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QA52: How do I know if my child has lice? How do I treat lice? When can my child with lice go back to school?

Lice are small insects that populate the scalp of people and cause persistent itching. They are passed to others when hats worn by infested people are shared, when pillows are shared or when heads touch. They require feeding on the scalp to reproduce and they lay their eggs at the junction of the skin and hair shaft.  The eggs are white or slightly brownish and stick tightly to the hair shafts.  They can be detected by carefully inspecting the scalp of your child. As hair grows, the eggs move away from the scalp. Once the eggs are more than 1/4 inch above the scalp, they no longer harbor eggs that will hatch into mature lice. The presence of lice is not an indication of lack of cleanliness; it is a result of pest infestation. You can learn more about the detection and treatment of lice here on our site. Check with your local school for their requirements about when a child can return to school. Some allow return to school after successful initial treatment. A statement from your doctor indicating that your child is free of lice and nits may also be required. Be particularly observant of your children (and yourself!) when your child is active in sports activities where a helmet or hats are shared or head-to-head contact is made (such as wrestling). Dr. Conway

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