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Nurse's Notes: Preventing head lice

Head lice (poux in French) are continuing to make their way around the Dakar community, and within the ISD community, particularly in the elementary school. Generally speaking, head lice pose little health threat. However, they can be time and energy consuming to eradicate in the home and school environment, and can therefore be a source of stress. Head lice can be transmitted from one child or person to another anywhere children and people get together and have an opportunity for close physical contact.  This can occur at school, but also outside of school at extracurricular activities, sleepovers, playdates, dinner parties, birthday parties, etc.

Parents, please read and follow these steps on how to prevent the spread of head lice - even if you don’t think your family is at risk for lice. Whether or not lice are found, routine monitoring and adequate treatment are important ways to prevent, or spread an infestation of, head lice.

  • Do Weekly Maintenance Checks. Check all members of your household for lice or eggs (nits) regularly, about once or twice a week. Make it a family routine at bath time or before bed! When you can, use a fine-tooth comb to comb through your child’s wet, conditioned hair. Remember to check your child's head before and after sleepovers and playdates!

  • Treat Immediately. Treat right away with special lice shampoo or lotion from your local pharmacy if lice or eggs are found. Check the package for a special lice comb too, and ask for one separately if it's not included. Follow directions exactly, for example some treatments are one time only, and others require a re-treatment about a week later. Lice treatment products available in Dakar include Parapoux, Paraplus, Parasidose, Pouxit.

  • Alert the School. Alert your child's school right away if lice or eggs are found, and ensure that your child has been treated before returning to school.

  • Keep Treating. Use the comb! Even after treatment with a shampoo or lotion, eggs can and probably will, remain in the hair. Combing them out everyday is the best way to ensure that they will not hatch into more live lice. Continue to monitor.

Tips to avoid head lice:

  • Tell kids to try to avoid head-to-head contact at school (in gym, on the playground, or during sports) and while playing at home with other children.

  • Tell kids not to share combs, brushes, hats, scarves, bandanas, ribbons, barrettes, hair ties or bands, towels, helmets, or other personal care items with anyone else, whether they may have lice or not.

  • Tell kids not to lie on bedding, pillows, and carpets that have recently been used by someone with lice.

  • Every 3 or 4 days, examine members of your household who have had close contact with a person who has lice. Then, treat any who are found to have lice or nits close to the scalp.

Will they ever be gone? As many parents know firsthand, lice infestation can be an ongoing battle, especially in group settings. There's no doubt that they can be hard bugs to get rid of. If you've followed every recommendation and your child still has lice, it could be because:

  • some nits were left behind

  • your child is still being exposed to someone with lice

  • the treatment you're using isn't effective

When a case of head lice is identified in our community, ISD takes measures at school such as special notifications and instructions to parents and teachers, periodic classroom head lice checks, and targeted classroom cleanings. However, it takes cooperation and vigilance from the entire community, both at school and outside of the school setting, to stop the spread of head lice!

Here is what to look for when you are checking for lice:

Cheers to your health, Nurse Jen

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