Dealing with head lice is an unfortunate part of life when you have kids at school. Some tips on how to prevent head lice infestations and how to manage it when it does happen.
Dealing with head lice was one of my least favourite parts of parenting when my children were small. Unfortunately it is just something that you have to deal with when you have children, particularly when your kids are in the early years of primary school. My heart would always sink when a note came home from school that head lice had been detected in the school and that all children needed their hair checked. Prevention has always been my preferred method for dealing with head lice but sometimes, despite your best efforts, you also will need to deal an outbreak.
If your child has long hair then make sure to tie it back before school into a ponytail, plait or braid. I would spray my children’s hair with my Homemade Hair Detangler or a water spray bottle with 6-8 drops of either Tea Tree Essential Oil or Eucalyptus Essential Oil added whilst styling it. I have found that using either tea tree or eucalyptus essential oils are a good deterrent to head lice.
A light coating of hair spray on the hair might also help deter lice from being able to cling on the hair shafts. Encourage your child to never share hats or hair brushes with other children at school.
READ MORE: How to make your own DIY Homemade Hair Detangler
Checking for Head Lice
If a note has come home from that head lice has been detected in your child’s class then you will need check your child’s head for signs of head lice and nits (the lice eggs). Your child might feel itchy or be scratching their head if they have picked up head lice. However not all children will feel any itchiness, particularly if it’s in the early days of an infestation. Which is why it is important to thoroughly check their head.
Nits (the lice eggs) are easier to spot than live lice. Live nits (yet to be hatched) are often a dark brown or black colour and will be attached to individual strands of hair close to the scalp. Already hatched nits might be a little further down the hair strand and a lighter colour. Look for nits particularly in the areas behind the ears and at the nape of the neck.
The most effective way to check for head lice is to smother the hair with hair conditioner and divide into sections. Then using a special head lice comb (purchase from any chemist) to comb each section thoroughly, pressing the comb against the scalp. Clean the comb between each stroke on a piece of paper towel or a tissue. You should be able to see if you have removed any lice or eggs.
Treating Head Lice
If you detect any signs of head lice then you will need to treat your child and ideally the rest of your family. There are two main options for treating; either chemical treatments available at any chemist or the conditioner and combing method.
Chemical Head Lice Treatments
There are a wide variety of chemical treatments available, and new ones becoming available all the time. Unfortunately head lice are becoming resistant to chemical treatments so it’s important to check that lice are dead afterwards. Whilst there are some chemical treatments that advertise that you will only need one treatment, the most effective method is to treat again one week later. This will kill again new lice that have hatched from existing eggs in the hair and break the life-cycle.
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Conditioner and Comb Treatment
This method is preferred by a lot of parents, particularly as it avoids the need for strong chemicals. As described above when checking for head lice, you will need a head lice comb and any type of conditioner.
- Smother the hair with conditioner, making sure you have covered the scalp and along the hair. Let the conditioner sit for at least 10-15 minute to suffocate the head lice. A shower cap could be useful to prevent drips.
- Then divide the hair into section and comb the hair with a head lice comb, starting at the scalp and going all the way to end of the hair.
- Wipe the comb clean on paper towel or a tissue and check for any lice or eggs. Comb the whole head at least twice.
- Repeat the conditioner and combing treatment daily or no longer than every two to three days for two weeks and until there are no longer any signs of lice or eggs.
As well as treating your child’s head, I would hot wash any hats, pillow cases, towels, clothes and special cuddle toys their head might have been resting against in the last 48 hours, then dry the items in a dryer on the hottest cycle.
If you have any items that can’t be washed and put through a dryer (such as hairbrushes) simply put those items away where they can’t be used for a minimum of 48 hours. Studies show that head lice can’t survive off a human head any longer than a 48 hour period.
Once you have successfully dealt with an outbreak then hopefully the head lice prevention tips above will help prevent any future infestations.
How do you deal with head lice?
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