Head Lice Prevention

Head Lice in Eyebrows and Lashes

Did you know that your eyelashes are vulnerable to lice infestation? Head lice are tiny insects that live on the scalp but occasionally are found living on the eyebrows and eyelashes. Because head lice spread easily from person to person, cases are seen often in schools, affecting all socioeconomic groups. Do you know how to spot eyelash lice?

While lice are not dangerous, they happen to be extremely annoying and contagious. Lice are wingless insects that feed off of the blood and skin of people. An adult louse may attach itself to the skin around the eyelashes. then lay eggs or nits. The nits are attached to the shaft of the hair itself and hatch six to 10 days later. Within 15 days, the nits grow into adults and lay more eggs.

Types of Lice

Lice varieties are categorized based on their shape and area of infestation.

  • Pediculosis capitis: This lice variety is usually found on the head. It has an elongated body type and is the most common organism found in childhood lice infestations.

  • Pediculosis corporis: Similar to Pediculos capitis, this type of lice usually infects the hair on your body, particularly the abdomen.

  • Pediculosis pubis: This louse has a crab-shaped body and is found in the pubic regions and at the base of pubic hair. The infestation of lice on the eyelashes and eyelids is a manifestation of pubic louse infestation.

Although assumptions should never be made, lice infestation of the eyelashes and eyelids is a manifestation of pubic louse infestation. Recurrent eyelash lice infestation in children can be an indication of child abuse.

Symptoms

The most obvious symptom of a lice infestation is itching. People with eyelash lice may experience the following symptoms:

  • Sudden extreme itchiness of the eyelid margin

  • Feeling ill or tired

  • Low-grade fever

  • Small irritated red spots from lice bites

  • Tearing

  • Eye redness

  • Conjunctivitis

Diagnosis

You can probably tell if you have eyelash lice by looking closely at home. You should be able to detect them by looking through a magnifying glass. You might see tiny white-colored eggs at the roots of your eyelashes and will appear white. Your doctor will be able to diagnose eyelash lice by using a slit lamp biomicroscope to examine your eyes. Under high power magnification, the crab-like lice can be seen at the base of the eyelashes. Interestingly, their bodies appear clear—so at first glance the doctor may only see blood flowing through their bodies.

Treatment

Getting rid of eyelash lice is not usually an easy task. You will need to find the source of the lice which may include your pillow or bedding. Keep in mind that lice are very easily spread from person to person, so you'll want to stay away from close contact with other people until you completely eliminate it. Treatment of eyelash lice is focused on physically removing the lice with fine forceps. The nits must also be removed, if possible. An antibiotic is sometimes prescribed as a method of suffocating the lice. Commercially prepared chemicals and shampoos are not generally recommended to treat eyelash lice for fear of causing irritation or damage to the eye.

Head lice prevention tips for moms!

Hey Mom,

Your super special day is coming up … to Celebrate, we’ve dedicated this week’s blog post to YOU!

Because head lice affects the majority of school aged children, our work involves a lot of interaction with both kids and their stressed out parents. For children, sitting in a chair for a long period of time during the head lice removal process requires some creative thinking, patience, and empathy (traits that a lot of Moms possess). 

Head Lice Prevention During Mother’s Day Weekend!

We hope you find some time this weekend to relax, unwind, and do something for you! Often, the best way to avoid any work on “Mother’s Day” is to get out with the kids and explore the community.
From picnics in the park to library visits, Mother’s Day Brunch to movie theatres – there’s always a lot you can do with the kids to celebrate.
Of course whenever you visit a public place, it’s always good to keep head lice prevention in mind. It’s amazing how easily head lice is spread. Here are some examples:

  • through head rests at movie theatres and

  • head to head contact during child friendly activities plus

  • clothing to clothing contact where head lice is present

The Good Thing About Lice

The school year is back in swing and that means many of you will be discovering the joys of lice. I know, I know. How can there be anything good about lice? Here is how I turned it into a good thing for me.

1) My own children had it so many times in kindergarten and grade one that I decided to join the Lice Committee at their school.  It was the first way I got involved in my kids school and I liked meeting the other ladies that volunteered and the sense of community it gave me with the other moms.

