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Lice 101: How to Prevent It and What to Do if Your Kids Get It
Don’t panic! We’ve got everything you need to win this battle.
It may be the most dreaded note that a child can bring home from school. No, we’re not talking about a low grade on a test — we’re talking about lice. While many schools have eased their policies (based on recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics) so they no longer immediately send a child home when lice is detected, most do immediately contact parents to make them aware of that lice has been observed at the school. And if you have a school-age child, it’s likely that at some point you will get one of those dreaded notes.
The good news — and the reason schools no longer rush to send a child home — is that a lot of what we used to believe about lice is untrue. For one thing, they don’t spread easily. Lice can’t jump or fly so the only way they travel from one child to the next is through direct head-to-head contact. Less commonly, lice can be transmitted via shared hats, hairbrushes, towels, earphones, etc. They also can’t survive more than 24 hours off a human scalp (and no they can’t live on your dog or cat — pet lice is a different thing altogether).
If you are the parent of child with lice, take a deep breath. It is not a reflection on you or your child’s personal hygiene. In fact, lice thrive in clean hair! Lice affects people from all socioeconomic classes and all parts of the country. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that more than six million infestations occur each year in the United States among children ages three to 11. We’ve rounded up some of the essential products, first for prevention (because the ultimate goal is to keep the little pests away!) and then to get rid of lice if they do find their way onto your child’s head.
1. The prevention shampoo
Fairy Tales Rosemary Repel shampoo is a cult-status product among moms in some communities. They swear by its proprietary blend of natural ingredients such as rosemary, citronella, and tea tree and geranium oils to keep those pesky lice away. Did we mention it also smells nice?!
2. The prevention spray
A few squirts of SoCozy Boo! spray onto damp or dry hair can help to keep lice away. The spray is infused with natural repellants such as peppermint oil, rosemary extract, and tea tree oil. The scent is fairly light and this also does a nice job as a detangler.
3. The comb
If your child does get lice, you’ll need a fine-toothed comb to remove the teeny, tiny lice eggs, a.k.a nits (ever wonder where the term “nitpicky” comes from?!). There are many, many combs out there but the Nit Free Terminator comb is one of the best. The comb’s teeth are very close together and have spiral micro-grooves on them so even the tiniest of nits are pulled from your child’s hair. It’s also stainless steel so it won’t rust and can easily be sterilized between uses.
4. The lice-killing leave-in spray
Saturate your child’s hair with Licefree Spray — be sure to get around the nape of the neck too — and allow it to air dry. The non-toxic formula will kill lice and eggs. Once their hair has dried, they can wash or style their hair as usual. And they may want to use the included comb afterward to remove the dead nits.
5. The heavy duty treatment
If your child has lice you’ll probably want to start here. This is the latest product from Nix and it’s intended to kill both regular lice and “super lice” — as in resistant-to-traditional-treatments lice — as well as their eggs. That’s important because if the product you’re using doesn’t also kill the eggs, you’ll need to repeat the treatment several times to catch the lice at various stages of their life cycle. Leave the solution on for 15 minutes, then wash it out with regular shampoo.
6. The home treatment
In addition to treating your child, you’ll also want to kill lice that may have fallen off their head and onto bedding and furniture. Since they survive on human blood, they won’t last long in your home but it’s still worth a treatment. For items that can’t be machine-washed (use hot water for those that can), this Eco Defense Lice Protection spray is a great solution. It’s non-toxic and won’t stain bedding and other surfaces. Use it on furniture, beds, stuffed animals, backpacks — anything that has been close to your child’s head.