NHS website offering head lice and nits advice reports leap in visits in back to school spike
The number of families needing help with head lice and nits has leapt by more than a third since children returned to school.
Visits to the NHS website that guides parents and carers through treating the insects, most often found crawling in young children’s hair, rose by 34% between the start of the month and last week.
On Monday, September 18 there were 2,196 visits alone – the equivalent to one click for help every 39 seconds.
Head lice and nits are common in families with young children, says the NHS, with youngsters aged four to 11 most likely to be affected.
The insects, which can move between children through head-to-head contact are called the head lice and ‘nits’ is the name given to the empty egg cases attached to the hair that the lice hatch from.
Figures released by NHS England, which runs the NHS website, show there were 12,720 visits to the health advice page on lice and nits between September 15 and 21 compared with 9,524 at the start of the month.
While many parents are often alerted to the possible presence of head lice through letters and emails from their child’s school, symptoms can include an itchy scalp, the feeling that something maybe moving through the hair and finding small white eggs or egg cases, most likely behind the ears or back of the neck, when looking more closely.
Dame Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer for England, said: “Head lice and nits are a common issue, especially among young children and families in close contact with one another.
“Once detected, there is no need to consult a GP but treatment should begin immediately and all household members should be checked and treated to stop further spread.”
The NHS advice covers a range of possible different treatments with the most effective said to be regularly wet combing the hair using conditioner and a special fine-toothed comb until all lice and eggs have been removed.
There is also information on the site related to using medicated lotions and sprays sold in pharmacies and supermarkets.
It can take more than a week of frequent combing to clear a head of lice and any newly-hatched insects, says the guide, with parents and carers reminded to check again on day 17 to ensure the whole family remains clear.