Saturday 25 May 2019

Dear Dr Nina: What is the best way to avoid head lice infection?

Head lice are very contagious - it's best to keep hair short
Head lice are very contagious - it's best to keep hair short

Nina Byrnes

Q My daughter's nursery recommends that all children are treated for lice when there is an outbreak. I am worried that using the chemicals when not necessary could be dangerous for the kids. What do you think?

Dr Nina replies: Head lice are extremely common, especially in children aged four to 11. They are very contagious among close contacts, so often, in school, children sharing secrets or working closely together can facilitate the lice crawling from head to head.

The best way to avoid head-lice infection is to keep hair short, or if long, ensure it is well tied up at all times. Your child only requires treatment if they have an active head-lice infestation. If an outbreak occurs in the creche, then detection combing is the best first step.

You should purchase a detection comb from the pharmacy. The teeth on these combs should be no more than 0.3mm apart in order to trap the lice. Comb through small sections of the hair from scalp to end, and check the comb after each segment to look for louse or eggs. If you find lice, then your child will require further treatment.

Your pharmacist can advise you about the treatment of live lice. Non-chemical treatments are becoming more popular. These work by suffocating the louse and loosening the eggs, so resistance is less likely. Lice can only live for about two days off the human head and cannot pass from or to pets, so although I do advise washing sheets and hairbrushes etc, extreme cleaning methods are not necessary.

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