Kirk Boxleitner/Staff PhotoSherine Wenzel

Head lice can happen to anyone

ARLINGTON — It's the season for head lice, and local schools have already dealt with a few cases.

ARLINGTON — It’s the season for head lice, and local schools have already dealt with a few cases.

Andrea Conley, public information coordinator for the Arlington School District, confirmed that school nurse Gloria Davis recently responded to an incidence of head lice at Eagle Creek Elementary.

“By state law, we can’t exclude students,” Conley said. “We recommend as many resources as we can to families, but from what we understand, lice have been getting more resistant to shampoos.”

Families previously had to travel as far as Seattle to find certified treatment centers for lice, but now there is one locally, Rest Easy Hair Clinic in Smokey Point.

Owner Sherine Wenzel has visited local schools to speak with them about lice.

“When people look for warning signs of lice, they often focus on whether there’s any itching, but that’s not necessarily one of the symptoms,” Wenzel said. “If you’re wondering whether your children have head lice, much better indicators include sleepless nights, bags under their eyes or general tiredness.”

To check for lice, Wenzel recommends wetting the child’s head down, so that the eggs or nits are more visible.

“That’s where the expression ‘nit-picking’ comes from,” Wenzel said, adding that nits are the empty eggshells of lice.

Wenzel uses the “Shephard method” to look for lice. It involves separating out the hairs, strand by strand. She then wipes the hair with a white paper towel, to make any evidence of lice more visible.

“Otherwise, your eyes can play tricks on you, and you’re not sure if it’s dandruff,” Wenzel said.

Wenzel urged families not to feel ashamed if their children have lice.

“Head lice don’t discriminate,” Wenzel said. “I’ve found it in the most middle-class families. Whether you’re low- or high-income, the one trait head lice actually prefer is clean hair.”

Wenzel also reassured parents that head lice have a limited ability to spread beyond the infected child.

“It really does take direct head-to-head contact,” Wenzel said, pointing out that lice only live 24 hours at most, and must feed every two to three hours to stay alive. “They’re not like bed bugs. You don’t need to bug-bomb your whole house. Just treat the head.”

That being said, once a child is infected with lice, stringent measures are required to remove them.

“At this point, lice are one hundred percent resistant to over-the-counter treatments,” Wenzel said. “We call them ‘super-lice’ now. Those lobster-claws of theirs hold on hard.”

Once a louse gets pregnant, she can lay eight to 10 eggs a day.

“She’s basically pregnant for the rest of her life,” Wenzel said. “That’s why it’s so important to find those eggs and get rid of them.”

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