Why do head lice spread so quickly in schools?

If you have kids in school, you’ll have no doubt had ‘that letter’ home.  For those non parents, ‘that letter’ refers to a letter being sent home with information that lice have been spotted in children, and that it’s likely to spread. After the initial and panic sets in, thoughts tend to drift towards the ‘why me’ reasoning, but it’s important to remember that it’s not just you, but that head lice in schools is very common and something that a lot of parents have to deal with. Lice don’t pick and choose who they go to, as many think it’s just those children with dirty hair, but they have no preferences and can crawl onto any hair, making them unavoidable at times.

It’s obvious why younger kids tend to suffer more from lice, and why schools are the perfect breeding ground for lice. Lice are the most common among 4-12 year olds, with 1 in 3 children developing lice at some point[1]. It occurs mainly through head to head contact – lice can’t fly or hop, so they move around by crawling. Younger children tend to be in closer proximity to each other, which is why lice are more likely to spread more with them. Close head to head contact while playing is very likely, especially if playing sports or games. Young girls, particularly, will play close together and hug or share the likes of hair accessories, while also sharing objects that can transmit lice, so are one of the most ‘at risk’ groups to be involved, especially with their long hair, allowing more movement for lice. They can live for about a month and can regularly lay eggs from about 7 days, laying up to 8 eggs a day[2]. Even if your maths isn’t great, you’ll know that one lice can lay a lot of eggs, which is why it’s no wonder why some infestations can spread really fast.

The most common way to spread lice is through head to head contact, but there are certain objects that can contain lice. While lice do need a human host for warmth and sustenance (blood), they can stay just over a day on other materials. Things such as hats and scarves can have lice clinging to them and they tend to be shared more amongst children and also tend to be hung closely together at schools alongside jackets. Stuffed toys and pillows are also places for lice to hide and while playing with toys, or sharing pillows at sleepovers, they can easily be transmitted to these things, and then onto other children.

There are a few actions that both parents and schools can take to limit the spread of lice and large scale infestations. Schools already provide good information about lice, and many take part in national bug busting days, which aim to discuss lice and encourage parents to check for lice regularly. Parents should already be cautious and ‘detection combing’ regularly so that they can spot and treat the lice immediately. While it can be a bit embarrassing, it is also a must to let other parents and the school know that you’ve found lice. This puts everyone on alert and helps to avoid any large scale infestations around the schools. Each parent will no doubt be constantly checking hair, with treatment being immediate for any child found with lice.

The quickest and effective way to get rid of lice and get your child back to school immediately is to use treatments that work, such as head lice spraysor shampoos. These work the best in targeting lice and are one of the most effect ways to treat head lice – not only do these kill lice, but also get to the nits as well. Use this treatment on a routine for however long you need, and your lice issues should go away in no time.

As long as you’re cautious and are prepared to deal with any lice immediately, you’ll be able to help stop the spread of lice in schools, and will be hailed a hero among teachers and fellow parents.



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