Contact Tracing: Head Lice Treatment Tactics

There has been a lot of talk on TV and in the press about contact tracing and the Covid-19 pandemic. This coverage has focussed on how it can help to reduce and contain the transmission of the virus in the community.  

What is Contact Tracing?

Contact tracing is a term used to describe a method of tracking the development of a virus/disease through person to person contact. It helps identify the source through charting the journey the virus/disease has taken. When the source is identified, steps can be taken to limit further spread.

The contact tracing process: an example

In terms of Covid-19, contact tracing is all about initially identifying each person with Covid-19. Tracing involves working out who those people have been in contact with over a period of 2 to 3 weeks. The next step is approaching those people to assess if they have symptoms of the Coronavirus. If they do, all their contacts will be traced. 

Put simply, contact tracing consists of detective work at its most basic. Contact tracing is extremely valuable in understanding the transmission of the virus amongst social networks.  

Using contact tracing to treat head lice infestations

When treating head lice infestations we also use contact tracing tactics. Contact tracing is a vital part of treating head lice infestations. It helps our clients to work out where they might have caught their head lice from in the first place. 

Contact tracing for any head lice infestation or virus is about understanding that timings are important in working out where it might have been contracted and from whom.  

When a client first comes to us we ask these questions: 

  • When did you find the infestation? 
  • What have you found?
  • What have you done (and when) to combat it so far?

That information can give us a sense of timings. This is then combined with the knowledge the Hairforce acquires when extracting the infestation from the hair. Valuable information includes the volume of eggs and the volume of head lice found. 

For average infestations a timeline can be constructed. The client needs to review their movements, including any social interactions, trips, camps, sleepovers, friendships etc.   

They should then contact those close to the person with head lice so they too can be checked and see if they have them and can be cleared. 

If someone has a heavy infestation (evidence that head lice have been in the hair for a long time) it can make identifying where they caught it much harder. Heavy infestations also mean that the person will be infesting others around them too. This is because the heavier an infestation, the more likely head lice will crawl off the head and onto someone else.  

Our clients then need to work out who they may have given head lice to. They must ensure they don’t get too close to them to catch it again. Ideally, they should warn those people to check and clear any head lice found as well.

Staying free of head lice with contact tracing

This contact tracing process can help our clients in two ways. Identifying each person your child has recently come into close contact with can give clues to where the head lice may have come from in the first place. It can also be a tool to help your child stay lice free. 

If you can work out who might have it then keeping your child’s hair away from them is a way to protect against catching it again.

  • Sleepovers: If they caught it at a sleepover, don’t have another sleepover with that child until everyone is thoroughly cleared  
  • Camp: If they go to camp, then nit comb your child the day they come home from the camp so next time they don’t bring it back home with them
  • School: If the head lice originated from your child’s close group of friends at school, everyone needs to tie their hair back and clear their infestations at the same time
  • Holiday: If you caught it on the plane coming back from your long-haul holiday then check the airplane seats next time before you settle in for the flight

Be detective like when you think of your children’s lives. That effort will help you work out where it came from and then how to stay head lice free.

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