By Annette McLoughlin

About lice… no wait, hear me out. You’re already cringing (and maybe scratching) but if you have young children, it’s information you may one day need to know. And best to learn now, rather than on the fly.

Lice have been around for as long as mankind, and few vermin have gotten under our skin more. They are legendarily irksome, and the facts about them characteristics and their capacity to spread tend to get distorted and irrational. And with good reason: the idea of having bugs crawling around your child’s head is enough to drive the most rational among us, well buggy.

Fortunately, the Rye City School District recently held an informative presentation on head lice, and, if you were unable to attend, I’m itching to pass on what you need to know.

<<The Spotters Guide>>

Lice are usually found on pre-school age and young children.

Those infected almost always show symptoms (the tell-tale itch).

Treatment is recommended only if a person has live lice or viable eggs (nits).

Nits are oblong-shaped and attach to the hair shaft.

Live (unhatched) nits are generally found within 1mm of the scalp.

It takes 7-10 days for nits to hatch and 1-2 weeks for a bug to mature.

They live about a month and lay about 6 eggs a day.

They live anywhere on the scalp but are easiest to spot behind ears and at the back of the neck.

<<Scratchy Facts>>

They require human blood to stay alive.

They cannot survive more than a day without it.

They cannot survive more than a day in room temperature.

Only bugs can be transmitted, not nits.

They do not fly or jump, but do move very quickly.

They don’t carry disease.

The important part – and what the American Academy of Pediatrics, the CDC, the National Association of School Nurses) maintain – is that lice are transmitted primarily from direct, head-to-head contact. Therefore, most transmission happens at home, on sleepovers, and at camps. Not school.

Schools no longer conduct school-wide checks. If a child is found to have lice, parents will pick him or her up at the end of the day and expect the student will be treated at home.


Pesticide shampoos should be used <only> when the presence of live bugs or viable eggs is confirmed. And, while the whole business of nit-picking is tedious and time-consuming, it’s the only sure way to eradicate them. It requires a special lice comb, patience, and a fair amount of fortitude.

That said, having the phone number of a salon that treats lice can be worth the small fortune it can cost to have a professional’s help, and there are a few around Westchester County should you find yourself on the other end of “that call” from the school nurse. The one my family has used (more times that I care to count) has a sign on the wall that has comforted me every time I’ve had to walk through the door: “This too shall pass.”