Preventing and Treating Lice

Preventing and Treating Lice

Back-to-school time is around the corner, and that means lice season us upon us! When kids get together, these itchy critters seem to plague classrooms. This is particularly true for younger kids who often play and learn in closer proximity to each other. To this end, today we’re discussing ways of preventing and treating lice.

How Do You Catch Head Lice?

Before we get into preventing and treating lice, let’s discuss what these bugs actually are. According to the Mayo Clinic, head lice are tiny blood-sucking insects that feed via the human scalp. They are usually the size of a sesame seed.

As stated in the introduction, head lice typically affect younger children. While attracting lice can happen at any point during the year, it is most common when kids are going back to school. For example, in autumn and then again in January following winter break.

To avoid your child attracting lice, it is crucial to reduce their exposure to them. However in this case, bug spray is not necessarily the answer. Contrary to popular myths, head lice are not caused by poor hygiene. Instead, they spread via direct head-to-head contact with a person who already has head lice. In this way, the best method of protection is simply to try to avoid contact with these bugs, much like ticks.

Other additional good news is that lice is only spread from person-to-person. You cannot get head lice from your pets. According to the CDC, an estimated 6 to 12 million cases of head lice infestation occur each year in the United States in children 3 to 11 years of age. Keeping this in mind, it pays to be cautious.

Identifying Lice

The first step of preventing and treating lice is to identify the problem. Typically, the scalp will be itchy and irritated when lice are present. The first step for a concerned parent it to check for the bugs in the hair. Part the hair in several spots to see if lice or nits are present.

Lice can move quickly, so be sure to check for nits too. Nits resemble dandruff. These can be identified with a magnifying glass and then picking up a strand of hair close to the scalp. Then pull your fingernail across the suspected area. Dandruff removes easily, but a nit will stay firmly attached. 

Preventing and Treating Lice

In the event that you discover an infestation, it is time to act.

To start, you will need a lice removal kit. These are available in most drug stores and can be purchased over the counter. Additionally, a drug treatment such as Sklice, Nix and Rid can be quite helpful.

If using a drug treatment:

  • Be sure to follow the instructions exactly in order to prevent any injury.
  • After applying the product, rinse it from the hair and scalp using a comb or lice removal kit. 

Before taking any action, be sure to consult a medical professional. Your doctor may be able to provide advice and more advanced treatment options, depending upon your situation.

Prevention is Key

Of course, the best protection is always prevention. To keep lice away from your child’s head, be sure to avoid potentially hazardous situations.

Here are a few general tips:

  • Avoid direct head-to-head contact during play at home and school.
  • Make sure kids don’t share clothing items, hats, beds, pillows, or grooming supplies, like hair brushes.
  • Soak infected combs in hot water (at least 130°F) for 5-10 minutes.
  • Wash clothes immediately with a high heat drying cycle.
  • If someone was infected, be sure to vacuum and clean the floor and furniture areas where they sat, and change the bedding where they sleep.

Finally, for best practices, this informative video can help struggling parents with preventing and treating lice:


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