On Your Side
Local school nurses fight the battle against head lice
Courtny Gerrish reports Video by tmj4.comvideo
MILWAUKEE - With a 13-month old daughter, one local young dad we talked to admits he doesn't know much about head lice. He guessed, "It's something that goes around with younger kids -- can get amongst each other. And that's pretty much it to be honest."
As Milwaukee Public Schools Director of Health Services Rachel Gallagher explains -- he's basically right.
"Lice is caused by the head louse that invades the hair, and actually lays an egg, if you will, on the hair shaft," she says.
Parents are the first line of defense. Hair checks are easy to do. Gallagher suggests checking around the scalp and the nape of the neck.
Last year, about 3% of visits to MPS nurse offices involved head lice.
"It's certainly an important function of what we do," Gallagher explains.
It's difficult to predict how many cases a school district will see in a year. Since it's an infestation, it's really dependent on human behavior, and how much head-to-head contact kids have.
The good news -- lice are an itchy nuisance, but won't hurt your child. "It does not spread disease," Gallagher assures.
Getting rid of lice is an easy, but lengthy process. One tip -- have your child go to bed with a special homemade treatment. Just cover the scalp with some olive oil, and put a shower cap on the head. The oil actually suffocates the louses, so they can be combed out later, as well as the eggs.
Gallagher urges parents to come forward if their child has lice -- and not to be ashamed. "Head lice is an equal opportunity infestation. They like clean heads as well as dirty heads, clean homes as well as dirty homes."
MPS sends children home with lice, but the good news -- they can come back the very next day as long as parents have started treatment.
If a child gets lice, it's important for parents to wash bedsheets, pillows, and stuffed animals in hot water and use a hot dryer setting to make sure the lice are dead, and don't spread through the home.