Head lice spread in Hopkins County elementary schools; committee of school staff and parents formed to tackle problem

Head lice are becoming a greater problem in elementary schools in Hopkins County, reports The Messenger, which published the numbers of cases reported at each school in the last four years and so far this year.

“A committee of parents and school personnel was recently formed to help educate and support parents who may be combating the problem,” Jenny Lee Menser reports for the Madisonville newspaper. “Until now, school policy has been to send a letter home with students who are found to have nits, or lice eggs, to inform parents that their children need to be treated, as national standards only recommend sending children with live bugs home. School officials said they will now call parents to supplement the process and ensure that they are aware.”

Hopkins County (Wikipedia map)

Hopkins County Public Health Director Denise Beach told the Messenger that recurring cases in some households are at least partly to blame for the recent increase. In an earlier story, Menser quoted West Broadway Elementary parent Jessica Dockrey as saying, “One mother has a child who has had it nine times since the beginning of the school year,” Dockery said. “Another parent had experienced it six times.”

Beach told Menser, “If it’s found several times, then we do get the registered nurse at the schools involved. They may call the parent and counsel them. We’ll send educational information home. We may get the family resource or school office involved. I’ve even called families myself and talked to them. I’ve also had families come here to the health department if they have a significant problem with getting rid of them. It’s just a team effort. If we have someone who continually has head lice, we all just work to try and make that situation better.”

“While many over-the-counter lice treatments claim to kill nits, some entomologists say there is no guarantee, and all nits must be removed from the hair,” Menser reports. “Most standards recommend treating everyone in the house; bagging all stuffed animals in airtight bags for several days; laundering all bedding in the house; vacuuming all cloth surfaces — including the insides of automobiles; removing all nits; sanitizing all hair brushes, combs and accessories; and repeating the process seven-10 days later.”

Some cosmetologists recommend white vinegar combined with a few drops of tea-tree oil in a spray bottle to spray on hair, clothing and backpacks to prevent re-infestation, Menser reports. A local pharmacist recommended adding red thyme oil to shampoo and hair conditioner.

“We’ve had several people use red thyme oil as a preventative,” Jerry Rickard told the newspaper. “If you use four drops of red thyme oil per ounce of shampoo, lice really don’t like that. For instance, if you have a four-ounce bottle of shampoo, you’d use 16 drops of oil.”

Entomologist Neil Brown “said over-the-counter lice shampoos will often only kill live bugs,” Menser reports. “He added that lice cannot survive more than a few hours without a host. Therefore, any lice that may be inside a school will not live through the weekend and affect students.”

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