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‘Check for this parasite’: health officer warns about head lice

With head lice more resistant than ever to traditional treatments and the new school year just weeks away, the territory’s deputy chief public health officer is warning parents about the parasite.

Head lice are tiny, wingless parasitic insects that live among human hairs and feeds on small amounts of blood from the scalp.

The parasite is commonly found in children, especially when they go back to school or if they are in a day care.

“They can be found on anyone,” said Dr. Kami Kandola, the territory’s deputy chief public health officer. “It’s not a matter of hygiene or socioeconomic status and it can be found in clean or dirty hair.”

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The most common way to catch head lice is through head-to-head contact, such as through the sharing of hats or combs.

Children with long hair are being told to tie it back, even though lice don’t hop or fly. Lice don’t always cause itching, however, so parents should be extra observant.

“What we recommend, especially when kids go back to school, is that parents check their kids to check for this parasite everyday,” said Kandola.

“You can check by using a fine-tooth comb which we call a nit comb. When you’re washing their hair, check to see for a little grey insect.”


Several studies in recent years have shown that head lice are becoming resistant to insecticides found in commonly used anti-lice shampoos and ointments.

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In fact, according to a 2014 study by Journal of Medical Entomology, “super lice” now account for 97.1 per cent of lice cases in Canada.

“What we recommend now based on this resistance is if people do see lice in people’s hair that they use the products that are recommended which are Nix or Kwellada if they’re over two years old,” said Kandola.

Kandola says it’s important to use a nit comb every day for seven to 10 days and apply a second treatment while monitoring for live lice.

Stronger treatment options are available if the aforementioned products don’t work, but health officials recommend using over-the-counter treatments first.

Should you find lice in your children’s hair, parents are urged to check everyone in the family.

Kandola added: “Parents can wash their personal belongings and check the other family members so if a child does come home with lice they can check the other family members because it’s important for everyone to be treated at the same time so the child doesn’t catch lice a second time.”

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