For many parents, head lice is a dreaded problem they try their best to avoid. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Although reliable data on how many people in the United States get head lice each year are not available, an estimated 6 million to 12 million infestations occur each year in the United States among children 3 to 11 years of age."
Head lice might not be medically dangerous, but they are certainly a nuisance. The Community Times spoke with Beth Weintzweig, owner/operator of the Reisterstown-based MD Lice Control, an independent contractor with The Center for Lice Control, about what parents can do to prevent and treat head lice. Weintzweig recommends using products containing dimethicone to kill lice but, she said, there's more to lice control than just a single treatment.
How big of a problem is lice?
It's a problem all year round and luckily it's not a medical condition, in other words you're not going to die of lice, but it's very annoying … it can be hard to get rid of if you don't know how to get rid of them and if you're not using a product that kills them properly.
What is the age range parents should be concerned?
It's mainly elementary school through high school. We had previously said through middle school, but now we're seeing more students get it in high school, possibly due to people taking selfies … 90 percent of people get head lice due to head-to-head contact.
What can parents do to prevent the spread of lice?
Well, we teach parents how to check their children once a week doing a combing head check for lice using a head comb and that's the best prevention for lice. There are a lot of products out there and none of them really prevent lice.
If your child has head lice, what should you do?
Anything that's touched the head, whether it be a pillowcase, a blanket they sleep with, anything that's had contact with the head, you put it in the dryer on high heat for 30 minutes.
You don't have to wash it because it's the heat that kills them, so that's another one of those lice misunderstandings. You don't have to wash everything in your house, you just have to focus on what's had contact with the head.
So also you'd want to vacuum if you have a couch that is fabric and their heads touched that, you'd want to vacuum that. If you have a car seat that's fabric … anything that's leather you do not need to worry about. Brushes and combs need to be cleaned and put into boiling water.
Concentrate on whatever has had contact with the head.
If your child does have lice, should they avoid contact with other kids?
They should until they've been treated, and once they've been treated with our product they're no longer contagious. You're only contagious if you have a fertilized female adult louse on your head.
These days they only have you stay out of school if they have live activity on your head as opposed to if they just have nits. Nits are eggs. So that's typically the policy that most schools follow.
What is the chance of a recurrence?
Even though [our product, KaPow] kills live activity in 5 minutes you need to do two follow-up treatments. Your objective is to kill the life cycle of the lice. If you don't kill the life cycle you will have a recurrence.
How often should you check your children for head lice?
We recommend checking each family member with the lice comb and the wet head, and we show people how to do that. We only recommend treating family members where you find live activity or nits.
You should check after the initial treatment and the follow-up treatments you should check your children once a week. We recommend [doing this] into high school or through high school.
We find that usually when one family member gets it, multiple family members get it and its very, very typical that Mom has it, because obviously mom as the most head to head contact with the children for the most part.
What is the biggest misconception about head lice?
There's a lot of myths that go with it. I think one of the biggest ones is you get it because your unsanitary … it's just if you have hair [and] your head touches another person who has lice, you're going to get it most of the time.
We like to say only sweet people get lice because these are the people who are hugging and having close contact with each other, so we like to make the point that it's easy to get rid of if you know how to get rid of it.
For more information about MD Lice Control, visit www.mdlice.com.