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The Facts of Lice: How To Detect It, Treat It, Prevent It

Editor’s note: This column was written by Julie Carpenter, the nurse practitioner for Baldwinsville schools.

Head-lice season is here, and many classes will have at least one case of lice before the season is done.

Contrary to popular belief, the school environment sees a higher incidence of lice infestation in the winter months. This is because hats, scarves and jackets come in contact with each other, allowing the louse to move from child to child.

Now it’s time for a test. See if you can answer these true-or-false questions:
1. Lice prefer a dirty head to a clean head of hair.
2. Lice can jump and fly.
3. Family pets can transmit lice.
4. Lice spread disease.
5. Lice shampoo is all the hair treatment that is necessary to get rid of lice.

Knowledge is your strongest suit of armor in preventing your child from bringing home lice this season.

For starters, homes don’t get head lice; people do. The parasite lives off human blood. In fact, the louse will only survive about 24 hours OFF a human host before it starves to death. The adult louse is about the size of a sesame seed and has six legs with claws. It does not have hind legs to jump, nor does it have wings to fly. The louse does crawl very quickly and can move from one head to another (if the heads are touching) in seconds.

Incidentally, all of the above answers are false.

No matter how much you clean your house or what neighborhood you live in, your child will bring home lice if it finds a way to his/her head. Like humans, lice prefer a clean environment. A clean head of hair is lice paradise! Lice are not dangerous, nor do they cause disease. They are, however, highly contagious and annoying. Prevention is key.

Kids and teens are most prone to lice infestation because they like to share their things. Teach your children not to share brushes, combs, hair accessories, hats, headsets, stuffed toys, or towels. Examine your child’s heads periodically, especially after complaints of an itchy head or neck. If there has been an exposure, check your child’s head even if the symptoms are not apparent.

Treatment strategies include:
• Get all of the adult lice out of the hair. Speak with your medical provider regarding products designed to kill lice and make it easier to comb them out of the hair.
• Get all of the nits out of the hair. Nits are small white lice eggs, like a grain of sand, that are attached with a super-glue substance to the hair shaft. Shampoo does not remove the nits. The nits must be picked out of the hair, one by one and meticulously, or you’ll find new lice hatching in a few days. Nit combs are popular because they are fine-toothed and strong in removing the eggs. Use the bulk of your time on lice and nit removal.

• Get lice and nits off clothing, sheets and other items. Clothes and bed linens that have touched the head should be washed in hot water or placed in a hot dryer for 30 minutes. (The effectiveness of sprays is controversial.) Vacuum furniture and rugs. Some still advocate bagging up things that cannot be washed in an airtight bag for ten days. Others argue that evidence does not support the effectiveness of this intervention and that the time is better spent with hands-on lice and nit removal.

For additional information, go to for interactive educational games including “Hair Force One” and “Jail Louse Rock.” Also check out and



Is It A Cold Or The Flu??

Editor’s note: The following was taking from Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Website.
Colds and flu are both highly contagious and, in the initial stages, a bad cold and mild case of the flu might seem alike. However, flu is a serious illness that can have life-threatening complications, unlike colds. Check this table for a comparison of the symptons for each illness:

Fever rare in adults and older children, but can be as high as 102 F in infants and small children usually 102 F, but can go up to 104 F and usually lasts 3-4 days
Headache rare

sudden onset and can be severe

Muscle aches mild usual, and often severe
Tiredness and weakness mild often extreme, and can last two or more weeks
Extreme exhaustion never sudden onset and can be severe
Runny nose often sometimes
Sneezing often sometimes
Sore Throat often sometimes
Cough mild hacking cough usual, and can become severe


What is scabies?(SKAY-bees)

Scabies is an infestation of the skin with the microscopic mite Sarcoptes scabei. Infestation is common, found worldwide, and affects people of all races and social classes. Scabies spreads rapidly under crowded conditions where there is frequent skin-to-skin contact between people, such as in hospitals, institutions, child-care facilities, and nursing homes.

