This wonderful time of year is known here in the states as "Back-To-School
" season (or to us adults, "Why are there notebooks EVERYWHERE?") and one thing that plagues all the children television is the lice episode. You know, the one where every kids character gets lice and probably into some mischief.
Kids don't have to get lice. Believe it or not, it's not like the chicken pox where once a kid gets it, every child within 20 miles gets it. (Though, these days there is a vaccine for chicken pox so it's probably not like that anymore. Am I showing my age?)
Anyway, here are some tips for keeping your child lice free, even if there's an outbreak at their school.
What Lice Are
Lice are little critters that make a home on your head and feed off your blood. They have six legs with claws that keep them attached to the hair. They usually hang around the back of the head and behind the ears but can occupy any part of the scalp. They don't fly but do lay eggs that they secure to hair follicles with a glue-like secretion. Sorry I just grossed you out.
How They Spread
Like I said above, lice can't fly so you need to have head contact with someone that has them. It's probably why children are more susceptible to them - they don't develop a sense of personal sense until high school age. Adults can get them too, however. Everyone is an easy target regardless of hair type, race or hygiene habits.
Direct head-to-head contact isn't the only way to get them. Using something that has live lice on it would also transfer them to your hair. Like a hairbrush. More on that below.
So How Do You Stop It
My one disclaimer is that there's no guarantee to prevent lice. And there's nothing stopping you from getting it multiple times. Unlike chicken pox, getting lice once doesn't vaccinate you for the rest of your life. However, these tips should help keep you and your child safer and better off by addressing the areas lice thrive.
Contain the hair
Keeping hair close to your head is the way to go. Keep long hair up in a ponytail, braids or bun to keep it from getting into contract with someone else's. This would be a great time to browse pinterest
for all the crazy styles.
Use hairspray to keep hair close to the head and from becoming wild. Hair gel for shorter hair works well.
Keep an eye out for your child scratching their head or waking up complaining about itching. Also watch for the same in any friends that come over. There's no need to lice-check every time someone comes through the door but an itchy head is a pretty big sign of lice or the need for new shampoo.
Your child may be confused by the sudden selfishness but by sharing common objects that come into contact with the head lice have an easy taxi from host to host. Items include:
HatsHeadphonesBrushes and combsHeadbands, hair ties, scarves and other accessoriesPillows
Explaining this one to your kid is up to you but cutting back on the sharing will decrease the chances of catching the bugs.
Take a Peek
It doesn't hurt to check your child every week or so to make sure they're still good to go. This can catch an outbreak early and interrupt new eggs from hatching. Catching is easy to do.
1. Lather hair with conditioner
2. Comb through with a lice or nit comb
3. Wipe off comb every few strokes
4. Inspect towel for brownish eggs or bugs
You can also do a visual check if you have good lighting. Inspect around the ears and pay attention to where the hair shafts meet the scalp. Eggs are brown while a louse (a single bug) can be clear or caramel in color to better blend into the hair. They're fast too and the size of sesame seeds.
Lice is actually a really boring ailment and I say that in the best way. They aren't known for spreading diseases and their bite isn't as annoying as mosquitoes. The stigma behind them is mostly unfounded. Hygiene has nothing to do with who can contract lice, nor does social standing. They're mostly just troublesome.
That said, if you or your child has come down with a head case, you've got options.
Over The Counter
Most over-the-counter treatments involve a leave-in shampoo that stuns and kills lice and their eggs that you have to reapply after a week. Combing once a night is required to remove the lice from the hair and the second application kills any that manage to hatch after the first wash.
Because lice shampoos are pretty intense, some prefer going natural when removing lice. These treatments ultimately "stun" the lice and you comb them out much in the same way as the other treatments but without the harsh chemicals.
- Apply olive or almond oil
to the scalp and hair. Work in sections and go through the hair thoroughly with a lice or nit comb. Make sure to have good light in order to see. Rinse the comb under hot water as you go. Wash with regular shampoo afterward and sanitize the comb. Repeat every night for a week. Continue to comb through for two weeks afterwards.
Essential Oils - Some essential oils are said to help kill off lice. Mix 15 to 20 drops with 2 ounces of olive oil or 4 ounces of rubbing alcohol. Apply to scalp in a spray bottle and leave in for 12 hours. This is to suffocate the lice and unfortunately they can hold their breath for a long time. Cover hair with a shower cap if you're doing an overnight treatment to keep from ruining your pillow. Comb through afterwards, then shampoo and comb through again.
Oils to use:
Test a small amount of oil on the back of your child's hand to make sure they don't have an allergy against the oil first. That would be bad.
Apple Cider Vinegar and Coconut Oil
- Rinse hair with apple cider vinegar
and allow it to air dry. Apply a coat of coconut
or olive oil to the scalp and hair. Cover with a shower cap and leave for 12 hours. Comb through the hair, wash out with shampoo and comb through again.
If none of that suits you or you're looking for something you don't want to mix yourself, we have natural lice and nit treatments
on our site that use enzymes that break the pests down without the toxic effects of pesticides.
Unfortunately, lice these days have a pretty resistant nature to the treatment being used against them. While some call them "super lice", that's more of an over-frightening term for regular adaptation. If you don't see any change of behavior in the lice after the first week of treatment or the first application of an over-the-counter treatment, you should see a doctor or dermatologist. They have more powerful ways of dealing with them not available commercially.
Make sure to wash all bedding, clothes and even toys that may have been in contact with your child while they had lice. You don't want their favorite teddy bear giving it back to them. Wash all clothes and sheets in hot water and dry on high for at least ten minutes. Sanitizing brushes and combs or other hair accessories in hot (130 degrees Fahrenheit) water or in a bleach solution should do it. For objects like headphones or other things you're not sure how to clean, you can seal them in a plastic bag and put them in a freezer overnight. Keep them sealed for two weeks to suffocate any left over bugs. And don't forget to vacuum thoroughly. A human can lose a lot of hairs per day.
Over all, you can see lice is majorly inconvenient but not life-threatening. If you child does get lice, there may have to be some bribery involved during tedious combing sessions but otherwise they should stay happy and healthy. You could always take the easiest method and go bald. Hey, it's a look.
Did you learn as much about lice as I did? Sorry about that. Tell me what you'd rather read about next week on our Facebook
. I'd love to hear what you're doing to prepare for the school year. And tune in next week for another health-filled article!