Preventing and treating head lice

Do you have children in childcare or elementary school?  Then you have probably gotten the dreaded letter. . .

Dear Parents,
It has come to our attention that a child in your child's classroom has developed a case a head lice...

Or something similar to those words. . .

What's your first thought?  — "Oh please don't let my child get it!"

Followed quickly by, "What if the neighbors find out?!"

According to the CDC, "The head louse is a parasitic insect that can be found on the head, eyebrows, and eyelashes of people. Head lice feed on human blood several time a day and live close to the human scalp. Head lice are not known to spread disease."  You can find out more about head lice on the CDC's website.

Head-to-head contact with an already infested person is the most common way to get head lice. Contrary to popular belief, lice do not fly or hop. A person (you child) can get lice, from sharing clothing or belongings. However, that is uncommon.


How do we prevent children from getting lice? Specifically our children?

Ultimately, your child should avoid hair to hair contact. That's not necessarily realistic, especially for younger children. Fairy Tales Hair Care for Children makes a line of products for the removal and prevention of lice. Also, a small amount of tree tea oil dabbed behind the ears or dropped into regular shampoo can help deter lice. That's my routine as soon as the letter comes home.

But what if it's too late to prevent it? What if it's your child with lice? For some reason, we tend to feel responsible. Like people will think we are unclean  That's not the case. You can have the "cleanest" house and your child can go the "best" school...and STILL get lice.  Because as we all know, life is rarely "fair."

What to do

So what to do when your child does in fact have lice? You can call your pediatrician. There are a number of prescription as well as over-the-counter treatments. You and your pediatrician can discuss which ones are right for your family.

The important thing to remember is to follow all of the directions for treatment, especially the need for re-treatment in a couple of days. And by all means, you really need to use that tiny little comb that comes with many treatments. My heart goes out to you moms of little girls with long thick locks.

As for your household, the CDC recommends that ". . .hats, scarves, pillow cases, bedding, clothing and towels worn or used by the infested person in the 2-day period just before treatment is started can be machine washed and dried using the hot water and hot air cycles because lice and eggs are illed by exposure for 5 minutes to temperatures greater than 53.5°C (128.3°F)."

Items that are not washable may be dry cleaned or sealed in a plastic bag for 2 weeks.

So when you get that letter from school. . .don't panic.

A lot of kids get lice - it is not a reflection on you or your housekeeping abilities. Stay calm with your knowledge of how to treat an infestation and prevent any future infestations.

Hillary Chybinski is a crafty mom of 2 boys living the American Dream with her husband in the Philly burbs.  This post was adapted from her blog, My Scraps.

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