Lice brought into a school can quickly produce an epidemic of itching and scratching. These wingless, gray insects about the size of a sesame seed. Lice lay tiny white eggs called nits that may also be seen in the hair. Head lice only live on humans and spread from one person to another by close contact or by sharing personal items. Anyone can get them, even with good health habits and hair washing.
Thankfully, lice don’t cause serious illness. There is no need to shave your child’s hair! Beware of rumors on how to kill them–never use kerosene, matches or other harmful products on your child’s head. Here are some better solutions…
Shampoo and rinse treatment:
- Shampoo, rinse and towel dry your child’s hair. Do not use cream rinse or oils.
- Then, shampoo or rinse your child’s hair with a special anti-lice shampoo or hair rinse. A hair rinse that contains permethrin, called Nix, usually works well. Follow the directions on the label or your doctor’s advice for using. Check for age limits—some lice treatments can be harmful to young children.
- Wash your child’s hair over a sink. This will help decrease the chance of pesticides getting on the rest of your child’s body. Protect eyes and don’t use the anti-lice shampoo on eyelashes.
- Do not use regular shampoo, creams or oils on the hair for two to three days. They may interfere with the action of the anti-lice shampoo or rinse.
- Repeat the treatment with the shampoo or rinse in six to 10 days if needed.
Wet combing treatment:
- Shampoo, rinse and towel dry your child’s hair.
- Comb through your child’s hair with a metal fine-tooth comb, such as the LiceMeister. Plastic nit combs do not work well. The comb works best with wet hair.
- Hair conditioner, olive oil or vinegar may help the comb go through the hair more easily. Repeat the combing every day for three to fours days as needed until no live lice or nits are found.
Clean any lice or nits from your home and child’s things:
- Vacuum carpets and upholstery in your home and car. Place the vacuum bag in a plastic bag and throw it away.
- Soak combs and brushes for 1hour in the lice shampoo. (Teach your child not to share items such as combs, brushes, coats, scarves, hats, towels, hair ribbons and barrettes.)
- Wash all of your child’s bed linens and any clothes he has worn in hot water and dry on high heat. Dry clean items that cannot be washed such as coats, stuffed toys and sleeping bags. (You may place items in a sealed plastic bag for two weeks.)
- Check everyone who lives in your home for lice and nits—both adults and children.
Check with your child’s school about their policy for lice. In general, your child may return to school or daycare after one shampoo treatment if all live lice are gone. All live lice are removed by wet combing. Nits (eggs) alone are not a reason to keep your child home as nits are not contagious. Call your child’s doctor if itching prevents sleep or if the scalp rash clears, then returns–or if it lasts for more than one week. Good luck to you—and good riddance to the lice!