A Headstart on Lice Prevention

By Laura McNulty and Ginny A. Roth

Lice
“Lice Are Not Nice”, undated
National Library of Medicine #A028101http://resource.nlm.nih.gov/101444686

New backpack? Check. New pencils, pens, and notebooks? Check. Lice comb? Che…Lice comb?!?  Yes, it is that time of year again!  Kids are going back to school, parents are reaching into the depths of their memory banks for knowledge to assist the little ones with their homework assignments, and head lice are getting ready to make things, well, more itchy. This poster, published by Reed & Carnrick, a pharmaceutical company, has tips for preventing the spread of head lice and what to do if you contract the little buggers.

Head lice, or pediculus humanus capitis, feed on human blood and can live on a person’s scalp for up to thirty days.   Adult lice have six legs, are about the size of a sesame seed, and can range in color from tan to a grayish white.  They do not jump or fly, but are spread by direct contact, such as head-to-head contact. Lice can also be spread by wearing clothes worn by an infested person; using combs, brushes, or towels recently used by someone with lice; or laying on an infected person’s bed, pillow, or couch. In addition to that annoying itching sensation on your head, symptoms of having head lice include difficulty sleeping since head lice are most active in the dark.  So, it is true that lice are not nice, but there is no need to panic.  Pediculosis is preventable and curable.

laura on the beach with her dogLaura McNulty is a recent graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is currently working at the National Library of Medicine as a Pathways Student. Beginning September 2013, she will be working as a conservation intern at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, PA.

portrait of Ginny Roth outsideGinny A. Roth is the Curator of Prints & Photographs in the History of Medicine Division at the National Library of Medicine.

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