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What To Do About Head Lice

As we're nearing the end of the summer and most schools are now in full swing, this is a perfect time to discuss the L-word.......L I C E. How to identify it, how to treat it, and how to prevent it.


First of all--calm down. It's not your fault, it's not your kid's fault, it doesn't make you gross and it doesn't mean you're dirty. Quite the contrary: lice prefer cleaner hair because oily hair is harder to cling to.

The first thing you need to do is identify lice. Lice nits are commonly misdiagnosed and easily confused for dandruff, hair spray residue, or dirt particles. A diagnosis is confirmed when a live nymph or adult louse is found. If lice are present, please DO NOT go to a hair salon to have them removed. Many state licenses do not allow hairstylists to treat or diagnose lice. Instead, contact your general doctor to get a prescribed treatment. Many areas also have designated lice clinics or treatment centers that will treat and do the hard work of combing and removing lice and nits for you, and may guarantee their treatment.

If one member of your household has been diagnosed with lice, every member of your household and other close contacts should also be checked. There are several effective over-the-counter treatments for lice, however, lice have also become resistant to many of these medications and a strong medication may be prescribed by your doctor. It is very important to follow the directions for your medication carefully. Failure to do so may result in failure to remove lice & nits, or a re-infestation.

You will also want to make sure that your treat your home for lice. Vacuum floors and furniture, and launder any items such as hats, scarves, pillows, bedding, and towels that have come in contact with the effected person within the past 2 days. Items should be washed in hot water and dried on a high heat cycle. Temperatures of higher than 130°F will generally kill lice. Any items that are unable to be washed should be stored in an air-tight bag for 2 weeks. Most lice will die within 1-2 days when not attached to a human host, but nits may still take around a week to hatch, so it is important to leave the bag sealed for 2 weeks.

Lice are commonly found on children who attend daycare and school-age children 2-11. Lice spread most often from head-to head contact. They cannot jump or fly. To prevent a lice infestation, teach children to avoid head-to-head contact during play and while participating in sports, sleep-overs and camps. Do not share personal items that commonly come in contact with the hair such as hats, scarves, hair bands, and brushes. Don't lie on beds, couches, pillows, stuffed animals or carpets that have recently been in contact with an infested person.

Here are some quick facts about lice:

-Lice is NOT related to the cleanliness of a person.

-Mayonnaise is NOT an effective lice treatment.

-Although it is less common for people of African decent to get lice, due to the coarse texture of the hair, it IS possible for all people to get lice, regardless of race

-Pets don't spread lice. Lice need a human host.

-Lice don't jump.

-Lice die in 1-2 days if they do not have a host to feed from.

-Chlorine doesn't kill lice.

-Lice can survive underwater.

-Lice become dehydrated around 130°F and will die.

-It is said that some essential oils such as tea tree, rosemary, citronella, eucalyptus and lemongrass may help repel and prevent lice, but this has not been proven.

Now that I have armed you with some information about lice and how it is spread, we can all stop being afraid of it. Yes, they are creepy, crawly and look ugly, but other than that, they don't cause any type of secondary infection the way that you can get lyme disease from a tick. Hopefully you (and your family) don't ever come in contact with lice, but, if you do, you can handle it calmly because now you know what to do.

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