December 1, 2012

Head lice: common but combatable

PLATTSBURGH — Don’t share combs or hats, and watch out for those hugs, school nurses advise to help children avoid head lice. 

“It’s one of those things that happen every year,” said AuSable Forks Elementary School Principal Ginene Mason.

With so many students in such close proximity of each other, Mason said, head lice hits all schools. It can happen to anyone at anytime.


After nine years at AuSable Forks Elementary, school nurse Sylvia Smith is no stranger to this pest.

“Parents need to be aware it does go around and is very difficult to get rid of,” she said.

On head-check day, Smith and a guest nurse meticulously comb through 226 heads — hunting for nits. 

Any sign of a nit or louse and Smith phones a parent or guardian right away to have the child picked up for treatment.

If the child returns the next day and is cleared while the guardian waits in the nurse’s office, Smith sends them back to class and gives the OK to use school transportation.


Both Mason and Smith said lice are very common in the North Country, and it’s not an indication of whether a household is clean or not, which is a frequent misconception.

“It’s like any kind of communicable disease and illness,” Mason said, “it just happens.”

Nits will attach to the hair shaft up close to the scalp and stick, Smith said, and “just washing will not get them out.

“They don’t jump around,” and “it only takes one (nit) to hatch” and spread quickly.


It’s not necessary to see a physician, but Smith said the hair must be treated right away. She’s heard of parents using over-the-counter lice shampoos or home remedies, like soaking the head overnight in olive oil and a shower cap to smother lingering nits.

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