if you get a full-on infestation, Aabye said. Children tend to get head lice more often than adults because they are generally grouped, especially in the classroom, explained Aabye. They tend to share hats, they tend to share scarves, combs, brushes, the sort of things that spread head lice, she said. Aabye added it is important to encourage children to not share these items, which will reduce their chances of contracting head lice. As a school nurse, Aabye said she does not diagnose a child with head lice, but will notify the childs parent or guardian if there is a problem. CCRSs policy is that a child must be nit-free in order to return to school, and once they do, Aabye will do a thorough examination before they are allowed back in the classroom. Anybody who has had contact with that student would be checked, Aabye said. The student is never identified, because there is still a stigma attached to it. So, we do what we can to protect their privacy. How long it takes to get rid of head lice can vary. It depends on how heavy the infestation is. How aggressively its being treated, and the quality of hair, explained Aabye. If youre looking at really curly hair, its going to be harder to get out than just straight, dark hair that you can see everything in. Special pesticide shampoos are often used to get rid of the lice. It is also necessary to use a fine-toothed comb to remove the nits once they have been killed. However, treatment should be discussed with a pediatrician, family-care doctor or a pharmacist first. Other points to understand about head lice include that they cannot jump from head to head, they often cluster around the nape of the neck and around the ears, and it is important to look for signs of infection on the scalp from itching. Aabye added getting head lice has nothing to do with how clean you are or arent, or how much money you have at home or anything like that ... It doesnt know any socio-economic boundaries. Its a very contagious sort of thing when it happens. Its like a cold. Everybody gets them, or everybody can get them. For more information about head lice, visit www.headlice.org.

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