With the new school year fast approaching pharmacists are urging parents and guardians to act to prevent the spread of head lice. It is estimated that 1 in 10 children suffer from head lice at any one time, with 80% of head lice infestations occurring in children between the ages of four and 16. According to the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) all children should be screened for head lice once a week when they return to school.
Caitriona O’ Riordan, Pharmacist and member of the Executive Committee of the Irish Pharmacy Union said, “There is no way to completely eliminate the risks of head lice but identifying an infection early will make treating it far easier. This will also help prevent the spread of infection through your family, or amongst school friends. Our advice to parents is to check their children’s hair regularly, ideally once a week."
“If an infection is detected it is important to start treatment as soon as possible, lice are a normal part of life and are nothing to be embarrassed about. There are several treatment options available, and you should seek advice from your pharmacist about which is the most appropriate for your child. This is particularly important for any child suffering from asthma, allergies or those with a pre-existing skin condition, as they are the most likely to suffer a reaction.”
According to Ms O’ Riordan, “It is also extremely important to only take treatment if a living, moving louse is found. Using head lice products as a preventative measure is not effective, and unnecessarily exposes children to these products.”
Head Lice – Advice from Pharmacists:
1. Check children’s hair for lice regularly, ideally once a week: Use a wet comb made for the purpose. Combing through wet hair makes the process easier. Good light is important.
2. Itching and scratching are common signs of head lice: As well as live lice, which crawl around the head, look out for nits. Nits are tiny eggs that may look like dandruff but cannot be flicked off the hair.
3. Check close to the scalp, behind the ears, around the nape of the neck, top of the head and under the fringe.
4.Treat the hair only if live lice or unhatched eggs are present: Treat the child as soon as possible. Always ask your pharmacist for advice on the most appropriate treatment to use.
5. Inform the school, contacts and friends when your child has head lice: The school can then inform other parents that there is an outbreak, so everyone can check and treat their own children.
6. Always follow the instructions on the treatment pack, and any advice given by your pharmacist: Products used to treat head lice do not prevent the infestation from occurring and should never be used “just in case”.