A very common infestation of tiny insects on the scalp and along the hair shafts, that spread head to head by contact. Head lice are extremely common among children in pre-school and elementary ages, and it is very likely that kids get reinfected unless all the parents in a group treat their children at the same time, even if some of them do not have head lice. A child may have only one or two lice, but if they are not treated, this number multiplies very quickly.
Head lice feed by sucking very small amounts of blood from the scalp, which causes intense itching. Head lice can’t fly or jump, but they move from head to head by crawling. Head lice are undiscerning creatures that will infest anyone’s hair, regardless of how clean it is.
What are the symptoms of Head lice?
The first sign of head lice is usually the itching, and you will see your child scratching their head repeatedly. If you examine your child’s hair closely, you might be able to see the lice. Once lice are fully grown they’re about 3mm long, but they camouflage very well. Some people call head lice ‘nits’, but this is the name for the empty egg shells left by hatched lice. They are creamy grey colored and very well cemented to the hair shaft, which makes them hard to remove. They are mostly seen near the scalp due to the warmth from the head that encourages them to hatch. Eggs can be removed by using your nails to pull them down the hair shaft.
What are the treatments and remedies of Head lice?
Treatment is either by wet combing – using a special nit comb and plenty of conditioner on wet hair until all signs of nits and lice have gone- or by using a proprietary over-the-counter lotion or shampoo. Some are chemical, others natural. You shouldn’t use any chemical treatment on children under two years old. You may find the best solution for your child through trial and error, or ask your pharmacist what is best to use as some head-lice have developed resistance to some of the treatments in some areas. Prescription treatments, including oral medication, are available if the lice are very resistant to other treatments.
How To Prevent Head Lice: Top Products to Help
I know there are a ton of head-lice treatments and prevention products out there. Here are three that moms in my area are using and recommending:
Lice Knowing You Detangler and Conditioning Spray
I recently purchased this at the recommendation of a mom friend who uses it regularly on her three kids. You spray it in your kid’s hair in place of your regular detangler and it helps keep lice away. It’s a little soapy when you initially apply it, but a quick comb-through and it’s gone. The herbal scent is pleasant and there aren’t any weird or scary ingredients, so it’s safe to use every day. An easy first defense for preventing head lice!
LiceGuard RobiComb Electronic Lice Comb
A friend whose daughter has had several bouts of head lice told me about this electric comb that kills nits and lice on contact. You comb through your child’s hair and when the comb encounters a louse or a nit, it zaps it with a tiny electrical charge. There are several different brands of these combs on the market, at varying price points. I haven’t purchased one yet but I’m definitely considering it.
Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle Shampoo
This one was recommended to me by another mom friend who has three kids. She uses it on her kids whenever they get a notice about a lice outbreak at their schools, and so far, so good (they’ve never had head lice). Apparently the little buggers aren’t fond of strong herbal smells and oils like tea tree, menthol and eucalyptus, lavender and rosemary. This is not a tear free formula, so it will be tricky to use on my kids. California Baby offers a tea tree and lavender shampoo for kids that I’m eyeing for them instead. Another option is to add some pure tea tree oil to your family’s shampoos.
I tell my children not to swap hats and hair bands, coats and clothes, but they’re kids, and they forget. So I have to take matters into my own hands and begin preventing head lice now. Otherwise, I might be using my hands to painstakingly comb through their hair (and mine) to find and remove lice. I’m itching just thinking about it.
This article is not meant to substitute medical advice provided by a practicing medical professional – if you have any concerns, contact your physician immediately.