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How to Prevent Head Lice from Spreading
OUACHITA PARISH -- A Jackson Parish school is closed this week due to a lice outbreak.
To avoid this scenario, local school nurses are sharing tips on proper hygiene against lice.
It starts with educating children.
"Try to educate them and tell them not to share brushes, don't share your combs, hats, scarves, ribbons...Little girls with their bows," said Tedi Jolley, a nurse with Ouachita Parish Schools.
Even coats and other clothing can harbor the lice.
Although lice problems typically happen in much younger children, health professionals are even cautioning about the "selfie" among older students. Taking photos up against another person's head could give lice a chance to crawl over.
"The selfies, though if they're in close contact and are touching," said Jolley.
Lice crawl fast -- they don't hop or fly. They live for days to weeks depending on temperature and humidity.
Symptoms include itching and scratching, especially behind the ears or nape of the neck. This can cause sores and possible infections.
According the Department of Health and Hospitals, lice cannot live for more than 48 hours away from the scalp as adult insects, and as eggs, cannot hatch at temperatures lower than those found close to the scalp.
The good news is that lice do not carry disease. Having lice also does not represent poor hygiene.
Lice is prevalent among young elementary children.
"They kind of hug on each other, they're real friendly," said Jolley.
For years, schools have always taken action.
"Occasionally we will do random checks of classes also," Jolley said.
If lice is found, the children are sent home and before they can return, they must have the issue treated with medicated shampoo and be screened in by the principal first, said Jolley.
But parents should regularly check, too.
"You can go through, either like with a rat tail comb or a pencil, so that you can separate and look at each strand. A nit, or egg, is going to be closer to the scalp," said Jolley.
School nurses say the lice eggs, called a nit, may look like dandruff. Sometimes the bugs are very tiny, looking similar to a fleck of pepper.
The difference between an egg and dandruff is in how it sticks to the hair.
"If you run your finger down the shaft of the hair, that nit is not going to come off. It adheres to that shaft of the hair," said Jolley.
If you find that your child has lice, schools ask that you let them know so that they can check the entire class as a precaution.
And prepare to disinfect your own home to keep the lice from spreading.