Lice: just saying the word is enough to make many people start scratching their heads and looking for someone to do a hair check. With kids, lice can spread quickly and be hard to eradicate. Before you subject your child’s waist-long hair to the clippers, read this to get a better idea of how lice do and do not spread, how to treat an infestation, and how to prevent one.
Basic facts about the spread of lice:
- Lice do not jump:
- Contrary to popular belief, lice cannot jump, do not fly, and have a hard time even walking. They slowly climb down a hair shaft and most times are spread due to the sharing of hats and other headwear, heads bumping together, sharing pillows and other soft things, and generally through bad luck.
- Lice can only live for 1-2 days off of a human host and the eggs will die within 2 weeks.
- Contaminated clothing that can be washed should be machine washed and dried on high heat; this will kill any live adults as well as eggs. Carpets should also be vacuumed. Any soft surfaces that cannot be vacuumed or machine washed should be placed in plastic bags for 2 weeks. This will ensure that there are no live insects or eggs left to spread the infestation.
Preventing and treating infestation:
- Teach your children not to share hats/wigs/hair decorations.
- As lice cannot jump, they need to be knocked off the head of a host or given time to slowly crawl from one head to another for spread to occur. If a hat has been sitting in a box for over two weeks, there is no chance of spread from this object.
- When you hear of an infestation, wash your child’s hats, sweaters, and other articles of clothing and then check their hair for nits and adults.
- If you find any nits or adults, remove them and treat your child’s hair.
- You will need to use an over-the-counter or prescription shampoo or lotion that will kill the insects.
- Following application of the shampoo or lotion, comb the child’s hair with a lice comb to remove any remaining louse bodies and eggs.
- Repeat the treatment for 2-3 days and continue daily head checks for two weeks.
- Be sure to check the rest of the family and follow the recommendations above to delouse your house.
- Be sure to notify your child’s classroom teacher so they can initiate louse prevention strategies at school; you wouldn’t want to put in all of this hard work just to pick up another infestation in a few weeks.
Alternative strategies to prevent infestation:
- Additional steps can be taken to prevent infestation by making your child a less desirable target for lice.
- Use essential oils to deter lice from taking up residence. A few drops of lavender, lemongrass, or other essential oils diluted in grapeseed or olive oil and rubbed into the skin along the child’s hairline can be helpful.
- Keep long hair up but in an easy to undo and redo style for school head checks.
- Try using the essential oils listed above in a spray bottle to spray down your child’s backpack at the end of the school day. Washing that backpack everyday can be a big hassle, but do be sure to wash it at least once during any outbreak.
Remember that lice are an annoyance more than anything. No deadly disease is spread by lice. They cannot jump or fly, and the best defense is a good offense. Staying vigilant, communicating with your child’s teachers, care providers, and friends, and being consistent are the best ways to prevent and treat an infestation.
Feel free to leave questions below, and I will respond to specific circumstances.
To our health!