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March 2014

Personal hygiene and home cleanliness have nothing to do with getting head lice.

While head lice are generally harmless, people still dread finding signs of this parasitic insect in their hair and home.  After all, nobody wants to host a tiny creature that lives on our scalp and feeds on our blood.

From head checks to hair treatments to extensive laundry duty, dealing with an infestation be a frustrating and time-consuming process.  Additionally, some people still feel having head lice comes with a stigma that suggests poor hygiene or a lack of cleanliness in the home. 

The fact is even the cleanest person can bring head lice into the tidiest household.

But there is good news for parents with concerns over an outbreak at their daycare or school.  Family members of all ages can take precautions to prevent the spread of lice: 

- Heads Up: Talk to your kids about avoiding head and hair contact with others during activities, as it's the most common way to spread lice.
- Don't Share: While we like to teach our kids to share, a lice infestation creates an exception to the rule, especially with clothing, hats, scarves, hair accessories, towels and personal grooming tools.
- Bath Time: Use a 10 minute hot water bath (130°F or hotter) to disinfest combs and brushes used by an infested person.
- Separate Beds: If an infested person is in your home, make sure other family members do not share bedding, pillows, cushions or stuffed animals in recent contact with that person.
- Clean house: While lice are just as happy to infest a clean home, extensive cleaning after contact with a infested person does help. Vacuuming rugs and carpets, washing bedding and clothes in hot water and sealing/bagging or storing unwashable items for two weeks helps remove stray lice.
- No Fogs: Fumigant sprays or fogs are potentially toxic and are not necessary to control head lice.

"Lice are not known to spread disease or be a public health hazard, but they can still cause plenty of trouble and even discomfort from itching or sores," said Dr. Angela Miller, a pediatrician. "If your child is infested, don't try to hide or ignore it, because these parasites are designed to clamp onto hair and reproduce on scalps.  In fact, it's wise to check with the school or day care to see what their policy is concerning head lice."