There are many wonderful things about the fall season and for children, the return to school. But there is at least one thing about the back to school season that is not so wonderful… with the return of fall comes the return of head lice. If you’ve never been through a lice infestation, the first time that you receive that call from the school or find the little pests in your child’s hair yourself can be a nightmare. However, try not to panic. Head lice are no fun, but they are treatable. Here are some tips for preventing and dealing with an infestation.
Prevention. If it’s at all possible to avoid an infestation, that is what you want to do, believe me. A lot of this will depend on your child. First and foremost, be sure to teach her not to share combs, brushes, hats, or anything else that touches the head, with other children. This is a major way that lice are passed from child to child. Another trick you can try is spraying your child’s hair with hairspray before sending them off to school – lice don’t like hair products, apparently. If your child has long hair, sending her to school with her hair done in a braid or bun may help deter the pests. Also, you might try adding a few drops of tea tree oil to the shampoo bottle, as this is a natural deterrent.
Treatment. The accepted treatment for head lice is usually a medicated shampoo that can be purchased over the counter. Rid and Nix are major brands that usually work well. Generally you will have to treat the hair at least twice, because the shampoos do not necessarily kill all the eggs (nits). Following the treatments, you will have to go through your child’s hair with a fine tooth comb (both Rid and Nix provide these with their treatments) and comb out any bugs and nits. For particularly stubborn infestations, your child’s pediatrician can prescribe a stronger formula medicated shampoo. Also, any bedding, stuffed animals, and clothing that have been in contact with the infected child will need to be washed.
Alternative treatments. If you’re skittish about medicated shampoo, you can always simply manually remove the bugs with a fine tooth comb. It’s time consuming, but the truth is that manually removing bugs and nits with a fine tooth comb is going to factor in to any head lice treatment, so if you want to skip the shampoos, it’s ok to go directly to this step. There are numerous other “natural” treatments – and I personally have had success with the mayonnaise treatment – but these are not guaranteed and are not typically recommended by pediatricians.
Remember that head lice are not a reflection on cleanliness (lice typically like clean, untreated hair). While aggravating, lice are a common enough occurrence among small children. Your best bet is to not panic: Do what you need to do to get rid of the problem and try your best to avoid a reinfestation while remembering that lice don’t carry diseases or cause health problems. It’s not the most fun part of parenting, but your child isn’t in any physical danger if she comes home with head lice.