How to Prevent Head Lice
Last week, I received a letter from Gabriella’s school stating that there have been reports of head lice at school.
My heart sank.
My stomach wrenched and as I read through the entire letter, I slowly started to freak out while bile erupted in my throat, okay, maybe not that last part.
Regardless, the pictures I researched after reading the letter definitely caused nausea.
It really gave me a swift kick in the rear end. It was an exact realization that head lice are a part of early school life, and quite frankly, it scares the heck out of me.
How Do I Prevent Them?
Well, I went through my entire school career without it. I remember nervously sitting there while a teacher carefully prodded my hair with a gloved hand that brandied a wooden apparatus.
Thankfully, always getting a clear.
Well, I’m a huge advocate for prevention and awareness. Yes, even when it comes to pests, if you missed my post on bedbugs, you can find it here.
I believe prevention can aid in avoiding many a headache. Especially when it comes to illnesses AND parasites.
I’m going to share with you my tips on what I’ve been doing to keep my home head lice free.
1. Do Your Research
The head louse’s scientific term is Pediculus humanus capitis. There are 3 forms of head lice: nits, nymphs and mature adults.
Contrary to popular belief, lice do not fly. They are insects and are spread through close contact. Lice crawl onto clothing and other personal items and move onto a new host.
They then lay eggs, and spread the infestation.
What Do Lice Look Like?
Nits are essentially lice eggs. You can find them attached to the hair shaft. They can often be confused with dandruff or hair styling product residue. If you see one, you can use your nail to try to remove it. If it’s dandruff, it usually falls off but, if it’s a nit, it sticks.
Nits take about a week to hatch, once they do, they’re known as nymphs. They are usually tan in colour. This is their immature form and they mature in about 9-12 days.
Once they’ve matured, they are roughly the size of 2 to 3 mm and are often compared to the size of a sesame seed. I’ve seen them a bit larger, to be honest. These lice will move from the head shaft to the scalp to essentially feed to survive.
If they are feeding, they can live for up to a month. If not, they usually die within 2 days.
2. Know How to Detect Head Lice
Once you know what you are looking for be meticulous and persistent in checking your child’s hair at least once a week.
They may not like it but, I’m sure they would like those critters in their hair much less.
I go as far as quickly checking my eldest’s hair every day in the morning as I do her hair. Make sure to check the back of the head and behind the ears. It is said to be a favourite hiding spot for these buggers.
Do Quick Checks
I usually look out for anything out of the norm. During the winter months, the scalp tends to be dryer and may cause flakes. Ensure that those “flakes” really result from a dry scalp by pulling it down the hair’s shaft.
If it is a flake, it will come off but, if it’s a nit–it won’t budge. Know the signs. If you notice that your child is continuously scratching their head or back of the neck, make sure to check for lice.
You can check by using a fine tooth comb and parting the hair in sections.
Look for tell-tale signs of lice, which are an itchy scalp, red spots on scalp or any rash-like bumps on the back of the neck.
If you do find these, it is a sign of infestation and you will have to treat your child’s hair. It is also advised that you quarantine everything your child has had contact with and disinfect it appropriately.
3. Don’t Share Personal Items
Make sure you teach your children to avoid sharing hats, hairbrushes, or sweaters. Teach them that some things just aren’t meant to be shared.
Advise them to store their coats in their own locker/cubby instead of piling them with other kids’ belongings. Lice can live on the belongings of a host for a couple of days.
Lice cannot jump on them but, transfer from direct head to head to contact from your child or with kids who have lice.
Advise them to keep their heads away from other people, simply said.
Kids will be kids, and they shouldn’t live in fear. If you know your child’s school has a lice outbreak, make sure to remind them to steer clear until the school gives a green light.
3. Sterilize Often
Clean all objects that your child uses on a regular basis. This is usually a normal protocol for us moms anyway.
Include sheets, pillowcases, combs, hairbrushes, hats etc. If your child has sleepovers or attends one, make sure he/she has their own sleeping bag and pillow.
When they come home, bag them and wash them at your earliest convenience. As aforementioned, this is what you’d most likely do anyways.
4. Put Tea Tree Oil in Your Shampoo or Buy Lice-Killing Shampoos
I think one of the most inexpensive ways to deter lice is to buy Tea Tree Oil and but 5-6 drops into your shampoo bottle.
This is good for the whole family.
It doesn’t smell bad and once you dry your hair the smell is very minimal. There’s something about it that lice really don’t like.
I happily use it hoping that if my kids come home with lice, they may not want to make my head their new home.
Use Natural Options or Lice Repelling Shampoo
They have fatty acids that break down the exoskeletons of the lice and kill them. You can also try shampoos and conditioners that contain tea tree oil, menthol or eucalyptus oil, lavender oil, lemongrass oil, rosemary oil and citronella.
They don’t like the smell and are less likely to stick around.
There are many shampoos on the market for both children and adults, and there are many to choose from. They also make conditioners, de-tangler sprays and styling gels. I used to use Zippity Doos but, they went out of business.
There are other brands make natural shampoos and conditioners that won’t hurt your kids.
5. Use Lice Preventing Spray
One of the things that I have used to prevent head lice from entering our home is lice preventing spray.
I stockpiled ZippityDoo’s spray that you can spray on backpacks and clothes. This same line also sells hair spray and gel that prevents lice and is all-natural. Unfortunately, ZippityDoos is not on the market anymore.
If you can’t find this brand in particular, I know that there are many brands out there that sell similar products.
Once you choose a brand, you can get the spray to at least protect their bags and coats so that lice doesn’t hitch a ride into your home.
6. Treat Lice
Just know that with school-aged children. This is VERY common, there is a stigma behind head lice since yes, they are gross.
Just know that head lice don’t choose “dirty” people. Lice don’t discriminate and actually prefer clean hair.
If you can’t prevent head lice and your child comes home with it, don’t fret. You can effectively get rid of lice with the proper treatment at home.
Treating head lice requires using lice killing shampoo. Be sure to follow the instructions thoroughly. Apply the treatment over a sink, fully clothes, and avoid getting the treatment anywhere else on your body.
Clean Your Home Thoroughly
To clean your home, use hot water and hot heat when laundering anything you or your child have been in contact with. Vacuum rugs, upholstery, and floors to pick up any hair that might have eggs.
Lice and nits die when they’re exposed to temps higher than 130 F for more than 5 minutes. If the item cannot be laundered, bag them and seal them in a bag for two weeks.
Enjoy Your Life
Most importantly, LIVE your life and be happy! It doesn’t take me very long to do quick little checks and they have become a part of our daily routine.
It doesn’t take over our lives. Lice infestations may happen or may never happen. The more you know the better!
Since I received the school newsletter about other kids having lice, I have been using a lice-scaring shampoo that is an all-natural, mild shampoo safe to use every day on children’s hair.
It is made with natural ingredients, including Lemongrass, Rosemary, Geranium Extracts, Tea Tree Oil, Ginger and Lavender, which helps keep those suckers away.
We’ve used the shampoo and it has helped in preventing lice but, I’ve also followed the all these ways to prevent head lice tips as well.
But, I will continue to try to prevent from having to deal with it and you can too!
Lets not even give them the chance.
How do you prevent head lice?
Let me know, til then, cheers m’deres!
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Nancy Polanco is a freelance journalist, lifestyle content creator, and editor of Whispered Inspirations. She is a proud Mom to Gabby and Michaela, and wife to Darasak. Having worked as part of a health care team for almost a decade, Nancy is happy to be back to her passion. She is a contributor to the Huffington Post, TODAY’s Parents, and an Oprah Magazine Brand Ambassador.