So your kid is in a day care, preschool, afterschool program, sport, camping … heck your kid goes anywhere … chances are they will run into head lice. There sibling will get it or a classmate or teammate.
Do not panic. Here are some things you should know before you freak out. Take it from the mom who went into full on panic mode and thought about sanitizing my kids like they did in the movie “Silkwood”. See link if you are too young to get the movie reference: SILKWOOD SHOWER CLIP
Don’t get grossed out but I am going to show you a picture or two
What is head lice?
Lice are tiny, wingless, parasitic insects that feed on your blood. Lice are easily spread — especially by schoolchildren — through close personal contact and by sharing belongings.
What are nits?
There is a difference between lice and a nit. Your child may have nits in their hair but not necessarily develop a case of head lice. Some nits are empty eggs. However, nits that are found within 1/4 inch of the scalp should be treated — even if you find only one — to prevent the possibility of hatching.
Nits that are farther away from the scalp are probably from an old infestation, but should be removed to prevent a recurrence.
Hell, I would remove each and every one!
How do you get it?
A common misconception is that “dirty” people or those with poor hygiene get lice. Not so.
You can get head lice by coming into contact with either lice or their eggs. Eggs hatch in about one week. Lice can’t fly or walk on the ground.
Lice can live for one to two days off the body.
They spread through:
- Head-to-head contact. This may occur as children or family members play or interact closely.
- Proximity of stored belongings. Storing infested clothing in closets, in lockers or on side-by-side hooks at school, or storing personal items such as pillows, blankets, combs and stuffed toys in proximity at home can permit lice to spread.
- Items shared among friends or family members. These may include clothing, headphones, brushes, combs, hair decorations, towels, blankets, pillows and stuffed toys.
- Contact with contaminated furniture. Lying on a bed or sitting in overstuffed, cloth-covered furniture recently used by someone with lice can spread them.
What are the symptoms?
- Intense itching.
- Tickling feeling from movement of hair.
- Lice on your scalp. Adult lice may be about the size of a sesame seed or slightly larger.
- Lice eggs (nits) on hair shafts. Nits resemble tiny pussy willow buds. Nits can be mistaken for dandruff, but unlike dandruff, they can’t be easily brushed out of hair.
- Small red bumps on the scalp, neck and shoulders.
How do you treat it?
Use medications that treat lice only as directed. Applying too much can cause red, irritated skin.
Treatment for head lice may involve:
- Over-the-counter products. Shampoos containing pyrethrin (Rid, others) or permethrin (Nix) are usually the first option used to combat lice infestations. These work best if you follow the directions very closely.
- You can also purchase tools/combs designed to help you remove the nits and lice in your local drug store.
- You doctor can prescribe shampoos or lotions that contain different ingredients.
- Oral prescription medication.
OTC products should be used first. If they are not working, then talk to your doc about getting prescribed treatment. These prescription shampoos and meds have side effects and can be dangerous to small children and pregnant/breastfeeding women so consult your doc.
I have treated my kid, now what?
- Wash contaminated items. Wash bedding, stuffed animals, clothing and hats with hot, soapy water — at least 130 F (54 C) — and dry them at high heat for at least 20 minutes.
- Seal unwashable items. Place them in an airtight bag for two weeks.
- Vacuum. Give the floor and furniture a good vacuuming.
- Wash combs and brushes. Use very hot, soapy water — at least 130 F (54 C) — or soak combs and brushes in rubbing alcohol for an hour.
- Do not worry about pets, lice only like humans 🙂
How do you prevent it?
There really is no full proof scientifically proven way to PREVENT the contraction of head lice.
Some OTC products say they can repel lice, but more scientific research is needed to prove it.
Some studies show that certain plant oils may repel lice. Apparently the little buggers do not like the smell. Some of these oils are: coconut, olive, rosemary, and tea tree. Some OTC sprays and shampoos etc contain these oils and claim they help too.
Here are some products that my mama friends use and like. Try them out. They tend to smell good and if they give you peace of mind then hell, its worth it.
It’s difficult to prevent the spread of head lice among children in child care and school settings. There’s so much close contact among children and their belongings that lice can spread easily. It’s no reflection on your hygiene habits or those of your children, and it’s not a failure on your part as a parent if your child gets head lice.
Take a deep breath mama. You’ve got this!