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Dublin: 2 °C Wednesday 19 February, 2020

Pre-treating schoolchildren could cause head lice to mutate, parents warned

Schools generally experience a spike in head lice cases at the start of a new term, as children congregate after months apart…

Image: Wikimedia Commons

PARENTS ARE BEING advised against exposing their children to head lice treatments as a precautionary measure, ahead of the new school term.

The Irish Pharmacy Union says such measures can be counter-productive, causing the lice to modify or mutate — building a resistance to existing treatments.

It’s not unusual for schools to record a spike in cases of head lice at the start of a new term, as children congregate after the long summer break.

But the IPU’s Bernard Duggan says there’s little point in trying to take pre-emptive action.

“Routine screening and early detection is the best and only prevention,” Duggan says.

We are reminding parents that treatments should only be used if there are nits or lice present in a child’s hair.

Research shows that, with the exception of the common cold, head lice affect more school-aged children than all other communicable diseases combined.

It’s estimated that one in ten children suffer from head lice at any given time.

Parents should wet comb their child’s hair regularly to check for lice, according to Duggan — and should inform the school immediately if they detect a case.

“It’s nothing to be embarrassed about, it’s very common.”

Head lice can spread from person to person through hair-on-hair contact — contrary to popular belief, says Duggan, they can’t jump from head to head.

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