Unfortunately, at some point in a child’s life, a parent will more than likely have to deal with the dreaded lice infestation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lice infestations are most common among children ages 3–11, with an estimated 6–12 million infestations each year.
Jamie Primosch, said they commonly see infestations in young girls because there is more hair in which the lice can thrive. However, there are a few ways to prevent head lice in children.
Most important in the battle against lice is ensuring that your children do not have head-to-head contact with other children. That means they should be taught to avoid sharing hats, scarves, hair accessories, helmets, combs or brushes with their friends. Children with long hair should try to wear their hair pulled back, preferably in a bun, when possible. Primosch suggested the use of hairspray as a preventive measure against lice. Hairspray can cause the hair to stick together, making it harder for lice to cling to the hair. You may also try using certain essential oils, such as tea tree or peppermint. Although there is little scientific evidence that essential oils truly work, Primosch said that when she sprays them during treatments, she sees the lice run away from the oils.
Finding out if a child has lice can be difficult because louse (singular for lice) are small and move quickly. Parents may need to pull out a magnifying lens and a fine-toothed comb to find live lice. If you discover that your child does have a lice infestation, you should immediately inform your child’s friend’s parents, your child’s school, and any activities your child participates in, such as softball or baseball where the infestation can spread through helmet sharing. Additionally, Primosch said you need to ensure everyone in the household is checked for lice as it can quickly turn into a major problem.
To treat a lice infestation, invest in a quality metal lice comb and carefully comb the entire hair shaft. Primosch said parents can also use essential oils (peppermint, tea tree or rosemary), over-the-counter products or a mineral product, which has a high pH level that kills live bugs and eggs. If a parent chooses to use an over-the-counter method, Primosch recommends buying a separate comb from the one included and continuing to comb meticulously every day or every three days after treatment because many products only kill live lice and not eggs.
“If you miss any eggs, it’s going to start all over again,” Primosch said. Lice lay five to 10 eggs a day, eggs take 10 days to mature, and the life cycle of an adult is 30 days. Such a quick life cycle means that a case of lice can escalate quickly if not caught early.
Once a child and everyone in the family has been checked and treated, the next step is to clean other items that have been in contact with an infested person. Primosch said all bedding should be washed and dried on high heat (at least 120 F) to kill possible live bugs. Car seats, furniture and floors should be thoroughly vacuumed, and stuffed animals, pillows and hair accessories should be put away in a bag and isolated for two days.
According to the Alachua County Public Schools Parent Guide, children found to have live head lice will be sent home with instructions for treatment. A student may return to school following treatment and after all lice and eggs have been treated and removed.
lFinding and treating lice can be a daunting task, but by being vigilant with prevention, inspection and treatment, you can rid yourself and your family of this pesky infestation.