2) Unlike other parent volunteer jobs in the school, this one really let me get to visit with kids. And a lot of them!  One by one, checking their heads (which is really rather personal and you feel a bit like a baboon going through another person’s heads with chop sticks), I got to have a little visit with the other kids in my children’s school. I knew kids by name and learned a little something about them so I could say “hello” on the school yard to so many of them.

3) I got very skilled at finding those little critters and their nits and differentiating them from hair casts and dandruff, so my own kids benefitted from my keen eye as I got better at “early detection.”  I got a reputation as being the “lice lady” and could offer my services to moms who wondered, “Is this a nit?” “Go ask Alyson to check your kids head!” Ah, nice to share my talents and help others. I was developing my “social interest,” as Adler calls it.

4) When my kids had to be treated and have their nits removed, it was a nice quiet time together, usually involving hot chocolate and watching a movie together and often missing a day of school. Any “exception to the normal day” was a bit of a treat for us both.  We made it an occasion.

5) When I was in the hallways doing the head checks, I could overhear the teachers in the classroom. This gave me a “peek” into various teaching styles that I never would have seen if I was “officially” visiting the class.  Who doesn’t act differently when there is a visitor in the class? So it was a good way to get to know the teachers of the school too. The good, the bad and ugly of that.

6) I learned a LOT about lice and could calm people’s fears. Lice like clean hair, not dirty hair, for example.  Yes, they are a hassle to deal with, but are they are not dangerous.  And yes indeed, the incident of infestation does drastically drop after about grade two.  I needed to see that for myself when it seemed a bit “perpetual” that first year.

So – if you get the note home saying, “Nits have been found in your child’s classroom,” don’t have a hissy fit.  Check their hair and don’t pass judgment on others. This is a part of the stuff of life and if you get a good attitude going, you can find the upside to anything.  Now shall we talk about pin worms? No – maybe not.

Brooklyn School Reports ‘Epidemic’ of Head Lice

The principal of an elementary school in the Sheepshead ‘Bay section of Brooklyn said ;yesterday that an outbreak of head lice and nits among the 'school's student body had reached “epidemic proportions” and was affecting school morale and instruction.

But City Health Department officials said the pediculosis at P.S. 255 at 1866 East 17th Street was not a serious problem.

“We, don't consider it a serious health problem,” said Dr. Alice Pitkin,director of school health. “It doesn't cause any functional health problem, doesn't incapacitate people or lower their health status.”

“Frankly I'm surprised,” said the principal, Saul Koren. “Parents are hysterical because they've never seen such thing.”

Attendance at the school has dropped from 90 percent. to 68 pereent, the principal said., There are 715 students in the school. At present 125 are released from classes because of lice infestation.

Some parents have kept students at home for fear they will become infected.

Mr. Koren said he had pleaded with Health Department officials for help in curbing the spread of the vermin after they were first discovered two weeks ago. "But my own boss, Chancellor Irving Anker, has not supported me,” he added.,

Mr. Koren said he had requested Health Department nurses to visit the school to check the heads of children sent home to cleanse themselves of lice.

“We had parents and teachers trying to check them initially.. but we were not trained to detect them because they come in different sizes,” said Mr. Koren. Sometimes, he added, youngsters with lice were readmitted to classes because they hai: notes from family physicians that said they were free of tile lice when, in fact, they were not.

Dr. Pitkin said the Health department had sent staff workers to the school with literature and instructions for parents. Parents have been told to use Quell and other prescription soaps.

In addition the school has been fumigated on two weekends—all 36 rooms on three floors, Mr. Koren said.

Though parents and the principal discussed closing the school on one occasion, they decided against it, Mr. Koren said. Mrs. Lenoir Rabinow, president of the school's Parent ‐ Teacher Association, said a parisitologist would be hired at parents’ expense.

Punish the Louse, Not the Child

A few years ago, I got a call from the children’s school. “I’m so sorry,” said the voice on the other end of the phone, “but we’ve found a live louse on [child].”

“Oh, no,” I responded. The school knew we’d been treating for lice — I’d alerted it earlier in the month. “Just one?” Yes, just one. The caller had looked for more but seen nothing. “We’ll have to treat her again tonight! Thanks.”

I hung up and went back to work. About 45 minutes later, the phone rang again. “Excuse me,” said the same voice, politely. “Are you going to come get [child]?”

