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The National Association of School Nurses (NASN) announced today the kickoff of S.C.R.A.T.C.H. (School and Community Resources to Avoid and Take Control of Head Lice), a campaign to educate school nurses, students, parents and the general public about the prevention and control of head lice. NASN has teamed up with Sciele Pharma, Inc. on the multi-faceted program, which is being launched as children throughout the U.S. head back to school, an environment where head lice is most prevalent.
Each year approximately 6 million to 12 million children between 3 and 12 years of age are infested with head lice(1,4). About 1 in every 100 U.S. elementary school children will be infested with head lice(5).
"As the onsite health professionals in schools, school nurses are in an excellent position to provide education to students, parents, their school colleagues and the community about head lice, a challenging and often misunderstood medical condition that causes anxiety among those affected," said Sandra Delack, RN, MEd, NCSN, president of the NASN. "This program will provide the facts about the causes, prevention and management of head lice, and hopefully serve to dispel the myths and stigmas regarding lice infestation."
Components of the S.C.R.A.T.C.H. program include such Web-based educational resources as a fact sheet on head lice for school nurses and other school professionals; a slide kit on head lice prevention and management for school nurse presentations to school and community groups; and a "Dear Parent" letter and fact sheet with "frequently asked questions" for parents on this topic.
NASN will promote the S.C.R.A.T.C.H. program among its 14,000 members to reach schools, students and their parents and guardians around the country. For more information on the program, visit www.nasn.org.
Generally found on the scalp, around the ears and at the back of the neck, the adult louse is about the size of a sesame seed and can be a reddish-brown color(2). Eggs, or nits, are smaller and are silver in color(3). The most common symptom of head lice is head scratching caused by sensitivity to the louse's saliva(1), although red bite marks may also be noticed(2). While lice are not considered an infectious disease, transmission from one individual to another can occur during direct contact or through the sharing of personal items such as hats, helmets, brushes or combs(1). Lice are not a sign of poor hygiene and they do not transmit disease.
Traditional treatments for head lice include nit picking with a fine-tooth comb, over-the-counter and prescription products, and home remedies. Many products contain a pesticide that is neurotoxic. These products are safe and effective but like all medical treatments, they must be used as directed and with caution by parents. Also, studies have shown that head lice are learning to outsmart many neurotoxic pesticides and are developing resistance to these products, in much the same way that some bacteria have developed resistance to antibiotics. (2,3) The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved the first and only prescription medication that kills head lice by asphyxiation without potential neurotoxic side effects.
(1) Frankowski, B.L., Weiner, L.B, the Committee on School Health, the Committee on Infectious Disease (September 2002).
American Academy of Pediatrics Clinical Report: Guidance for the Clinician in Rendering Pediatric Care: Head Lice. Pediatrics, 110 (3).
(2) Head Lice Control. Beyond Pesticides/NCAMP fact sheet(3) Hansen, R.C (September 2004). Overview: The State of Head Lice Management and Control. Am J Manag Care, 10, S250-S263.
(4) Williams, L., Reichert, A., MacKenzie, W., Hightower, A., & Blake, P. (2001). Lice, nits, and school policy. Pediatrics. 107(5). 1011-1015.
(5) Pollack, R.J. The Role of the School in Battling Head Lice. Our Children Magazine