14 May Avoid Camp Lice Outbreaks Before, During, and After Camp This Summer!
Have a Plan For, But Don’t Worry About Camp Lice
Camp is an amazing experience! You try new things, make new friends, and gain independence, and you don’t want anything to hinder that experience—especially camp lice! Likewise, the last thing a camp director or owner wants to do on the first day of camp is call the parents. And especially not for the approval of a camp lice treatment.
Lice Screening Before Camp
Camps are doing everything they can to avoid the annoying disruption of lice. But with lice outbreaks on the rise during the school year throughout the US and abroad, it gets more challenging. Camps hire lice services to screen campers a few times during the summer. Many camps require campers to get professional lice check before camp. And even still, some camps strongly suggest that parents automatically do a pre-camp lice treatment. Like schools, most day camps will not hire a lice service unless there’s a lice issue. Therefore, we recommend combing head checks every other week, just like during the school year.
No one wants lice, and no one wants to share it, especially at camp. The Center for Lice Control (CLC) has some suggestions on how to effectively control lice outbreaks before, during, and after camp this year.
Pre-camp lice treatment
makes zero sense, and here’s why. The one suggested treatment is not enough to get rid of lice if a camper already has them. Within a week or two, that camper’s case will incubate and the next generation of lice will hatch. Then that camper will potentially be sharing it with their friends and counselors. This approach could work at a camp that has only 1-week sessions, but the lice would then follow the camper home or to the next camp, further spreading the problem. So the CLC does not recommend doing a pre-camp lice treatment.
A pre-camp professional head check
is the best way to make sure your camper is not going to show up to camp with a contagious case of lice. You can check your child visually for lice or nits, but they are designed by nature to not be found easily, and therefore it’s easy to miss them, especially if you’re not sure what to look for. Even if you do know what lice and nits look like, you risk missing a case of lice in its early stages because there’s not much to see yet. A professional combing head check is much more thorough and can reveal a case of lice at a very early stage. If lice or nits are found, you can use safe and effective treatment options to take care of it. Also, if you did have lice during the previous school year, a good professional combing head check can clean up any empty or non-viable nit casings that remain.
First-time campers should most certainly get a professional head check before arriving at their new home away from home. It’s not fun when the first activity of a child’s summer camp career is being treated for lice instead of bonding with their new friends and counselors. So make sure you have your new camper checked to prevent this from happening.
The CLC gives a certificate to certify that on the day of the check that camper had no evidence of lice or nits. However, be aware that between the day of the pre-camp lice check and the first day of camp your camper can be exposed to lice from hugs, sharing brushes, or sleepovers with someone who has lice. It takes 14–20 days for a case of lice to become contagious, so if a camper was exposed to lice a few days before arriving at camp, it is likely that even a professional head checker from a lice service could miss the few nits that may be on the hair. Nits are very small and difficult to detect, especially when there are hundreds of heads to check in a short period of time.
Here’s the deal
Generally, it can take 2–3 weeks for an infestation to incubate and become contagious and finally visible. Most lice services screen campers visually for lice a few days during the summer: on the first day of camp, 3–4 weeks later, after visiting day (so they can blame any outbreak on visitors, even though it was most likely missed on the first day), and before the kids go home. If a case is missed on the first day of camp, which is very possible, it may not show up until week 2 or 3, and by then it will likely have spread to other campers and counselors. The lice cases you may find on the first day are isolated cases, but the cases you find beyond that could become a full-blown outbreak. The more time between head checks, the larger the outbreak could be.
The Center for Lice Control and its founder, Ilene “the Lice Queen” Steinberg, have worked with many overnight camps during the past 12 years. As a result of this experience we recommend the following for a camp head check schedule:
- Pre-camp lice check during the week before the camper leaves for camp
- First day of camp as kids get off buses
- 7–10 days into camp, check entire camp again
- Check camp again in another 7–10 days
- A few days after visiting day or after trips
- 3–4 days before kids go home
- Combing head check for peace of mind when campers return home
Lice control during camp
is up to your child but ultimately out of their hands. Kids get lice for all the right reasons—snuggling, hugging, and being close with their friends. Essentially, all the reasons you’re sending your children to camp in the first place. But some activities, such as sharing hairbrushes, can be unnecessary lice risks. So we recommend that your camper never share their hairbrush and avoid letting others detangle or style their hair to minimize the chances of getting lice.
If you have hair on your head, you are at risk for lice! Lice prevention products are not reliable. Lice deterrents are effective only for a few hours, if at all, so you’re better off with a good detangler to use to put hair up.
Avoiding a lice outbreak at camp is difficult but doable. Be sure your camper receives a good combing head check before they arrive. The Center for Lice Control is booking pre- and post-camp lice checks now. We also have KaPOW! Camp Lice Control Kits for sale that your camper can take to camp. Give us a call at 610-324-5661 to schedule your pre-camp combing lice check. Have a safe and amazing summer!
if you find evidence of lice or nits you must treat. Lice will not go away by themselves. We have a nit ID program so if you find something and you’re not sure what you’re looking at you can take a picture of it and text it to our lice hotline 610-324-5661. Call to schedule an appointment with our lice service or stop into our new Center for Lice Control Salon located at 68 W. Eagle Road, Havertown, PA 19083.
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