Well, no, I wasn’t. It hadn’t occurred to me that one louse removed by the school was grounds for removing the child from the school. I was wrong, of course, very wrong (and any of my fellow parents will recognize immediately that I must have been a fairly young parent myself at the time). But the school in question had a firm, and common, policy: at any sign of head lice, the child is out.

Because policies vary, even in different schools within the same district, I can’t find hard numbers on how many schools will send home a student for the presence of lice or nits (lice eggs). Anecdotally, and based on a purely unscientific survey of friends, acquaintances and a few pediatricians, many (if not most) schools, like mine, ignore the recommendations of both the C.D.C. and the American Academy of Pediatrics. According to the C.D.C:

“Students diagnosed with live head lice do not need to be sent home early from school; they can go home at the end of the day, be treated, and return to class after appropriate treatment has begun. Nits may persist after treatment, but successful treatment should kill crawling lice. Head lice can be a nuisance but they have not been shown to spread disease. “

“But that’s a hard sell,” says Dr. Kenneth Wible, director of the pediatric care center at Children’s Mercy Hospitals in Kansas City, Mo. “I’ve had school nurses tell me that they don’t care what the research says. Their 30 years on the job tells them that if they leave children in the classroom with lice, they’re going to get more children with lice.”

Our lice odyssey lasted that entire school year; for a variety of reasons (inconsistency of treatment, the use of treatments to which many lice are now resistant, attempts to spread expensive treatments among several family members, and the sheer number of people infested in our household), we just couldn’t get rid of them.

It’s possible we were simply reinfected. It’s more likely that I missed a nit on my own head or that of my long-haired son, failed to do a timely retreatment, and the whole cycle slowly, inexorably, started again.

Over the course of that year, I learned firsthand what schools don’t tell you about those no-lice-no-nit policies: they incentivize parents to lie, or at least to sin by omission. What working parent would own up to lice when the result will be vigilant school officials ready to send a child home at the first sign of dandruff? In our case, those vigilant officials left one of my children in tears at the thought of school; every morning, before allowing her into the classroom, someone would part and search through her hair, and every teacher she came in contact with repeated the search throughout the day, leaving her miserable and self-conscious.

As the recalcitrant, failed parent, I have some feeling that I (although not my daughter) deserved all of that: how could I let the lice get such a hold, and how could we fail so consistently to get rid of them? I never knowingly sent a child to school or to a friend’s house with lice. But I stopped telling the school when we had found and treated them yet again, and I told the children to volunteer nothing. It’s fair to say that I should not have done either. A better person would have both been able to more quickly defeat the problem, and would have owned up every time in order to allow other parents (somewhere out there lay the source of our lice; I cannot be blamed for everything) to check their children’s heads.

After reaping the harvest of that first honest report, I kept quiet. We learned to comb better, we learned to treat the children at least twice, and we learned to braid the girls’ hair very tightly before sending them off to school. Dr. Wible agreed with me that the best response is a treatment immediately and one in just over a week to kill any newly hatched lice. (No treatment has been proved to completely kill or remove the nits that hatch in about that amount of time.) As for products designed to prevent lice from settling on your child? I admit it, I bought some. An expert I spoke with in reporting last year laughed, and offered to sell me a magic spell that he guaranteed would be just as effective.

The Art and Science of Nit-Picking

Back in the early 1980s, I was delighted when the elementary school in my town let me know that I had been hired as the school nurse. Not only would I have a new challenge, but after many years of working as a registered nurse in hospitals, I would no longer have to work evenings and nights.

I loved my new job at the school. My charges were, for the most part, healthy, active youngsters who came to me with scraped knees, bloody noses, tummy aches, poison ivy and the like. Soon I had won their hearts with my pain-free technique of splinter removal.

Of course, there were trying days. In our small, enclosed world, colds and viruses spread quickly. During the winter months my tiny office would be inundated with coughing and sneezing children, and I became very busy checking throats, taking temperatures and wiping small noses.

But cold season was nothing compared with the moment when a teacher would stop me in the hall and say, “Susie’s been scratching her head all morning.” At once I would investigate Susie’s dark brown curls to find tiny, silvery nits, soon to become dark brown six-legged creatures.

