Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Lice Get a Head Start on the Holidays

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Lice Get a Head Start on the Holidays

Article excerpt

They're back: those creepy, crawly, sesame seed-size lice.

They have arrived in public and private schools and area homes just in time for the holidays.

Temple Israel's Deutsch Early Childhood Center in Creve Coeur sent five children home Wednesday because of lice. Solomon Schechter Day School in west St. Louis County sent 10 children home last week. Children have gone home with lice in recent months from the Community School in Ladue, the Wilson School in Clayton, Flynn Park School in University City, parochial schools in south St. Louis County and public schools in districts such as Clayton, Ladue and Parkway. There are signs that lice are becoming resistant to some chemical treatments. This year lice have appeared in some schools that are not used to dealing with the problem. "Lice don't care what socio-economic group you are in," said Marge Borst, a nurse epidemiologist for the Missouri bureau of communicable disease control. "This starts every September and seems to pick up around the holidays." Figures for how many people have lice are hard to find in St. Louis, St. Louis County and Missouri. Borst said there were too many phone calls and too many numbers to track. Area health officials say that lice reports have increased in private and public schools and nursery schools but have not reached an epidemic level. For example, in St. Louis County, reports of a case or cluster of cases rose to 365 reports so far this year from 187 in 1992. Health officials estimate that 10 million children nationwide get head lice each year. Head lice suck blood from the scalp, especially behind the ears and at the nape of the neck. An itch is one of the first symptoms. Lice don't cause great harm, but they are uncomfortable and hard to get rid of. People who scratch their bites can get infections, which can cause glands to swell. A 6-year-old girl in Olivette complained to her mother of itching the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Nurses at Solomon Schechter had taught her to recognize symptoms of lice. Her mother, who asked to remain unnamed, found grayish-white oval lice eggs, or nits, attached to her daughter's hair. The mother began treatment and called the girl's playmates. "It was very stressful," said the mother, 47. "Some people were nice and thanked me for calling. Others acted as if I were accusing them of giving my daughter head lice." The woman notified Solomon Schechter. Nurses from a school health program examined the hair of each of the school's 193 children in grades kindergarten through six. They found lice in 10 children and sent them home. The children were allowed to return to school when they had no more nits, a policy that most schools follow. A second lice check Friday by nurses and volunteers at Solomon Schechter found no nits. They plan to do another check in January after the winter break. …

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