The school year is upon us once again and pharmacists are urging parents to act against the spread of head lice by following a few simple steps.
It’s estimated that between one and ten children suffer from head lice at any given time, and 80% of all head lice infestations occur in kids aged four to sixteen.
The Irish Pharmacists Union says that parents and guardians should screen their school aged children for lice once a week to stop an outbreak at school.
Caitriona O’Riordan, Pharmacist and member of the Executive Committee of the Irish Pharmacy Union said, “There is no way to completely eliminate the risks of head lice but identifying an infection early will make treating it far easier.”
“This will also help prevent the spread of infection through your family, or amongst school friends. Our advice to parents is to check their children’s hair regularly, ideally once a week.”
Lice are small whitish, or grey-brown parasitic insects that range from the size of pinhead up to a sesame seed.
They feed on tiny amounts of blood sucked right through the scalp; they’re contagious and incredibly annoying.
Simple advice for parents to keep their kids safe from these disgusting scalp monsters includes:
- Check children’s hair regularly for head lice, ideally once a week. Use a wet, fine-tooth comb for this and make sure to do it in good light.
- Itching and scratching are often signs of nits and lice. As well as lice crawling on the hair, keep and eye out for nits, tiny eggs that look like dandruff but can’t be flicked off hair.
- Get right in there: Check close to the scalp, behind the ears, around the nape of the neck and under the fringe. If your kid isn’t profoundly physically uncomfortable, you’re not being thorough enough.
- Treat the hair only if it has live lice or unhatched eggs. Ask a pharmacist what treatment to use and do it as quickly as possible.
- If your child has lice, inform the school, friends, and other contacts. The school can then inform parents of the outbreak so they can check their own kids. Remember, children are basically biological weapons at at the best of times.
- Always follow the instructions of the pharmacist and on the treatment pack. These treatments don’t prevent an infection, so don’t use one “just in case”.
The most important thing to remember if you find yourself staring at head lice crawling around a child’s head up close is to resist the urge to gag and blast everything with fire.
This will not help and may irritate the scalp.
It’s also important that neither kids nor parents should feel embarrassed dealing with head lice, Catriona O’Riordan insisted.
“Lice are a normal part of life and are nothing to be embarrassed about. There are several treatment options available, and you should seek advice from your pharmacist about which is the most appropriate for your child.”