Saturday 21 September 2019

School is back - but so is the danger of head lice. How to check for and get rid of this parasite

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

The new school term is under way and with it comes the dreaded ‘head lice season’.

According to The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) children are particularly susceptible to getting head lice or nits at this time of year.

One in ten children suffer from headlice and 80pc of head lice infestations occur between the ages of four to 16.

Needless to say, Head lice are the bane of many parents lives but  identifying an infection early makes treating it far easier and prevents the spread of infection through the classroom or among a family.

“Head lice infections are most common among children of school-going age (4 to 12),” IPU spokesperson and community pharmacist Tomás Conefrey said. “Therefore, our advice to parents is to check their children’s hair regularly, ideally once a week.”

Use a wet comb made for the purpose, and make sure you are under a strong light. Using a comb through wet hair makes the process easier.

The signs for head lice are pretty obvious – scratching the head. Make sure to keep an eye out for nits which are tiny eggs. They look like dandruff but cannot be flicked off the hair. You should be able to spot the lice which crawl around the hair follicle.

When inspecting your child for head lice check close to the scalp, behind the ears, around the nape of the neck, top of the head and under the fringe.

Treat your child as soon as possible and only treat the hair if live lice or unhatched eggs are present.

Inform the school, contacts and friends when your child has head lice. The school can then inform other parents that there is an outbreak, so everyone can check and treat their own children.

Always follow the instructions on the treatment pack and any advice given by your pharmacist.

“While some may feel there is a stigma associated with lice it really is nothing to be embarrassed about; if an infection is detected parents should seek advice as early as possible.

"There is a range of treatment options available and you should speak to your pharmacist about which is the most appropriate for your child. This is particularly important for any child suffering from asthma, allergies or have a pre-existing skin condition as they are the most likely to suffer a reaction.”

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