With changing school policies and privacy practices and rising chemical resistance, head lice are becoming a more common issue in the United States. Pesticide resistance, found in almost all lice tested in the US since the year 2000, also makes lice treatment harder than it used to be.
You can always call LiceDoctors for help with treating lice, but ideally you'd rather never get it in the first place. Read on for some medically reviewed tips on how to prevent lice.
Who Is at Risk for Getting Head Lice?
Every human with head hair can get head lice. That includes people of any gender, race, hair type, or socioeconomic status. Contrary to stereotypes about lice affecting people with poor hygiene, it is the clean people who get it most often.
What we generally consider good personal hygiene, like hair shampooing and hand washing, do nothing for preventing lice. Cleanliness of household items and environments can't help, either. You can't get head lice from pets, or from getting dirty outside. Lice is almost exclusively caught from direct contact between humans.
And which humans have the most physical contact in day-to-day life? Sure, some jobs may involve more touching and physical proximity. Nurses, athletes, hairstylists, and dancers, to name a few. But no job even comes close to the amount of physical proximity that children and their caregivers experience on a constant basis.
7 Tips to Prevent Head Lice
So how can you prevent lice? Since the main people who spread lice are children at play, prevention should start with educating children about how to avoid getting lice. Be proactive. Make preventing lice a personal hygiene habit. Cover your mouth when you cough, wash your hands after you go potty, and keep your hair off of other people.
1. Explain Head Lice to Your Kids
You may be shocked to learn that kids are often ashamed or afraid to tell their parents they think they have head lice. Stigma leads to secrecy, and delays treatment until a lice outbreak gets out of control. When you talk to your kids about head lice, focus both on how to prevent getting lice, and that head lice is incredibly common and is nothing to be ashamed of.
2. Avoid Sharing Head-Touching Items
Head lice only live in head hair. But occasionally, a louse might hitch a ride on personal items that touch the hair. Train your children not to share personal items that recently touched another child's head.
- Don't share combs and brushes, hair clips, or hair ribbons;
- Avoid sharing clothing that touches heads, like shirts, coats, and hats;
- Don't borrow headphones or helmets from other children;
- Don't put kids into car seats used less than 36 hours ago by a child with head lice.
3. Minimize Head-To-Head Contact
The good news is, head lice cannot jump or fly! They rarely get off of their human host, and cannot infest homes or belongings. About 95% of the time, the infested person caught head lice from touching heads with other children. So the best way to prevent lice is by reducing direct contact.
Teach children to avoid head contact with other kids who have an active infestation. (We know that this is way easier said than done!). Encourage games and sports activities that don't include close contact.
4. Separate Personal Belongings
If there's a coat closet in your child's classroom, ask your child's school if they can put their coat over the back of their chair instead to avoid spreading lice. Keep in mind, though, that personal items are usually not the cause of the spread of head lice.
For head lice prevention at slumber parties, each child should have her own pillows, bed linens, and towels. Machine wash in hot water 130 F, or run a high heat drying cycle afterwards.
What helps prevent lice from spreading through your whole family? Siblings shouldn't share clothing, towels, brushes, pillows, hats, combs, or other items that could spread bugs from head to head.
5. Choose Hairstyles that Prevent Lice
Teach kids how to prevent lice in hair styling habits. The best hairstyles to prevent lice are short ones, since the hair is less likely to touch another child's hair. If your child loves their long hair, put it up with hair ties, clips, or combs for prevention during school. Wear hats while playing outdoors.
Style the hair using natural products that repel lice. Any hair product at all — gel, hairspray, oil, lice repellent spray — reduces your odds.
6. Clean the Items That Have Been in Contact with the Head of a Person with Lice
Head lice survive less than 36 hours off a human host. Lice eggs are firmly attached to the child's hair, and die if the hair sheds. The only items that need cleaning are things that contact your child's hair right before and right after lice treatment.
There's no need to get rid of anything. Combs and brushes can be soaked in hot water for 10 minutes or frozen overnight. Putting stuffed animals in a plastic bag won't suffocate bugs, but the plastic bag might keep your child from touching the stuffed animals for a day or so. With LiceDoctors' method, even these precautions are overkill.
7. Check Your Child for Lice and Nits Regularly
It is best to assume that your child is being constantly exposed to head lice at school. Examine the scalp and hair of all school-aged children with a bright light and a magnifying glass every two weeks during the school year. If a friend has head lice, use a fine tooth comb on your child's entire head.
If anyone in the household does have visible nits or live lice, check your whole family right away. Check them again every few days for a couple weeks after everyone seems clear. Never wait for symptoms to develop, since symptoms don't typically start for weeks after a child catches head lice.
Preventing the Spread of Head Lice
You likely won't know if your child has a head lice infestation until they get an itchy scalp, which only happens after a child has head lice for weeks. Over the counter lice treatment pesticides are not what to do to prevent lice. Overuse of these chemicals is what causes the spread of "super lice." In fact, more and more research is demonstrating that over the counter pesticides rarely work for treatment nowadays.
Want to know how to prevent lice naturally with products? Keeping the hair up in a bun is probably your best option. If a child had recent head-to-head contact with an infested person, they can sleep on an old towel with olive oil saturating the hair overnight.
Discovered Head Lice in Child's Hair?
Don't panic; it's just bug bites! Like mosquitoes, head lice are parasites that bite to feed on human blood. Unlike mosquitoes, medically reviewed research demonstrates that head lice very rarely cause serious harm, and don't spread other infectious diseases.
The main harm done by head lice is psychological. Completely eradicating the problem can be frustrating. Well-meaning but stressed-out parents can inadvertently set their kids up for a lifelong phobia when minor errors cause recurrent cases and social stigma. If you don't feel confident handling an outbreak, call LiceDoctors to book an appointment for the best in-home natural lice removal today!