Newsroom > DHHS News Release

August 16, 2010

Marla Augustine, Communications and Legislative Services, (402) 471-4047 or

NOTE: Audio clips with Dr. Annette Bredthauer are available at

 School’s in Session:  Time to Check for Head Lice

Lincoln—Now that school’s begun, parents should check their young children for head lice on at least a weekly basis, according to Dr. Annette Bredthauer, the state’s medical entomologist with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

“Head lice are common among elementary school students because they have a lot of physical contact with their classmates,” Dr. Bredthauer said.

An estimated 6 to 12 million cases of head lice infestation occur each year in the U.S. in children 3 to 11 years of age, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Lice are reddish-brown wingless insects; lice eggs, or nits, are grayish-white, always oval-shaped and are attached at an angle to the side of the hair shaft. 

The most-used insecticidal louse shampoos or cream rinse products contain pyrethrins or permethrin and are available as over-the-counter products. 

A prescription product that contains malathion or benzyl alcohol can also address head lice, Dr. Bredthauer said.  These products are useful for families who have tried other products but had difficulty in controlling lice.  No matter what product is used, label instructions should be carefully followed to maximize effectiveness.

Dr. Bredthauer offered these tips in combating head lice:

  • Check children and watch for signs of head lice, such as frequent head scratching;
  • Use a medicated shampoo or cream rinse, but remember that all lice-killing products are pesticides and label directions should be followed;
  • After shampooing or conditioning with a treatment product, remove all nits with a comb or fingernails to assure complete removal;
  • Check with your physician before using lice treatment pesticides if the child has allergies, asthma or epilepsy; and
  • Wash bedding and clothing in hot water and dry in a hot dryer.

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