It's estimated one in 10 children are affected

Parents and guardians are being urged to check head lice, as the new school year approaches.

It's estimated one in 10 children suffer from head lice at any one time, with 80% of infestations occurring in children between the ages of four and 16.

The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) says children should be screened for head lice once a week when they return to school.

Caitriona O'Riordan from the IPU says: "There is no way to completely eliminate the risks of head lice but identifying an infection early will make treating it far easier.

"This will also help prevent the spread of infection through your family, or amongst school friends.

"Our advice to parents is to check their children’s hair regularly, ideally once a week".

She adds: "It is also extremely important to only take treatment if a living, moving louse is found.

"Using head lice products as a preventative measure is not effective, and unnecessarily exposes children to these products."

The IPU has issued the following advice:

  • Check children’s hair for lice regularly, ideally once a week: Use a wet comb made for the purpose. Combing through wet hair makes the process easier. Good light is important
  • Itching and scratching are common signs of head lice: As well as live lice, which crawl around the head, look out for nits. Nits are tiny eggs that may look like dandruff but cannot be flicked off the hair
  • Check close to the scalp, behind the ears, around the nape of the neck, top of the head and under the fringe
  • Treat the hair only if live lice or unhatched eggs are present: Treat the child as soon as possible. Always ask your pharmacist for advice on the most appropriate treatment to use
  • Inform the school, contacts and friends when your child has head lice: The school can then inform other parents that there is an outbreak, so everyone can check and treat their own children