319th MDG offers tips to combat head lice

GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. --

Each year there are between six and 12 million cases of head lice among children between the ages of three and 11 that occur in the United States. With kids now back in school, it is important for parents to be aware of this potential issue.

Head lice are parasitic insects that can be found on the head, eyebrows and eyelashes of people. They cannot fly or hop, so they typically spread from person to person by direct contact with the hair of someone who is infested. In rare occasions, head lice can be spread through contact with clothing and other personal items. Lice are host specific because their claws can only grasp hairs of a certain size. This means they cannot be spread between species.

Contrary to popular belief, head lice infestations are not related to personal hygiene or cleanliness in the home or school. Infestations occur when adult lice come into contact with human hair, attach and crawl down to the scalp. After feeding, female lice lay eggs, called nits, at the bottom of the hair shaft. Nits strongly adhere to the hair, tend to be within a quarter of an inch from the scalp, and are often yellow or white in color. Typical symptoms of head lice include a moving sensation in the hair, itching and difficulty sleeping.

Diagnosis of head lice infestation occurs with the identification of adult lice on the scalp or attached to hair. A presumptive diagnosis can be made by identification of nits on the hair shaft. Head lice can be treated with over the counter medications; however, there are some recent reports of these products becoming less effective over time, leading to the need for prescription medications.

If you suspect you or your child have been infected with head lice, or have been diagnosed with head lice and are still having symptoms after over-the-counter treatment, please schedule an appointment with your provider.  If you are enrolled to the 319th Medical Group, please contact the call center at 701-747-5601 for an appointment.