School policy dictated that I call Susie’s mother to take her home lest she infect her classmates, which she already had. Soon I had a list of more calls to make, my least favorite chore in the world.

I braced myself for the reactions. Some parents were angry, and it would turn into a shoot-the-messenger kind of day. Others felt guilty and were embarrassed — even horrified. I knew how they felt. I had three children myself and had vivid memories of long, dreary nights fine-combing their hair.

When the parents arrived, I had to hand them a long, green form with the grim title: “Instructions to the Parent of a Child Sent Home With Pediculosis.” The steps included washing the child’s hair with a special shampoo, removing all nits with a fine-tooth comb, cleaning all sheets and pillowcases, airing out toys and mattresses, and so on. The list ended with a stern warning: “The school has a nit-free policy — all nits must be gone before the child can return to class.”

As the grim-faced parents arrived, the principal barricaded himself in his office, his sensible reaction to a public relations disaster. Only the children were unperturbed. “I have head lice,” they announced proudly to their classmates as they packed up to go home.

Every September as children returned from summer camps and sleepovers, our school would have an outbreak of lice. I tried to get a head start on the problem. I studied the literature, which was voluminous and overwhelming. There were reams of advice from dermatologists, school nurses, infectious-disease experts: “Be proactive,” “Prevention is the key,” “Screen all the children in the school.” Even the psychologists weighed in. “Avoid alarming the parents,” they warned. I read and read until my head ached.

So on the first days of school, magnifying glass in hand, I scrutinized 300 small heads. I lectured the children: Never share combs, brushes, hats, hair, ribbons, bike helmets. I sent memos to the parents. “You are the first line of defense,” I wrote. “Check your child’s head vigilantly. Be alert to symptoms — investigate at once if your child starts scratching her head.” What I wanted to write but could not was, “Please, please, never send your child to school with full-grown creatures romping through her head,” as one mother once did.

Despite all my efforts, the outbreaks continued unabated. In my own small way I had confirmed the findings of researchers at the American Academy of Pediatrics, who concluded that screening programs do not have a significant impact on the incidence of head lice. Each year the lice grew bolder and more robust, breaking my heart and even confounding Big Pharma as they became resistant to the killer shampoos.

I’m retired now, but I keep a professional eye on what’s happening with the pediculosis establishment. “No-nit policies for return to school should be abandoned,” said the American Academy of Pediatrics in a groundbreaking statement in 2010. The National Pediculosis Societyfired back, militant in its faith in no-nit policies. What’s a parent to do?

 I’ll still be watching the head lice battles from the sidelines, silently cheering all the parents who search in vain through shining tresses for the one that got away.

The Bugs Sharing Your Home (Get Out a Calculator)

Humans share their homes with hundreds of species of flies, spiders, beetles, lice and other arthropods, a new study reports.

Researchers visited 50 houses within 30 miles of Raleigh, N.C., and collected all of the arthropods they could find. They found 579 different morphospecies — meaning they were all physically different — from 304 different families.

The study, which appears in the journal PeerJ, found there were more than 100 species per house.

One arthropod found in all homes was the gall midge, a fly just four-one hundredths of an inch long. Although gall midges live only outdoors, they are probably blown often into homes, said Michelle Trautwein, an entomologist at the California Academy of Sciences and one of the study’s authors.

She and her colleagues also found many booklice, harmless cousins of head lice. “Basically, we are all are living with lice,” Dr. Trautwein said.

Although many different arthropods were found, most were benign.

“The vast majority of the arthropods we live with are not pest species,” Dr. Trautwein said. “They are not going to suck your blood, eat your food or destroy your house.”

To do their study, the researchers crawled around homes wearing kneepads and head lamps, and used forceps as well as an aspirator to suck up samples that they later studied under microscopes.

The scientists are now expanding their study to include homes on all seven continents.

“We’re aiming to find out more about arthropods in different kinds of houses and in different climates,” Dr. Trautwein said.

The Meaning of Lice

Here we are, my husband, daughter and I, sitting in beauty parlor chairs, our heads slathered in fluffy blobs of hair conditioner mixed with baking soda while a stalwart woman unflinchingly scrapes our scalps with tiny combs. After eight hours of this, we’re getting hungry, and begin looking through a stack of delivery menus. We’re thinking Mexican or Thai.

