Lice at school and at daycare: prevention and detection

Daycares and schools are common places where lice are found. How can you protect your child or know if he/she has them?

Head lice: tiny parasites

Many people have had to deal with these dreaded insects that are hardly larger than the head of a pin at some point in time. No one is immune to them! Those who have been through this unpleasant situation say that it must be properly managed in order to prevent it from lasting or reoccurring.

Like fictional vampires, head lice feed on human blood. They can be found anywhere on the head, but mostly on the scalp. Anyone who has hair can be a carrier of lice, but they are more common in children. This can be partially explained by the fact that children are in close physical contact with each other and share objects.

Lice at daycare and at school

Daycare and school are environments where the spread of lice is made easier. Contrary to popular belief, lice do not jump from one head to another. They are spread through direct contact with the hair of a contaminated person. It is possible, but much more rare, for shared objects (e.g., cap, scarf, hairbrush, etc.) to result in the spread of lice.

The start of the school year in particular, is an opportunity for your child to reconnect with friends in a pleasant and cheerful atmosphere. In the bustle of this crucial period, we sometimes forget to watch out for lice.

Detecting lice

It can be difficult to know if your child has lice, since their presence may not cause any symptoms or discomfort. However, you may suspect that they are present if your child:

  • scratches his/her scalp, especially at night
  • complains of itching or tingling sensation
  • has red spots on his/her scalp
  • doesn’t sleep well

If you suspect your child has lice, the only way to be certain is to carefully examine the scalp.

Lice are brownish or greyish six-legged wingless insects. They are easier to detect than nits (eggs), which are oval-shaped and the size of a grain of sand. Owing to a natural sticky substance, nits stay glued to the root of the hair and are hard to remove.

Here is how to check for lice:

  1. Wet the hair first (you can wash it, but do not dry it).
  2. Untangle the hair properly with a regular comb or brush.
  3. Make sure you have very good lighting. Use a flashlight if necessary.
  4. Examine the entire head strand by strand, from root to tip, using a fine-tooth comb specially designed for this purpose. Pay particular attention to the nape of the neck and the area behind the ears.
  5. Check if there are lice or nits after each stroke. Use a magnifying glass if necessary.
  6. Wipe the comb clean if there are lice on it. To do this, use a tissue and throw it away in an air-tight bag.

Managing the situation

Here is what you should do if your child has lice:

  • Promptly notify your child’s daycare, teacher or school management, in order to avoid spreading it to schoolmates and their families.
  • Ensure that everyone who has been in contact with him/her is examined to determine if they have lice.

Anyone who has lice or nits must receive the appropriate treatment. It is not useful or recommended to give a preventive treatment.

Preventing infestation

Tying long hair back helps to decrease the risk of contamination. Additionally, in order to prevent your child from catching lice or spreading it to others, encourage him/her to avoid:

  • contact with other children’s hair (friends, schoolmates or daycare peers), especially if there is an infestation
  • sharing objects―hats, tuques, scarves, combs, hairbrushes, costumes, hair clips, hair elastics and pillowcases, to name a few

Speak to your pharmacist for additional information about lice and their treatment. He/she is undoubtedly the best-suited health care professional to recommend a safe and effective treatment as well as other essential measures, such as cleaning the house and objects that could harbour lice. Complete the form to prepare you for the appointment and bring it with you to the pharmacy.

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Lice at school and at daycare: prevention and detection

Daycares and schools are common places where lice are found. How can you protect your child or know if he/she has them?
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