How Do I Prevent my Kids from Getting Head Lice at Camp?

Practice Prevention - Lice Away

With kids getting out of school this week and camp season fast approaching.  It is time to give consideration to head lice prevention.  The following tips will help you avoid head lice this summer and if you happen to get head lice there is help readily available.

Educate Yourself and Your Children.

  • Pre-camp registration forms explain your camp’s policy on head lice. They may include some identification and treatment tips so parents can pre-screen children and treat children before putting them on the bus to camp.   Let your children know the things that they can do to avoid getting head lice and how to recognize the symptoms.  Use tools such as educational coloring books, a reputable website, pictures and educational hands outs.
  • Get a quality head lice comb so you can check the hot spots once a week.  If you check ahead, you avoid the spread.  Take a peek once a week is a great preventative measure that parents can take.  Don’t be fooled by knock off and copy cat combs with short tines, plastic or poor tolerances.  You can expect to pay $15 to $20 for a quality lice comb, but these will last you a lifetime and can be sanitized between uses for multiple family members.  Finally a quality lice comb has the proper tolerances with long tines that go through the thickest of hair and do not break or tear the hair.

  • Keeping hair up and away from other people’s heads is the best thing that you can do to avoid getting head lice.  Sharing hats, combs, brushes, towels, and other hair items are not advised.  Also avoid sleeping on someone else’s pillow or using their blanket.  Pay special attention to sharing sport wear and head gear.  If you need to share headgear such as a helmet, use a hair bonnet under the helmet.  Keep in mind that you may also get head lice from car and bus seats and couches.   Do a visual inspection of the head rest and wipe or blow off the surface before use.  There are some cleaning products available and hair sprays that will leave a scent on the hair and these can help repel lice.

  • Ask Camp Directors about the Screening, catching a head lice infestation early is key and it helps to avoid spreading it to others in the camp and creating a severe infestation.   Ask your camp director if they provide help and if they are screening campers and staff as they arrive to camp.  Screening is the best method of keeping lice outbreaks to a minimum.  Keep in mind that all campers and staff need to be checked and that checking must be done on dry hair and within at least the first week of arriving at camp.  – Check-A-Head and avoid the spread.
  • Report, Re-check and Treat, Don’t send your child to camp with lice and report it if you do find head lice.  Others need to be told so the campers in the cabin or at home can be checked.  Follow the camp policy on head lice.  If your camp treats campers on site, ask if they use pesticide and make sure follow up is being done.  Most head lice treatments are pesticide based.  Some children are sensitive to this and may not be good candidates for its use.  Speak with the camp about the treatment options.  There are many natural treatment options available and the best tools a camp could have on hand are high quality lice combs.   Treat the camper and then re-check the others in close proximity or in the same cabin.  Keep checking for a two week period and always follow up.
  • The Environment, Head lice will die within 24 to 48 hours without a blood meal.  It is best to tell your children to keep their sleeping environment to themselves.  Sharing pillows, blankets, towels and any head gear may result in lice transmission.  There is no need to spray pesticide or to wash pillows and mattresses.  Focus on items that have had close head to item proximity such as pillow cases, sheets, hats, brushed, coats, etc.  Never spray an insecticide on bedding in cabins as the toxic residue will linger for several days and may cause some campers have breathing issues or other reactions. Remember the most important thing about head lice is to practice prevention and to catch it early so it can be treated in a timely and effective manner.  Most camps will experience head lice, but the severity of it can be reduced when everyone works together.


Head Lice Prevention – is it even possible?

When we provide lice removal services in a family’s home, the nice lice experts at Larger Than Lice are always asked “How can we prevent this from happening again?”

We wish there was an easy answer.  Or at least an answer that would guarantee a person would never have to have the head lice experience again.

But the fact is that head lice are an incredibly common infliction and no-one is immune!   Lice can happen to anyone at any time, regardless of hair type, hair color, gender or household income. Lice are common in schools, in daycares, in camps – pretty well anywhere kids (or adults) gather.

