Information on Lice and Bed Bugs

Head Lice and Bed Bugs

Parents often request information from school nurses about a variety of health concerns.  Incidences of head lice are an ongoing concern for students, parents, faculty and staff.  The recent re-emergence of bed bugs has captured our attention through media presentations.  In an effort to help, the health services staff has reviewed the latest research and is providing the following information and web sites as guidelines those concerned about these problems.

Head Lice

As you may know, head lice cases have been on the rise. An estimated 6 to 12 million infestations occur each year in the United States, most commonly in children ages 3 to 11. The following information should help identify lice and provide information on what can be done if lice infestations occur.

We recommend that children be checked every two weeks and after every sleep-over throughout the school year. Due diligence on the part of the parent, checking your children every two weeks, is the most important preventative action that you can take in the prevention of lice. A child can be found to be nit free one day only to find out several days later that there is an infestation.

Head lice are extremely small, brown, black or grayish-white insects and can barely be seen. The eggs (nits) are attached to the hair follicle and look like a translucent, white or beige, tiny dewdrop. They can be found anywhere on the head and are commonly found in the hair at the back of the neck and behind the ears. Eggs are attached very tightly and must be removed with a fine comb or your fingernails.

Head lice are not a sign of poor hygiene and do not transmit disease. In fact, head lice often infest people with good hygiene and grooming habits. Infestations can occur at home, school or in the community. Head lice are mostly spread by direct head- to- head contact. Therefore, please emphasize to your children that they should not share combs or brushes, hair ornaments or headbands, helmets or hats, wigs, scarves or earmuffs with other children.

Additional information and pictures to help with identification are available at:

www.headlice.org
http://identifyus.com
www.cdc.gov/parasites/lice

A recent article from the American Academy of Pediatrics provides valuable information as well:

Head Lice published by the American Academy of Pediatrics

If you think your child has head lice, please notify your health care provider for their specific treatment recommendations. Resistance to some over-the-counter head lice treatments has been reported, but the prevalence of the resistance is not known. There are new treatments options available that are safe and do not require nit combing.

Please call the nurse’s office if you have any questions or if we can assist you in any way.

Bed Bugs

Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are small wingless insects that feed solely upon the blood of warm-blooded animals.  They are not known to spread disease and do not live on your body as lice do. Hatchling bed bugs are about the size of a poppy seed, and adults are about ¼ inch in length.  Their color ranges from nearly white or light tan to a deep brown or burnt orange.  You may see a dark red or black mass within the bug’s body from the host’s blood.  Bed bugs can crawl, run and climb.  They cannot jump or fly.  They seek shelter in dark cracks and crevices. They can cause allergic reactions and secondary infections as well as sleep loss and feeling overwhelmed by the problem.

If you see live, crawling bugs, be certain that they are bed bugs as most small bugs found in the house, even those found on beds are not bed bugs.  Other kinds of creatures can bite and feed on blood.  The measures needed to remove bed bugs are very costly and require the use of various kinds of pesticides so it is very important to accurately identify any bug you find.  If you suspect you have bed bugs and you find an insect, save it for identification.  Professional assistance may be necessary to rid your home of bed bugs.  See www.identifyus.com or www.mayoclinic.com/health/bedbugs or www.cdc.gov/nceh/ehs/Topics/bedbugs.htm.

As with head lice, bed bugs are found in every community regardless of per capita income or ethnic/racial makeup of the population.  Bed bugs infest dwellings and after they have fed, they do not remain on the person.  When not feeding, they hide in cracks and crevices where they go unnoticed.  Some wander and find their way into clothing pockets and cuffs, book bags, brief cases, purses, luggage and anywhere else that provides shelter.  Consequently they may find their way into schools with the belongings of students as well as faculty and staff.

Any member of the school community found to come from a bed bug infested home will not be excluded from school.  Every effort will be made to assist families to rid themselves of bed bugs and individuals will be asked to bring only the required items to school each day until the problem has been abated.  If bed bugs are suspected in a classroom, the room will be inspected, and rooms will be treated following the Guidelines for Prevention and Management of Bed Bugs published by Cornell University.