Janitorial Can Assist when Head Lice Becomes a Local Issue

Download: Pediculosis Janitorial Overview Sheet

From the CDCHead lice are inappropriately associated with poor hygiene. This creates a stigma for students which is undeserved. In the past, over-concern kept students from their studies for days waiting for "nit-free" hair.

These specialized creatures have evolved over eons to live in human hair close to the scalp. It has only been in the past century that effective control of head lice has become common.


Direct contact with the hair of someone who has pediculosis is the normal method of transport, not failures of personal hygiene. Once infected, you can wash hair very carefully, coat it with petroleum jelly, shave it to the head and add mayonnaise - and you will end up with short, shiny, odd-smelling hair - that has head lice. Hair-to-hair contact is the main mechanism, and a fact of normal life for children. In a small portion of cases, laying on bedding or fabric with live adult lice is a possible method of infection.

Head lice are so specialized, they will not live off the hair near the scalp more than about 12 to 24 hours.

In Kansas and Missouri schools, the state policies as well as those of 97% of individual districts is to allow children back into school after treatment has begun. Plant-derived natural insecticides (permethrins and pyrethrins) are used in shampoos to kill the lice. This can take awhile to work completely, because lice have become increasingly more resistant. 


Adult lice and nymphs (juveniles that can't produce eggs)  that are moving slowly after a day or so will die. Occasionally a second washing is required. Make sure to read and follow package directions. In January 2011, the FDA approved another product, Natroba, which relies on the active ingredient spinosad, derived from a naturally occurring bacterium that FDA found safe for patients older than four years.

A "nit comb" is used to remove eggs (nits) attached to the hair. Nymphs and adults comb out at the same time, because they are larger than the nits.

Most districts act from an existing plan of monitoring, identifying and requiring treatment as needed.


Should the outbreak come to the attention of the community or a particular school and be identified as an issue, janitorial can assist:

1. Loose blankets and fabrics can be laundered. Temperatures above 130 degrees for 5 minutes are necessary.

2. Claire's Lice, Bed Bug and Dust Mite spray (CL006) is safe for application to fabrics (like chairs) and even clothes. A treatment of clothing lasts about 2 weeks. This product has the added benefit of reducing dust mites, a major allergen-producing factor in schools that contributes to asthma. Follow label instructions.

3. Vacuuming with HEPA filtration removes lice adults and nymphs. Remove bags after each vacuuming from the building to trash bins.