How is Head Lice Spread?

Head lice spreads by direct head-to-head contact with someone who has a case. The louse crawls along the hair and simply crawls onto another person’s head via a strand of hair.  Nits, or lice eggs cannot be spread from head-to-head.  Eggs are laid on the hair shaft with a cement-like glue which keeps them securely on the hair until the bug hatches from the egg.

Head lice spread within families, especially if parents and children lie down together, sit closely or sleep together. Lice spreads easily in schools as well because young children typically have close contact with one another, either with desks set side-by-side or during normal play and school activities. Though head lice do not hop, jump, or fly, they do crawl very quickly.

A secondary way of contracting lice is through an object which could have a live bug on it. Items like hairbrushes, hair accessories, helmets, headwear and scarves should not be shared.  It’s even possible for a louse to be left behind on a movie theatre chair or train seat headrest.  Note that this is NOT the typical way to contract lice, but it is possible.

Being in the same room or taking place in an activity in which someone has a case of head lice does NOT mean you will catch a case.  There must be direct head-to-head contact with the infected head.   Activities like sleepovers are an example of where children might have this kind of direct head-to-head contact over a period of time, exposing them to the possibility of contracting head lice.

How to Prevent Head Lice

It’s not an option to home-school every child or put them in quarantine, keeping them from everyday social activities.

But there are a few methods of prevention that might reduce the risk.

Keep long hair tied up in ponytails or even better, braids or a bun. Use tea tree oil or Buzz Off Lice Repellent Hair Spray either by adding a few drops to your regular shampoo, or by making a spritz by adding a few drops to water in a spray bottle. Tea tree oil can be very drying, so only use a few drops (as directed).

  • Take a peek once a week. Catch head lice early and it is easier to remove.
  • Educate your kids what to do to avoid getting lice and of the symptoms like scratching.
  • Don’t share hair items and visually check head rests before laying or placing your head on them.

Parents should be alert to the common sign of head lice – scratching the head.  Watch for children who are scratching or who might even wake up in the night saying that their head is itchy.  Pay attention to kids who are visiting and watch to see if they are scratching their scalps as this could indicate a case of lice.

  1. Once a Week, Take a Peek

Regular checking can identify a new case early. If a case is caught early enough, the life cycle of the louse can be interrupted. No further eggs will be laid and a case can be eradicated in just a few days. The best way to screen for head lice is to lather the hair with conditioner and thoroughly comb the hair out with a head lice removal comb (Professional Lice & Nit Terminator Comb), wiping the comb on a white paper towel after a few passes. Inspect the paper towel looking for brownish-colored eggs or actual bugs.

If checking for head lice visually, be sure to use direct sunlight or a very good table lamp. Carefully inspect the hair paying particular attention to the area when the hair shaft meets the scalp.  Look around the ear, nape of the neck and especially the crown of the head, as these are common areas for lice to be found.

When checking for head lice, look for lice eggs attached securely to the hair close to the scalp. Viable eggs will be brownish in color and cannot be flicked off the hair. They have to be removed between the fingernails, with tweezers, or with a good nit comb. Though head lice move very quickly, you may see an actual bug. Lice are the size of sesame seeds and are brownish-gray to caramel in color. They are see-through and can appear to take on the color of the hair.

Preventing Lice in the Community

It takes a community to prevent head lice. Advocating for regular lice screening in the school can go a long way to preventing a head lice outbreak. If children are regularly screened, cases might be identified and therefore treated before they have a chance to spread.

Professional screening staff from Larger Than Lice can provide screening services in schools, daycares and camps. For as little as $3 per head, each child can be checked for lice. School volunteers can also be trained to identify lice so that regular screenings can easily be scheduled.

Stop the Stigma

If you or a family member does contract head lice, don’t panic. This very common condition has nothing to do with cleanliness and it can be treated without the use of pesticides. Millions of North Americans have a head lice experience every year. A whole range of treatments is available and head lice removal services also exist in many communities nationwide.

