Summer is just around the corner. A time for ice cream trucks, day camp…and head lice. No, this is not meant to be a scary camp-fire story. But like sunburn and mosquito bites, head lice are just another reality of summer.
Yes, they are icky and a pain to get rid of. And although admitting your child has head lice might be embarrassing, they do tend to gravitate to clean hair. They are not a sign of bad hygiene or neglect. That said, with children in such close proximity all summer, avoiding them can be tough.
Hopefully the tips below will help:
Tip #1: Tell your kids to avoid sharing hats, combs, brushes, helmets and other sports-related head-gear. Yes, it is hard when they’re busy bonding with other kids (and no one wants to suggest that another child might have “cooties”). However, direct contact with the little suckers (meaning lice) is the surest way to get them.
Tip #2: Tell your kids not to share clothing (this is a tough one to enforce, especially if you have teenage girls!).
Tip#3: If your child has long hair, try and keep it pulled back (or better yet, cut it…it’s hot out anyway!). Next to sharing something that’s touched the hair of someone who has lice is hair-to-hair contact.
Tip #4: If your child is going to camp, send them with their own pillows, blankets, etc. And (although it might go against what you’ve told them), encourage them not to share.
Tip #5: 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.
Tip #6: You may want 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.
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.
Tip #7: If you find out that a child who has been in close proximity to one of your children has head lice (and trust me, as they get older they’ll be less likely to want to share the news), you should be sure to get your child checked too. The icky fact is that a female louse lives for approximately 30 days on a host and lays 3 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.
Amy Leo is a partner, with Meera Gall, of Upper Montclair-based Lice and 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!