Seriously, the words 'head lice' have me all a-twitter and dancing with the heebie jeebies. There is such a yuck-factor to the notion of bugs crawling around someone's scalp and hair, not to mention their bed clothes and the prospect of them doing a body slam onto your own noggin. Share the love, so to speak. But lice are as common, and as normal, as any other germ or bug that a kid brings home. And like any other bug, any kid can get lice, no matter how clean they are or what kind of school they attend.
School is in and that means lice will make their annual pilgrimage to the scalps of our kids. And lest all this makes you ill, allow me to introduce you to the concept of Super Lice because apparently they are here!
These lice are resistant to current medications and according to an MSNBC news story, "Researchers have been warning for years that head lice in the U.S. and around the world are developing immunity to the strong insecticides used in over-the-counter and prescription shampoos. It takes just three to five years for the bugs to adapt to a new product, despite claims to the contrary by the manufacturers, noted Shirley C. Gordon, an associate professor at Florida Atlantic University who studies persistent head lice.
Health officials have continued to recommend the products, however, because over-the-counter medications like the permethrin in Nix, the pyrethrin s in RID, the lindane in Kwell and the prescription malathion in Ovide still work in some people, some of the time.
But the nation’s school nurses, often the first defense against the scourge, say it’s clear to them that families confronted with the critters are increasingly frustrated by the product failures.
“I had a mom drag her child into my office on the first day of school,” said Jill Burgin, a registered nurse at Stiles Point Elementary in Charleston. “She had been battling it throughout the summer and wanted advice on where to go from there.”
Burgin and other nurses are hoping that potential new solutions — from faster-acting, more effective insecticides to gels that smother the lice to hot air treatments that desiccate them — will come to the rescue. "
The CDC estimates that somewhere between 6 and 12 children will get lice every year but under reporting is common so it's a difficult number to gauge.
There is no way to really prevent them because the nature of childrens close contact with each other, and in large groups, makes total prevention impossible. A weekly check of your child's scalp, hair and bed is advisable and immediate treatment is best. Looking for eggs (known as nits) is as important as looking for lice.
Not everyone believes in the notion of 'super lice'. Richard J. Pollack, is a public health entomologist at the Harvard School of Public Health. "Underdiagnosis of head lice is very common among parents and health workers who miss the signs of the tan-colored lice and their tiny, opalescent eggs, called nits. But over-diagnosis is also a problem when it contributes to hysteria that keeps perfectly healthy children out of school. Pollack said he once pursued reports of lice outbreaks the way some weather-watchers chase tornadoes, but stopped when many proved to be parental worry run amok.
"Real as well as imagined infestations are over-treated, often multiple times," Pollack said.
By his calculations, about 1 percent of kids actually are infested at any single moment in time, which would amount to about 400,000 cases in the U.S. each year.
Head lice aren’t dangerous and don’t spread disease, said Pollack, who scoffs at the notion of "super" lice and considers the bugs more a nuisance than a public health menace. But that argument is a hard sell among parents who encounter the crawly creatures on a child’s head.
“I have literally had parents scream on the other end of the phone,” said Burgin, the South Carolina school nurse. Getting rid of head lice
Human head lice, known as pediculosis capitis, are an ancient affliction that affects people around the world, particularly schoolchildren. Athough itchy and annoying, the tiny insects and their eggs are not dangerous and they don't spread disease.
Stigma about the bugs still lingers
In Eagan, Minn., some parents blamed the local high school for not monitoring certain students last year when a lice outbreak forced screening of 250 kids and sent 69 home in a single day, said Kathleen Hook, the school nurse. “We live in an affluent area and there’s still that stigma,” Hook said.
Health officials are quick to emphasize that while lice are most common in children, particularly girls, they’re also found in adults and in all kinds of households.
“It has nothing to do with the cleanliness of the home or the socioeconomic status of the parent,” noted Amy Garcia, executive director of the National Association of School Nurses. "
I have been lucky with my kids...so far! Have you ever suffered from these critters or have your kids? How did you get rid of head lice and how did the schools react?
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