Head Lice: Prevention & Control

Head lice are spread most commonly by direct head-to-head (hair-to-hair) contact. However, much less frequently they are spread by sharing clothing or belongings onto which lice have crawled or nits attached to shed hairs may have fallen. The risk of getting infested by a louse that has fallen onto a carpet or furniture is very small. Head lice survive less than 1–2 days if they fall off a person and cannot feed; nits cannot hatch and usually die within a week if they are not kept at the same temperature as that found close to the scalp.

The following are steps that can be taken to help prevent and control the spread of head lice:

  • Avoid head-to-head (hair-to-hair) contact during play and other activities at home, school, and elsewhere (sports activities, playground, slumber parties, camp).
  • Do not share clothing such as hats, scarves, coats, sports uniforms, hair ribbons, or barrettes.
  • Do not share combs, brushes, or towels. Disinfest combs and brushes used by an infested person by soaking them in hot water (at least 130°F) for 5–10 minutes.
  • Do not lie on beds, couches, pillows, carpets, or stuffed animals that have recently been in contact with an infested person.
  • Machine wash and dry clothing, bed linens, and other items that an infested person wore or used during the 2 days before treatment using the hot water (130°F) laundry cycle and the high heat drying cycle. Clothing and items that are not washable can be dry-cleaned OR sealed in a plastic bag and stored for 2 weeks.
  • Vacuum the floor and furniture, particularly where the infested person sat or lay. However, spending much time and money on housecleaning activities is not necessary to avoid reinfestation by lice or nits that may have fallen off the head or crawled onto furniture or clothing.
  • Do not use fumigant sprays or fogs; they are not necessary to control head lice and can be toxic if inhaled or absorbed through the skin.

To help control a head lice outbreak in a community, school, or camp, children can be taught to avoid activities that may spread head lice.

Parents Are Not Aware Kids’ Classmates Have Head Lice

Winter months are known for head lice because students bring winter accessories like hats and coats to school, yet some parents say they have not heard of many head lice cases this year, which leaves them scratching their heads as to why. In an effort to keep kids from missing school and shield children with lice from embarrassment, the national guidelines for head lice policy in schools might be a little more lenient than previous years. Some schools are no longer sending home ‘lice notes’ to parents or requiring kids with head lice to stay home from school. Nurses say the notes cause unnecessary panic, while some parents complain about their kids being exposed, other parents are upset over less restrictive head lice policies that allow kids with live bugs in their hair to return to the classroom.

School policies regarding head lice are sometimes confusing. For instance, recently we have provided school lice checks in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and found nits in a child’s hair. The school notified the child’s parents that we “just found nits”. This can cause confusion for parents, because the assumption can follow that because there are “just nits”, there are no live lice. Here’s some information that might clear things up a bit. Nits (lice eggs) come in two states. There are viable (unhatched) nits, darker in color and close to the scalp. They indicate a current infestation. Then there are the empty nits (the egg shells), which are still glued further down the hair shaft and look like very tiny insect wings. These empty nits can indicate that either a current or past infestation is happening. Then there are the lice themselves. Head lice are photophobic, which means they run from the light. When doing school head lice checks one sees live lice infrequently because they are adept at running from the light. All this means that when a parent is told there are “just nits” in the hair, the problem is to discern whether they’re viable or not. And since live lice can take several minutes to hunt down in the hair, it’s not feasible to find them within the time allowed for checking for head lice in schools.

What to do? Take a gamble that nothing is going on? A thorough combing with a good lice comb will establish what kinds of nits are in the hair, viable eggs or empty shells, and if live lice are present. The rest of the family should have a combing check too, since one can have a couple of lice in the hair that haven’t yet lain nits. Head lice are rascally!

If you or your child have been exposed to lice in school, give our lice removal experts at Larger Than Lice a call or visit us at

Catholic board stands firm on lice policy despite health unit fears of student stress over exclusion

KEMPTVILLE - Catholic students found with head lice will continue to be sent home from school after a review of the separate board’s policy.