We call this the Lice Place, and we have come here because a gang of the tiny insects was found on the head of a child in my daughter’s second-grade class. A respectable head disinfecting establishment, the Lice Place is nonetheless understandably hidden behind a storefront cheerfully disguised with a flowery-decal-laden door. Lice are notoriously hard to spot and even harder to remove, so we are here, rather than home, for an expert examination — and really because I am insect phobic. It’s true that a fear of something most people find disgusting invites very little sympathy or understanding — unlike say a fear of the color yellow, bookcases or cheese — but I understand the severity of my own issue perfectly. So I outsourced the solution.

Our diagnosis: mother and child both had those little critters in their hair. Apparently they had been merrily mating and giving birth on our heads as we bobbed around town focused on our thoughts and not the community taking shape above them.

All this makes me think of Jane Goodall. She was a heroine of every schoolgirl I know from my generation — a passionate scientist who followed her heart to study primates in the jungle, and the star of several grainy science films of my youth. I remember my friends and I watching these films, our mouths open, smug teenagers begrudgingly awed, as she hid behind a tree or a rock, whispered provocatively off-camera, and in turn watched her beloved chimpanzees picking at each other’s fur, looking for tiny insects and then eating them. These were beautiful scenes of calm companionship, the image of communal living at its best.

So why didn’t this feel as lovely?

Another family comes into the Lice Place. The father looks at us, looks away, then looks at us again with an expression of embarrassed, grossed-out friendship. We strike up a conversation. We learn that his daughters go to a fancy girls’ prep school and I can’t help feeling pretty great about this. Clearly this is not a scourge of low lives. In fact, it is a point oft-mentioned, lice are especially drawn to clean hair. We cling to this fact as stickily as those lousy eggs cling to our locks. We talk about soccer and how to suffocate a nit, while his girls read Shakespeare.

As I sit in my beauty chair, I consider an article I read recently in The Times. The headline asked: Should Americans Fear Their Furniture? What followed was an interview with documentarians who had just finished a film on all the toxic chemicals contained in pretty much every piece of upholstered furniture made since 1975.

I suppose this should not be shocking to me. All the old familiar comforts of American life have been found to be deadly. Apples bathed in pesticides. Chickens fed a steady diet of chemicals. Wheaties and Cheerios laden with G.M.O.s. A mother and daughter leaning their heads together over “Charlotte’s Web” may have always imparted a faint stirring of agita. But now that copy of “Charlotte’s Web”? The one from the library? It could totally have bedbugs.

My daughter suffers the indignities of head lice removal with a stoic silence. My husband and I suffer the indignities of the bill a little less bravely. It turns out that the cost of eight hours of vigilant attention to every strand on an entire family’s collective head could get you a studio apartment in Williamsburg for about two weeks.

We ditch the delivery menus and decide to go out to dinner instead, maybe get a little air. The Lice Place had not covered us in the cloaks that are a staple at a normal hair salon (I think we were all too chastened to ask), so we walk stiffly down the street, covered in the blotches and splotches left by those soft clouds of hair cream and baking soda that flew around us like we were in some really unappealing snow globe.

We knew it was a short break because there was much more work to do. The bagging of pillows. The dry cleaning of duvet covers. More time and money to spend on getting back to normal. Not to mention the moral duty to tell your child’s close friends’ mothers that they are at risk.

And ah, the dilemma — with whom can I laugh about this? The friends who get to find out are in the small, precious category of close enough to get it, nice enough not to judge, sturdy enough not to feel threatened. Those to whom I don’t need to mention that lice are especially drawn to clean hair.

We sit quietly at the restaurant, reminded that no matter how well ordered our lives, havoc can break loose. No matter how much we think we are embracing the natural world (munching on organic kale, suffering under unflattering environmentally friendly light bulbs), that world can turn against us. No matter how good the school, how well read the parents, things can get primal. And no matter how sweet the tendril of hair gently curled on your daughter’s neck on a warm spring day, the fact remains — that tendril can turn quickly icky.

It is only lice. So blessedly minor. But it all highlights nonetheless the randomness of misfortune, the fragility of life, how nature can still turn overly intellectualizing and technologically shielded humans into vulnerable, helpless creatures. It reminds me of death.

It reminds me to feel joyous while I can.

We eat.