  • What are the signs and symptoms of scabies infestation?

Pimple-like irritations, burrows or rash of the skin, especially the webbing between the fingers; the skin folds on the wrist, elbow, or knee; the penis, the breast, or shoulder blades.
Intense itching, especially at night and over most of the body.

Sores on the body caused by scratching. These sores can sometimes become infected with bacteria.

  • How did I get scabies?

By direct, prolonged, skin-to-skin contact with a person already infested with scabies. Contact must be prolonged (a quick handshake or hug will usually not spread infestation). Infestation is easily spread to sexual partners and household members. Infestation may also occur by sharing clothing, towels, and bedding.

  • Who is at risk for severe infestation?

People with weakened immune systems and the elderly are at risk for a more severe form of scabies, called Norwegian or crusted scabies.

  • How long will mites live?

Once away from the human body, mites do not survive more than 48-72 hours. When living on a person, an adult female mite can live up to a month.

  • Did my pet spread scabies to me?

No. Pets become infested with a different kind of scabies mite. If your pet is infested with scabies, (also called mange) and they have close contact with you, the mite can get under your skin and cause itching and skin irritation. However, the mite dies in a couple of days and does not reproduce. The mites may cause you to itch for several days, but you do not need to be treated with special medication to kill the mites. Until your pet is successfully treated, mites can continue to burrow into your skin and cause you to have symptoms.

  • How soon after infestation will symptoms begin?

For a person who has never been infested with scabies, symptoms may take 4-6 weeks to begin. For a person who has had scabies, symptoms appear within several days. You do not become immune to an infestation.

  • How is scabies infestation diagnosed?

Diagnosis is most commonly made by looking at the burrows or rash. A skin scraping may be taken to look for mites, eggs, or mite fecal matter to confirm the diagnosis. If a skin scraping or biopsy is taken and returns negative, it is possible that you may still be infested. Typically, there are fewer than 10 mites on the entire body of an infested person; this makes it easy for an infestation to be missed.

  • Can scabies be treated?

Yes. Several lotions are available to treat scabies. Always follow the directions provided by your physician or the directions on the package insert. Apply lotion to a clean body from the neck down to the toes and left overnight (8 hours). After 8 hours, take a bath or shower to wash off the lotion. Put on clean clothes. All clothes, bedding, and towels used by the infested person 2 days before treatment should be washed in hot water; dry in a hot dryer. A second treatment of the body with the same lotion may be necessary 7-10 days later. Pregnant women and children are often treated with milder scabies medications.

  • Who should be treated for scabies?

Anyone who is diagnosed with scabies, as well as his or her sexual partners and persons who have close, prolonged contact to the infested person should also be treated. If your health care provider has instructed family members to be treated, everyone should receive treatment at the same time to prevent reinfestation.

  • How soon after treatment will I feel better?

Itching may continue for 2-3 weeks, and does not mean that you are still infested. Your health care provider my prescribe additional medication to relieve itching if it is severe. No new burrows or rashes should appear 24-48 hours after effective treatment.

This fact sheet is for information only and is not meant to be used for self-diagnosis or as a substitute for consultation with a health care provider. If you have any questions about the disease described above or think that you may have a parasitic infection, consult a health care provider.

From: CDC web site


PDF Version

Mosquitoes and West Nile Virus - Fight the Bite

In the fall of 1999, West Nile virus, a mosquito-borne infection that can cause serious illness, and in some cases, death, was first found in New York State. Although the chances of a person becoming ill are small, there are some simple steps you can take to reduce them even further. The New York State Health Department, along with other state agencies, local health departments, colleges and environmental groups, has prepared this brochure to give you the information you need to reduce the number of mosquitoes in your yard, neighborhood and community; and to help reduce the need for more aggressive mosquito control, such as the aerial spraying of insecticides.

