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Back to School, Back to Lice

For parents with young kids, it’s hard to disassociate the thoughts of “school” and “lice” from one another.  Lice is almost like a rite of passage for kids, as so many of them will either get lice or know someone who did.  It’s just one of those things that we end up encountering when we’re growing up. Finding out your child has lice, however normal it may be, isn’t something that fills parents with joy.  While lice are a nuisance, and something to watch out for, they’re nothing worth panicking over.  To help keep you calm this school year, we’ll go over some facts and myths surrounding lice treatment and what you can do if your children happen to bring the creepy crawlies home with them.

Separating Fact from Fantasy

There’s this everlasting idea that head lice are dirty things that happen to dirty people, but this couldn’t be any further from the truth.  Head lice don’t have anything to do with hygiene or household cleanliness.  Your home could be completely spotless and everyone in your family routinely bathed, and someone could still come home with lice.  It’s less to do with how clean you are and more to do with direct contact. 

The vast majority of lice cases come about through direct head to head contact, such as at sleepovers or while playing.  This is one of the reasons why kids being removed from school for having lice doesn’t make much sense, as how often do kids in a classroom have their heads rubbing together?

Something else that always freaks out parents is the idea that if a parasite infestation is on their child, then their child’s health is threatened.  This is a completely understandable concern.  After all, one of the biggest jobs that a parent has to take on is the responsibility of keeping their children safe and healthy – a constant pursuit, really. 

Rest assured, though, in knowing that lice carry no diseases and aren’t going to cause any serious issues, apart from itching.  Even the itching might not be a problem, as studies suggest that only about half of the population is allergic to the saliva that female lice use to secure the nits – sacs  containing their eggs – to hair shafts.  It’s this allergic reaction that causes all of the itching.

Also, don’t just assume that picking up an over the counter chemical treatment is going to solve all of your problems.  Super strains of lice are now present throughout the country, and they’re resistant to the sort of products that have traditionally worked against them.  This is because so many of the same chemicals were used on lice for decades, that their genes mutated in order to offer them immunity to these chemicals.  That being said, all is not lost.

lice treatment

Treating Your Child

If you find out that your child has lice, then the first thing to do is to act, not to panic.  Look for a lice treatment kit from a local retailer – it’s still possible that these might work, so go ahead and try them – or you can find lice treatment products that feature natural ingredients rather than harsh chemicals. 

Most kits will come with a nit comb, but, if yours doesn’t, then you certainly need to purchase one.  The nit comb is an excellent tool not only for removing lice and their nits, but for checking everyone else in the household to see if they, too, have caught lice.

If you’ve purchased a treatment product, then be sure to follow the directions for using the shampoo exactly.  After treatment – and even beforehand – use the nit comb to comb out all of the lice and nits. 

This is best achieved by wetting the hair first, especially with some type of lubricant, either supplied by the treatment kit or from your own pantry, such as olive oil.  This will help to smother the lice and slow them down. 

lice treatment

Work the comb from the scalp all the way through the hair, moving bit by bit across your child’s head.  You’ll want to work in sections; that way, you can be as meticulous as possible.  It’s extremely important to get the nits out, because otherwise you could be looking at another infestation in a couple of weeks.

After you’ve spent time treating their hair, it’s now time to do some cleaning. Stuffed animals need to either be cleaned or sealed up in plastic bags (lice will eventually die without a host), bed linens need to be washed, and it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to clean the carpeting if your children play on the floor.

Part of the treatment process also involves helping your children understand the importance of treating the lice, as well as preventing them from spreading or returning.  You should notify their school and also let their friends’ parents know about the issue; this way, others can learn how to help prevent lice from spreading as well.

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