Every year at nearly every preschool, childcare center, day camp and nursery school, head lice affects one or more children; sometimes suddenly affecting many kids at a time. Most folks now know that there are misconceptions about head lice being caused by unsanitary conditions or poor hygiene, anyone can get lice. The good news is, there are practical ways to prevent children from getting them, and help getting rid of them.
Excellent news! Lice actually prefer clean hair over dirty. Kids will be happy to skip a few washes if there are cases of lice at school. Lice adhere to squeaky clean hair free of product. There are a few oils, such as tea tree or rosemary that can be spritzed on hair to repel lice, but the best course of action is to keep hair unwashed, tie up long hair, and cover with a cute scarf or hat. Hairspray also keeps bugs away for tweens and teens who have younger siblings in preschool or daycare.
Lice really need head-to-head contact, and their eggs need to bite within hours of hatching or they die, and they do not “jump” from head to head. Older kids can be taught not to roll around on the floor with their friends, or rub their heads together, but preschoolers might need to just wear hats to keep from sharing the critters.
So, if the bad news comes home that a child has been exposed to lice and has contracted it, don’t panic. It isn’t like it was a few decades ago when we all had to bag up all the stuffed animals and mattresses, and shave heads. Lice look like grains of sand or lint in the hair close to the scalp, the difference being that lint or sand will blow away with a breath, but lice and their eggs are sticky. For the patient and industrious parent, saturating the hair completely in thick oil, (olive, coconut, mayonnaise) for a few hours will suffocate the bugs, and then hair is combed through with a lice comb. Washing sheets and towels is appropriate, but no need to bag up every toy, the nits need food right away, so they can not survive on a toy or pillow for more than a few hours.
For parents who cannot do the comb through, many new “lice salons” have popped up in many metro areas; including New York and New Jersey. It can be costly but it also means children get to return to school the very next day, which is a must for busy parents.
Finally, for some young boys, the simple solution is to just shave hair off. If it’s not a big deal, it can be a quick and easy way to get back to school and be itch free.
Best of luck keeping your kids lice free in preschool, day camp, and nursery school. It isn’t the huge deal it used to be but it still isn’t any fun. Hopefully these tips will make it harder to get them … or at least a bit easier to be rid of them.