  • Mosquito Facts

Mosquitoes are small flying insects that feed on human and animal blood or plant juices. Only female mosquitoes bite to get a blood meal for their growing eggs. Mosquitoes are generally considered a nuisance pest, but occasionally can transmit disease. There are about 70 different species of mosquitoes in New York State. While most do not transmit West Nile virus, several mosquito species have been associated with West Nile virus in New York State.

  • Where They Live and Breed

Many types of mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water around the home. Weeds, tall grass and shrubbery provide an outdoor home for adult mosquitoes, which also may enter houses through unscreened windows or doors, or broken screens. Many mosquitoes will breed in containers that hold water, such as flower pots or discarded tires.

  • West Nile Virus and Your Health

Mild cases of West Nile infection may include a slight fever and head and body aches. Severe infections may also include muscle weakness and may progress to encephalitis or meningitis. Symptoms usually occur three to 14 days after exposure. There is no specific treatment for viral infections, other than to treat the symptoms and provide supportive care. Those who are at highest risk of becoming seriously ill from West Nile infection are persons who are over the age of 50. Healthy children and adults are at low risk for serious illness from West Nile virus.

  • When Mosquitoes Are Most Active

Some mosquitoes are most active between dusk and dawn when the air is calm, and that is when the females are most likely to bite. However, others will feed at any time of day.

  • Protecting Your Home

Mosquitoes can develop in any standing water that lasts more than 4 days. To reduce the mosquito population around your home and property, reduce or eliminate all standing water and debris:

- Dispose of tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar waterholding containers.
- Dispose of used tires -- call your local landfill or Department of Public Works to find out how to dispose of them properly.
- Drill holes in the bottoms of recycling containers that are kept outdoors.
- Make sure roof gutters drain properly, and clean clogged gutters in the spring and fall.
- Turn over plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use.
- Change the water in bird baths twice a week.
- Clean vegetation and debris from the edges of ponds.
- Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs.
- Drain water from pool covers.
- Use landscaping to eliminate stagnant water that collects on your property.

  • Protecting Yourself

Most mosquitoes do not transmit disease. Unless you are at high risk, it is not necessary to limit any outdoor activities. Those who are at highest risk of becoming seriously ill from West Nile infection, are adults over 50. To help reduce the number of mosquitoes around your property, eliminate standing water in your yard, make sure all windows and doors have screens, and that all screens are in good repair. If West Nile virus is found in your area, persons who are at highest risk should avoid mosquito bites:
- Wear shoes and socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt when outdoors for long periods of time, or when mosquitoes are more active.
- Consider the use of mosquito repellent, according to directions, when it is necessary to be outdoors.

  • Proper Use of Repellents

Repellents can be effective at reducing bites from mosquitoes that can transmit disease. But their use is not without risk of health effects, especially if repellents are applied in large amounts or improperly. Repellents commonly available to consumers contain the active ingredients DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide), permethrin, or botanical oils. DEET products have been widely used for many years, but have occasionally been associated with health effects. Skin reactions (particularly at DEET concentrations of 50 percent and above) and eye irritation are the most frequently reported health problems. Products containing permethrin are for use on clothing only, not on skin.

Permethrin repellents can cause eye irritation. Insect repellents containing botanical oils, such as oil of geranium, cedar, lemongrass, soy or citronella are also available, but there is limited information on their effectiveness and toxicity. If you decide to use a repellent, use only what and how much you need for your situation. In addition:

- Be sure to follow label directions.
- Use repellents only in small amounts, avoiding unnecessary repeat application. Try to reduce the use of repellents by dressing in long sleeves and pants tucked into socks or boots.
- Children may be at greater risk for reactions to repellents, in part, because their exposure may be greater. Do not apply repellents directly to children. Apply to your own hands and then put it on the child.
- Do not apply near eyes, nose or mouth and use sparingly around ears. Do not apply to the hands of small children.
- After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water.