It’s back to school season and we are all proudly watching our little people hop off of buses and into their new classrooms. As parents, we hope they will come home with knowledge and new friends, but one thing we don’t want them bringing home is Head Lice.
Just the thought of these creepy crawling little bugs can be enough to make us wash their backpacks on the super duper hot cycle.
To separate fact from fiction about these creatures I reached out to Sheila Fassler, the nurse who owns Pediatric Hair Solutions, a healthcare practice that exclusively treats head lice. There are so many myths out there regarding lice and as moms, we need to know the facts.
So everyone take a deep breath and try not to feel itchy while you read this. Here we go.
How do we get Lice?
Lice are almost always spread through direct, head to head contact. Less commonly, they can be spread by sharing brushes, combs, hats, scarves, and hoodies. Only the adult bugs can spread from one head to the other. Eggs cannot be transmitted.
Can Lice live in my home?
No, head lice are human parasites that cannot live off the human head for more than 24-48 hours. Want more good news? Lice cannot live on animals of any kind-they are strictly a human parasite.
How can I tell if my child has Lice?
You may be able to see lice or nits (eggs) by parting your child’s hair into small sections. They will most commonly be found behind the ears and near the neckline. Finding an adult bug can be difficult because they move fast.
The nits are small, teardrop-shaped eggs that show up differently depending on hair color. The darker your hair, the lighter the nits will appear. The lighter your hair, the more closely they will blend in.
Parents often confuse dandruff and lice eggs. Dandruff will not be stuck to the hair and will move if you brush it with your finger or blow on it lightly. Nits are essentially ‘glued’ to the hair shaft and will not move without being pulled with some force with your fingernail.
Any Tips for Lice Prevention?
The best way to prevent head lice is for your child to avoid head to head contact during play, sleepovers or other activities at home and school (including selfies!). For girls, wearing hair in tight buns and braids is helpful. Spritzing hair with a preventive spray scented with mint each morning is also a good deterrent. It’s recommended that families designate one night a week after bath time to do head checks. This helps identify a case of lice early on and prevent it from spreading further.
If my child has Lice will the whole family get it?
Head lice is very contagious. It’s recommended that all family members be checked if you suspect someone in your home has lice. About 80% of mothers whose children have lice are also positive.
Do Lice shampoos work?
Lice shampoos are not always effective at killing lice. Research shows 98% of lice have mutated to become resistant to the most commonly used over-the-counter lice treatments (Rid, Nix). Shampoos also have no effect on lice eggs. Each egg must be manually removed or they will hatch and the cycle will continue.
Can Lice make you sick?
Head lice are a nuisance but are not harmful. They do not carry any type of disease.
Can Lice jump or fly?
No, head lice don’t jump, fly or swim. They are kind of like monkeys on a vine. They have claws and can crawl quickly along the hair shaft. If your hair comes in contact with an infested head, a louse is able to grab onto a strand of hair and make its way to your scalp.
What is the best way to get rid of Head Lice?
The most effective head lice treatment involves physically killing lice and eggs with methods such as suffocation with a non-toxic solution for adult bugs and dehydration or combing for eggs. If combing, every egg must be combed out or head lice will persist. Head lice cannot become resistant to a non-toxic approach and it’s much safer for your little ones!
Most of us have “to do lists’ the length of our arm this time of year, and no one wants to add “treat lice” to it. So if the prevention tips don’t cut it and your family draws the short straw, take a deep breath, stop scratching your scalp and reach out to the experts that treat head lice.