And while for most people September promises a fresh start, there is one remnant of the summer that is known to stubbornly linger.
And we’re not talking here about poison ivy or an unnatural craving for S’mores.
If your child was holed up in camp with a bunch of other kids this summer—or even if, like mine, they just had more frequent sleepovers—chances are pretty good that they brought back unwelcome little visitors, otherwise known as head lice.
So, before you head to Staples for school supplies, you might want to check out our list of tips below. Because while head lice are icky and a pain to get rid of, they are not a sign of bad hygiene or neglect. They are also, like falling leaves and cooler weather, a staple of the season. Hopefully the tips below will help you avoid them.
- If your child went to camp, wash (or re-wash) the clothes, bedding and towels they brought back with them. Put any pillows or stuffed animals (or anything else they would have been in close proximity with that can’t be washed) into the dryer on high heat for at least 30 minutes. The icky fact is that a female louse lives for approximately 30 days on a host and lays 3-5 eggs a day (try not to think about it too much!). Once laid, it takes 7-10 days for a nit to hatch, and another 7-10 days for the female to mature and begin laying her own eggs.
- Inspect their heads as best you can—or call Lice & Easy and have us come and do it for you.
- The first symptom of head lice is generally an itch. Ask your child to let you know if their head starts to itch or feel uncomfortable in any way.
- It’s not a bad idea to periodically comb out your child’s hair with a lice comb and conditioner. That way if they have picked a louse or two, it will help get rid of the problem before it gets extreme.
- Congratulations if your child did not contract head lice over the summer…but don’t celebrate just yet. School is starting shortly and chances are one of your children’s friends or classmates were not so lucky. Be sure you to remind your kids to avoid sharing hats, combs, brushes, helmets and other sports-related head-gear. And remember, no parent wants to suggest that another child might have “cooties”, but direct contact with the little suckers (meaning lice) is the surest way to get them.
- Tell your kids not to share clothing (this is a tough one to enforce, especially if you have teenage girls!).
- If your child has long hair, try and keep it pulled back. This is easier to suggest in the summer when it’s hot, but give it a shot anyway. Next to sharing, hair-to-hair contact is the most likely way to get lice.
How to tell if it’s head lice? Grab a magnifying glass and a comb and look for crawling insects about the size of sesame seeds. Nits—the eggs of the head louse—are small yellowish-white and oval-shaped eggs. Nits are always the same shape (never irregular or fuzzy) and attach to the hair shaft, usually within 1/2 – 1 inches of the scalp. Nits must be laid by live lice and you cannot “catch nits.” Unlike dandruff, nits will not brush, blow or wash out of hair.
Amy Leo is a partner, with Meera Gall, of Upper Montclair-based Lice & Easy. Their credentials? Amy has two kids and 5 step kids. That’s a LOT of head lice! Meera was born and raised in the former Yugoslavia, where she learned the secret of getting rid of head lice the all-natural way–an infused oil that smells fabulous and works great!