Back to school - head lice!

Now that kids are heading back to school, we know that head lice are on every parent’s mind! Currently, there are no bubbles and no social distancing, so children are mixing more and more, and the concern is very real. We’ve put together a comprehensive guide, so that you can avoid the little beasties, and treat them properly if your child does become infected.

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Preventing head lice

There's a lot of myths surrounding head lice and how they can infect a scalp. The first thing to know is that head lice crawl - they can not jump - meaning your child would need to have physical contact with another child’s hair to facilitate the infection.

Similarly, they can also crawl onto clothing and then proceed to crawl from that clothing onto a child’s head. With that in mind, here’s a few things you can do to help prevent head lice:

  • We know you can’t keep kids from playing together, but it’s always worth explaining to your child the dangers of hair to hair contact, if they’re old enough to understand, just to try to limit exposure.
  • Discourage sharing hats, coats and scarves, and ensure your child goes to school well prepared with their own outdoors clothes, esp im winter. Teach your kids the importance of not sharing hair brushes and other hair accessories.
  • If your child has long hair, tie it up before they go to school. It’s much more difficult for headlice to ‘grip on’ to tied-up hair. We’d recommend popping it into a high plait - just to make it as hard as possible for the little beasties!
  • Use a tea tree shampoo, or a shampoo with tea tree in it. Head lice don’t enjoy the smell of tea tree, so it will act as a natural repellent. Menthol, eucalyptus oil, lavender oil, and rosemary oil are also known to deter lice.

How do you know it's lice?

With head lice, the best way to ascertain the infection is to look! Comb through your child’s hair with a fine-tooth nit comb (available from pharmacies or online) and have a good old gander at the scalp. Head lice are small brown insects up to 3mm that crawl in your hair or on your scalp. They also leave eggs along your hairline, which may be detectable by the eye.

Generally the infected party will complain of an itchy head and may even have the feeling of something crawling there.

Treating head lice

If your child does come home with some head lice - don’t panic! It’s a very common infection and can be easily solved, when treated correctly. The NHS website recommends removing lice and nits by ‘wet combing’. Here you use a fine-tooth comb (also called a detection comb) which you can buy online or from pharmacies and follow these steps:

  • Wash hair with shampoo
  • Add lots of conditioner
  • Comb the whole head thoroughly
  • Repeat this on days 1, 5, 9 and 13. This will remove any lice that are newly hatched.
  • Check hair on day 17

While you are doing this treatment it’s important to wash all bed clothes and hats or head coverings and soak any hair accessories in a disinfectant solution.

Alternatively, you can use medicated lotions and sprays from pharmacies or supermarkets. Depending on the treatment, you may need to comb through anyway to remove dead lice and eggs, and some will need to be repeated once a week for 2 weeks to kill any newly hatched nits.

Posted on Sep 11, 2021