Head lice alert: How to stop an outbreak in its tiny tracks

With a new school year solidly underway, more kids are bringing home “the wrong kind of friends.” No, we aren’t talking about their fellow classmates — we’re talking about head lice.

“As children come in close contact during the school day, it’s common to see more instances of head lice,” said Rachel Alexander, APRN, nurse practitioner with Norton eCare. “We’ve seen a marked increase in calls and video visits about lice since the beginning of the school year.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as 12 million children contract head lice each year nationwide.

Lice do not fly or jump from person to person. Head-to-head contact is needed with someone who has an active infestation. This can happen on a school bus, during sports activities, on the playground, at a sleepover or even while huddling close to snap a selfie.

Lice are not passed from pets to humans. Also, they are not a sign of poor hygiene.

What to look for

Lice are about the size of a sesame seed and generally stay close to the scalp. Their nits (eggs) are oval, light-colored and about the size of a grain of sand. Nits usually are found close to the scalp and attached to the base of hair follicles.

Apart from getting a notice from school, intense itching and scratching may be a sign of an outbreak. Symptoms can include a tickling feeling or sensation of something moving in the hair.

“To check for lice or nits, carefully comb through hair with a very fine-toothed comb and look at anything that comes out on the comb,” Rachel said. “Lice are usually visible with the naked eye, but you may want to use a magnifying glass or reading glasses during a head-check.”

Check out anyone who has had close contact with an affected person. If they have no lice or nits, they shouldn’t need medication, unless they share a bed with the affected person.

Lice treatment: What to do if over-the-counter remedies don’t work
Norton eCare

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In most instances, using an FDA-approved over-the-counter lice treatment as directed will take care of them. Lice and nits should be removed from wet hair with a fine-toothed comb.

Anyone with lice should not share pillows or combs, or have head-to-head contact with others. Items that may have been in contact with the infested head — hairbrushes, clothing and bedding — must be treated according to directions in the medicine you use.

If an over-the-counter lice treatment doesn’t work, you might be dealing with an outbreak that calls for something stronger.

Norton eCare providers can help and are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week through MyNortonChart. Video visits or eVisits are provided through secure connections.

“Our eCare options can quickly assess what’s needed to deal with lice and get you set up with a prescription if it’s needed,” Rachel said.


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