The new school year is right around the corner. Are you prepared for what your children might bring home from their classmates? Head lice are common in children between the ages of 3 and 11, but anyone can get them. Head lice are extremely contagious, so it’s important to know how to prevent and treat them.
What are Lice?
Head lice are parasitic wingless insects that live and feed on the human head. Contrary to popular belief, lice cannot jump from head to head, and spread only during close contact between people or through sharing articles of clothing or items like hair brushes. Lice are tan to grayish-white, and adults are the size of a sesame seed. Lice lay eggs (or nits) the size of a grain of salt on hair shafts a few millimeters from the scalp. The parasites tend to accumulate on the top of the head, behind the ears, and at the nape of the neck. Symptoms include scalp itchiness, sores and scabs, and a crawling feeling on the scalp.
How to Prevent Lice
Lice travel through close contact, so teach your children to avoid touching heads with other kids and not to share clothing, especially hats and scarves. If your child’s classroom has a lice outbreak, make sure to thoroughly clean any items coming home from school, including clothing, backpacks, towels, etc. If your child brings lice home, you can prevent them from spreading by regularly washing bedding and upholstery and vacuuming regularly. Additionally, encourage your children to separate their personal belongings from their classmates’ belongings to prevent bugs from spreading that way.
The first step is to focus on getting the nits out with a nit and lice removal comb so they can’t hatch. Separate small sections of hair and run the comb through, wiping it every couple of swipes. Secondly, apply your choice of hair lice treatment and comb through again in bigger sections to pull out adult bugs. Remember to disinfect the comb after use (boil it, soak it in ammonia, or put it through the dishwasher). After combing through your child’s hair, go through your house and wash anything your child may have been in contact with. Repeat these steps every few days until the lice are gone.