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Pest Control Companies Should Not Treat for Head Lice

Head Lice Are a Medical Problem, Not a Pest Control Problem

searchin child's hair for head lice
Head lice are rarely found off of their host, which is why they are a medical problem.
Photo by CDC

When head lice infest children in a school that you service, the principal or school administrators may pressure you to spray or "fog" to eliminate wandering lice. Parents, teachers, and even the principal of the school often assume the school is infested, rather than the children.

Or, you might be called by a parent whose child has been sent home with head lice. She wants you to treat the home so that no one else in the family gets lice.

Resist the calls to apply insecticides. Head lice are a medical and social problem, not a pest control problem.

Head lice are rarely found off of their host. They must feed frequently to survive. Any that are off their host will die within 48 hours, and certainly over a weekend. Vacuuming, laundering, and other sanitation measures provide better control of lice and nits off of the host than do insecticides.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), epidemiological studies show that most transmissions of head lice occur by direct person-to-person contact, not through the environment. CDC, the National Pediculosis Association (NPA), and the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) all recommend against insecticide treatment of premises for head louse control.

The control of head lice is a joint responsibility between the parents, the children, and the school.

Supply Information, Not Insecticides

What should you do when asked to help control head lice? Provide information instead of insecticide application. You can build good will by doing so.

Explain the life cycle of head lice, and how they are transmitted. Help the school develop a louse control policy. Tell your clients about the following web pages, or print them out and give them to your school accounts to help them deal with head lice.

The Facts of Lice is a simple, general information sheet on head louse biology and habits designed for students, parents, and even teachers.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has a fact sheet-- Head Lice Infestation on their website (www.cdc.gov).

The Harvard School of Public Health has a Head Lice Information Fact Sheet available on their website (www.hsph.harvard.edu).

The website address of the National Pediculosis Association is www.headlice.org.

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