Lice campaign continues

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 5, 1999

While head lice continues to be a problem for area schools this year, Pat Stumme said health officials are &uot;literally trying to get ahead of this whole thing.

Sunday, September 05, 1999

While head lice continues to be a problem for area schools this year, Pat Stumme said health officials are &uot;literally trying to get ahead of this whole thing.&uot;

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&uot;We had a display up during the parent, teacher and student interviews. Next we’re heading out to the preschools, day cares, ECFE (Early Childhood and Family Education) and Head Start to talk to providers there. The providers will have to get the word out to parents,&uot; said Stumme, Freeborn County Extension educator and member of Freeborn County Family Services Collaborative’s Lice Buster committee.

The committee has been working with Freeborn County Public Health and area school nurses to try to eradicate the lice problem locally.

While it’s too soon to determine if lice is as common this year as it was last year, Albert Lea Public School nurse Carol Bosma said periculosis continues to plague students in the district.

&uot;We’ve already had some cases since school started,&uot; Bosma said on Friday, the third day of school.

Bosma has also heard reports of lice cases over the summer. But until the third or fourth week of school, officials won’t really know if lice is as widespread this year as it was last.

Since the committee and health officials have begun to attack the problem in the last year and a half, the school district has developed and recently modified its policy regarding head lice. A campaign to notify parents has also been a focal point of the committee.

&uot;We do have a procedure that we follow,&uot; Bosma said.

The parent of a child infected with head lice are contacted while the school nurse checks siblings of the affected child.

An addition to the policy this year has the parents document and submit to the school the treatment method used to eradicate the live lice and the nits, which are eggs attached to the hair.

When the child returns to school, the child is checked by the school nurse for live lice, and is rechecked seven to 14 days later.

&uot;We really encourage the parents to remove the eggs too, but it isn’t easy,&uot; Bosma said.

According to Stumme, nit removal is the key to getting rid of lice.

&uot;But children’s heads are tender. They’re sensitive to the chemical treatment and having nits pulled out,&uot; Stumme added.

While chemicals are needed to kill live lice, special combs are needed to remove nits. Tweezers or picking the nits out by hand are other options.

No easy fix

Parents who have dealt with head lice can attest to how difficult it is to alleviate the problem. And preventing others in the household from getting lice is also a challenge.

Kay, who preferred her last name be withheld to protect the identity of her children, said ridding four of her five children of their head lice was indeed a challenge.

The children underwent three shampoo treatments, and Kay treated the fifth child as well, just to be safe. She also combed all of the nits out.

But her work didn’t end with removing the lice from her children’s heads. The entire house needed to be cleaned in order to assure that the children would not be reinfested with the insects.

All of the clothes and bedding needed to be washed in hot water and dried on high.

&uot;I vacuumed everything and I had to make sure I threw away the bag when I was done. They can still live inside the bag,&uot; Kay said.

Some toys were placed in a plastic bag for a week to kill the lice, while stuffed animals and the like were placed in the dryer on high.

The floors, counter tops, curtains and furniture covers need to be laundered.

&uot;The car was cleaned and vacuumed too,&uot; Kay said.

While her children have been lice-free for over a week, Kay continues to check her children everyday before they head off to school.

It’s advice she would offer to other parents in the area.

&uot;Check your kids frequently,&uot; she said. &uot;You need to check them more than just once a week.&uot;

Kay also said parents whose children have had lice need to inform parents of playmates and classmates.

According to Bosma, the school sends out a notice to classmates to notify parents. They try to keep the student’s identity confidential, because there is still a stigma attached to contracting lice.

&uot;We want to take that stigma out of it,&uot; Bosma said. She thinks more children are becoming sensitive to the issue, but realizes some teasing may still exist. &uot;We try to take care of those problems as soon as we hear about them. We certainly don’t want anyone to be picked on.&uot;

&uot;Lice aren’t choosy. This isn’t something that is more likely to happen to one household over another,&uot; Stumme said. &uot;Lice attach most easily to clean hair.&uot;

&uot;It doesn’t matter if your house is immaculate or not, anyone can get it,&uot; Kay said.

And next to the common cold, lice will affect more children than any other communicable disease.

For more information, the public can contact Freeborn County Public Health at 377-5100 or the Albert Lea school nurses. Carol Bosma can be reached at 379-4828 and Ann Cavanaugh at 379-4827.