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Head Lice – Sprays Are Not the Answer

By Chris Williams on February 22, 2011.

Q. Our daughter was just sent home from her elementary school because she has head lice! We’re freaking out! Can you spray our home so nobody else in the family gets lice?

A. Sorry, but we can’t treat your home (or your child) for head lice. Head lice are a medical problem that cannot be addressed with standard insecticide treatment. Control of head lice is something that must be worked out between you, your child’s school, and your child’s pediatrician. But we can give you some information and help you find answers.
There are several reasons why a reputable pest control company will not treat your home (or your child’s school) for head lice:
 
•Head lice are rarely found off of the head. They remain firmly attached, gripping onto hairs. Their eggs (nits) are laid on the head and also remain attached to the hairs. If the lice are accidentally separated from their host head, they die, usually within 48 hours without any kind of pesticide treatment. Treating the premises accomplishes nothing.
 
• Head louse control must be directed towards the infested child’s head, not the premises. This usually involves use of a special shampoo (pediculicide) and thorough combing to remove the lice and nits.
 
•Most transmissions of head lice occur by direct person-to-person contact, not by picking them up from couches, desks, chairs, or any other part of the environment. Lice are spread among school children through shared combs, brushes, hats, scarves, head rests, and direct head contact.
 
• We all want to limit children’s exposure to pesticides. Many school jurisdictions are banning or restricting pesticide application in schools for all pests. Spraying homes or schools to control head lice is unnecessary and irresponsible pesticide application.
 
• Laundering children’s bedding, clothing, hats, and scarves in hot water and drying at high heat, vacuuming, and other sanitation measures provide better control of head lice and nits that are off of the host than do pesticides.
 
The National Pediculosis Association (NPA) is your best source for information on head lice. At their web site, www.headlice.org, you will find answers and many free publications dealing with head lice, some that will specifically address your concerns as a parent.

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