In a decision at odds with the regional health unit, the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario will maintain its longstanding policy that students with head lice will be sent home - though a return to school can occur after the first treatment.

“We regularly update all of our policies, (and the head-lice policy is) basically the same (as in previous years),” said board vice-chair Robin Reil.

The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit has a different view, however, saying exclusion policies add to the burden of stress already experienced by the child and their family. A review of evidence, according to the health unit, shows that screening children for head lice in schools and excluding children upon finding nits is ineffective in controlling the spread of head lice.

Reil said the CDSBEO policy sees students sent home for a short time.

“They go home, they get the wash done and they come back,” he said.

Todd Lalonde, the board chair, noted children with head lice that are sent home are encouraged to be back in school the next day.

“The board is there to support families,” Lalonde said. “Obviously we want the student back as soon as possible, we encourage (the child and family) to come back the next day with the issue resolved.”

Lalonde noted that the CDSBEO works “hand in hand with the two medical doctors of health” in the board’s region.

“We do take direction from the health (units),” Lalonde said. “But we also have our own policies and procedures.”

The local Catholic board stands among a declining number of school boards where students with lice would be sent home for any period of time. Most schools will now send treatment information and recommendations home with the child and reinforce preventative measures with the student body — but no longer exclude that child from school for any length of time.

The CDSBEO in its administrative procedure noted the purpose of the review was to ensure that issues and procedures related to pediculosis are dealt with in a sensitive and knowledgeable manner, that it recognizes head lice is not a disease or health issue, but is defined as a social nuisance which needs to be managed in the best interest of students through the parents, students, staff and the school community.

The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit has said it will no longer participate in the training of volunteers or development of policies related to the exclusion of children from schools with possible head lice infestations.

Is head lice a bigger problem than normal at Elsberry Schools

Four parents attended the Elsberry R-II School Board meeting on Wednesday, April 12 to discuss an issue that left both sides scratching their heads.

During the open forum discussion, Amanda Moyer stood and addressed the board about an issue with head lice.
According to Moyer she feels there is a problem running rampant from Pre-K through High School and she along with the other three parents want all the students checked.

Moyer had found head lice on her young daughter at home and feels that the issue is at the school.
Moyer stated she had contacted the school and spoke to Elsberry R-II Superintendent Dr. Tim Reller. She stated that he told her it wasn’t the schools problem.

“In my opinion and a lot of others opinion it is partly to do with the school,” said Moyer. “I haven’t had it, my son hasn’t had it, my husband hasn’t had it and neither has anyone else in my family. It’s being spread somewhere.”
Moyer went on to say with the constant contact the kids have to and from school that the problem has to be at the school.

“I just think more should be done at the school,” she said. “It’s not just normal lice, they are calling it “super lice” and it’s a lot harder to get rid of.”

Reller stated that he felt the problem wasn’t any worse or different than it had been in past years and stated that the school is following the procedure regarding students with head lice.

The procedure is more strict than other area schools and goes beyond what the CDC recommends.

The nurse is to check each child Kindergarten through fourth grade at the beginning of the year when their hearing and vision screenings are done. After that it is on an as needed basis. High School and Middle School students are checked on an as needed basis since they are old enough to tell someone they are itchy. If a child is reported to have head lice or is found to have head lice that child is sent home When anyone is reported to have head lice a check of their classroom and their siblings classroom if they have the head lice will be performed as well. A note printed from the CDC Manuel for schools is then also sent home with the whole grade level involved.

It was also stated that students were not allowed to return until they have been checked by the school nurse.

After discussion became heated Moyer stated she felt the board was “listening not to fix the problem but to argue.”

Board President Matt Jones asked Moyer what she wanted done from the board. Her answer was to have all students checked.

Jones stated that the board would look into the issue and if the policy needed to be updated or changed they would.

With the discussion only occurring in the open forum discussion and not being an agenda item, the board would have been unable to act on the matter at the meeting.