This year has been characterised by a particularly high diffusion of lice among children in Rome, which began promptly at the start of the school term in January, reached its peak in May and is on the rise again this month, much to the chagrin of parents.
Lice are in fact more active during the warmer months and so spread more effectively in summer, from scholar to scholar and then on to siblings and parents at home.
The most vulnerable age group is the 6-11 year olds as they are more likely to engage in activities that allow prolonged head-to-head contact. Childrens coats kept in a pile or on adjacent hooks at school makes it possible for lice to crawl from coat to coat and so enter another childs scalp.
Interestingly, women are also more prone to contract head lice than males as they are also more likely to engage in close contact (hugging, comforting, nurturing) than men.
Lice have no wings nor can they jump but make use of their six claws that are ideal to grasp human hair. The female lives for about 17-22 days, laying about 10 eggs daily on the hair shaft, as close as possible to the scalp.
If your child complains of having an itchy head, find a location with good light (preferably direct sunlight) to inspect the hair. Remove any tangles from the hair and divide into sections, examining carefully from the scalp to the end of hair using a lice comb. Check for the presence of tiny white eggs on the base of the hair (try with a magnifying glass) or lice themselves you will not usually find more than 5 to 10. There are good products on the market to speedily resolve this pernicious problem.
Catching lice is not connected with hygiene or having long hair. It is a common myth that cutting your childs hair will help to solve the problem. Nor is it true that one can contract lice from pets as the head louse is exclusively a human parasite. While other mammals and birds do indeed have lice, they are species-specific.