News Release

September 19, 2005

Contact: Jane Shaskan, 860-679-4777

Contagious, Itchy, and Blood Sucking

Preventing and Treating Head Lice

FARMINGTON, CONN. – Now is the time to start checking children for head lice, says Jane Grant-Kels, M.D., head of dermatology at UConn Health Center. Head lice, she explained, live close to the scalp, where they have a warm, safe environment. Contrary to what many people believe, they do not fly or jump, but are passed from head to head through direct contact.

“Pediculosis, commonly known as head lice, is a highly contagious disease that affects children nationwide,” said Dr. Grant-Kels. “The best way to treat head lice, and keep them from spreading to others, is early detection followed by diligent attention to removing the lice and nits – the eggs.”

To remove lice and nits and control infestation, she advises:

  • Wash hair and scalp with medicated products, including shampoo and cream rinse products for treating head lice.
  • Wash carefully behind the ears and around the neck.
  • Before using combs and brushes soak them in hot water with medicated shampoo made for treating lice, and then wash them after each use.
  • Remove nits and lice from wet hair with a fine-tooth comb, usually found in the pharmacy’s baby supply aisle. Vinegar compresses help loosen the nits from the hair.
  • Stand or sit higher than your child when combing and use a magnifying glass if necessary. Keep your own hair pinned back.
  • Once removed from the head, head lice can survive for up to 24 hours. Bed linens and towels should be washed after each use with hot soapy water.

Some facts about head lice:

  • Head lice are small wingless insects that live on human heads. They pose no health risks. The only symptoms are an itchy head and frequent scratching.
  • Head lice occur most often among young children in childcare programs and in school-aged children.
  • Girls are more prone to head lice because they have more head contact with each other and often share hair accessories.
  • Although the reasons are unclear, African-Americans are less apt to suffer from head lice than other ethnic groups and Caucasians are most likely.

“By removing adult lice, there will be no more eggs laid, and that will eventually stop the infestation,” said Dr. Grant-Kels. “Comb, wash, vacuum, and tell your children not to share combs and brushes or hats at school.” If infestation is severe or cannot be controlled at home, Dr. Grant-Kels recommends a visit to a dermatologist or the family physician.

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