It often starts with a form letter from school. "Head lice have been found in your child�s class." You know your child has good personal hygiene, but a quick check reveals tiny white nits or light-brown lice.

Enough to drive you buggy

Fortunately, with a trip to the chemist and some patient work, head lice (Pediculosis capitis) are readily treatable at home. Head lice do not transmit disease or have any lasting effects. But unless treated properly, this itchy infestation can become a recurring problem.

Lice are tiny, wingless insects (a millimetre or two in length) that feed on the human scalp. They are easily killed with a variety of over-the-counter shampoos and other treatments. But when a louse lays an egg, called a nit, it is glued to a hair. This ensures that the newly-hatched louse will be near food when it emerges. Nits are so small and their glue so strong they cannot be combed out. And unless all nits are removed, lice will reappear.

An elementary problem

Head lice are most often a problem for elementary school-age children. The reason is simple. Children that age often share combs, brushes and hair decorations. They may also share hats and scarves. When not wearing them, they leave these articles in close proximity, making it easy for lice to spread.

The full treatment

� After shampooing, rinse the entire head thoroughly with white vinegar. The acetic acid in the vinegar dissolves the cement holding eggs to the hair.

� Use an over-the-counter head lice preparation to kill the lice. Read and follow the directions carefully.

� Rinse the hair thoroughly once more with vinegar to dislodge nits.

� Get rid of all remaining nits. You�ll need to use a fine-toothed comb (sometimes provided with the lice treatment) and patiently comb out the entire head of hair.

� Repeat treatment with the de-lousing preparation in a week to ten days. If nits are still present, repeat the vinegar rinse and comb out.

� To prevent re-infestation, wash your child�s bedding and clothes in the hottest water.

It�s A Lousy Job – Head lice require proper treatment & persistent nit-picking possible and dry at high heat. It is the heat, not the soap and water, that gets rid of lice.

� Soak your child�s combs and hair brushes in hot water (at least 150 degrees F.). They should be soaked for at least five minutes.

� Vacuum carpets, mattresses, pillows, upholstered furniture, even car seats.

Eliminating lice is not an overnight job. But with today�s effective treatments and careful, patient nit-picking, it�s one problem you can manage at home.