School's out, or soon will be, but head lice will be active all
That means parents will have to do the job of people like Tulare
City School nurse Julie Nesbitt, who keeps an eye on head lice.
Unfortunately, Nesbitt said, many parents consider the creatures
something to be ashamed of, not faced up to.
"It's a very sensitive and emotional thing because, even though
the headlines have been around for years, there is the stigma of
[children with head lice] being unclean, or dirty," Nesbitt said.
"That's not true. It just means you were in the wrong place at the
Or, as Nesbitt's son found out one day, wearing the wrong
"He shared a baseball cap and the lice went with the cap,"
The simple solution: "I cleaned him up and sent him to school the
next day," she said.
School-reported head-lice cases increase dramatically after
summer break, as they do after other school vacations. That's
because students' parents pay less attention to head lice than
school officials do and because there's more opportunity for head
lice and children to come in contact, Nesbitt said.
Last year approximately 500 cases were reported in the district,
which has 8,162 students.
"That figures out to about 40 cases per school," Nesbitt said.
The district is covered by four registered nurses, and the 13
schools have one health aid each for four hours a day. If a child is
seen scratching, he or she is checked for lice.
Also, every classroom in the district is vacuumed and cleaned on
a daily basis.
The district sends educational materials home to parents each
year. It also spends about $3,000 a year buying lice-killing shampoo
for those who can't afford it.
The facts of lice
An adult female louse can lay up to 10 eggs a day.
The eggs look like tiny grains of rice but are grayish in color
-- something like dandruff that won't brush off.
The back of the neck is the most popular place for head lice to
lay eggs, Nesbitt said, because it's warm and dark there. A
secretion cements the egg to the hair shaft.
The young, or "nits," are tiny, about the size of a pin-head, but
can be seen with the naked eye. They are brown and have six legs.
As a rule, students in kindergarten through third grades are most
susceptible to head-lice infestation because they play so closely
together and tend to share everything, health officials say. In
middle school, incidences peak among girls because they often share
hats, combs and brushes.
Here's what parents can do over the summer to prevent lice
Educate your child about lice.Check every other day for nits. The best time is when the hair
is wet, but not soaking wet. Towel dry first.Make sure there is no sharing of ribbons or headwear.Use a fine-toothed comb -- or, if you don't have one, your
fingernails -- to remove eggs; shampoo does not kill them.
Most parents are cooperative when they learn their child has head
lice, Nesbitt said, but others become defensive and want to place
blame. It's not about blame, she said, but taking care of the
"The best advice I can give parents is to check their child's
head every day," she said. "If you go a month, you will have
hundreds of eggs in your child's head."