Why Head Lice are Making a Comeback (and What You Can Do About It!)
Hey parents, it’s that time of year again – time to stock up on backpacks, paper, pencils, and binders.
As you say farewell to summer and celebrate the fact that the kids are back in the trusty hands of the teachers, there’s that tiny dread that comes with it…
The dread that your child will come home with a nice letter that says a classmate has lice or worst still, your child comes home scratching.
Head lice has been around for a long time, dating all the way back to Egyptian times, and they aren’t leaving any time soon. In fact, they’ve become more resilient than ever, to the point that many over-the-counter products just don’t work anymore.
Now that head lice are no longer considered a “health issue,” schools have changed their head lice policies. Even the most head lice savvy mom feels helpless about this “lousy” situation.
Hey, I get it, I’m a mom too; 16 years ago, my son came home with head lice and promptly gave it to me. The only problem was that back then, there was very little I could do to get myself out of my situation.
As the founder and CEO of a successful head lice franchise, I’ve learned a thing or two about head lice over the years. Here is everything you need to know about head lice in a “nit shell.”
What are Head Lice?
Head lice are 1-4 MM in size and brown to black in color. Contrary to what most believe, their eggs are NOT white, but caramel or brownish in colour when they are potent. Their eggs are stuck to one side of the hair shaft with a special cement-like glue substance, and they don’t come off easily.
What is the life cycle of a louse?
Head lice live for 30 days. They take seven to 10 days to mature and mate. The female louse can lay between three and five eggs per day, and the eggs take seven to 10 days to hatch.
Signs of Head Lice
The two main symptoms of head lice are itching and the presence of eggs in the hair – especially in the “hot spot” regions such as behind the ears, the crown of the head, and the nape of the neck.
How do you check for head lice?
Head lice are fast movers, so the best way to check is by using a lice comb. Lice combs are great for checking and removing both head lice and eggs. Look for a lice comb with long tines and spirals along each one.
Head Lice? Now What?
Don’t panic! You can stop the spread by vacuuming your carpets/upholstery furniture and by placing items such as bedding, pillows, and stuffies in the dryer for 20 to 30 minutes on high heat. If they can’t be put in the dryer, place them into a garbage bag and leave them for two days. Head lice can’t survive off the human head for more than 48 hours.
How To Get Rid of and Prevent Head Lice
Here are five ways to remove head lice and eggs.
- Reduction combing – As mentioned, the best way to get rid of and prevent head lice and their eggs is by reduction
- Enzyme shampoos – These act as a cleaner, help break down the exoskeletons, and loosen the glue that holds the eggs to the hair shaft.
- Mineral solutions – These impact head lice and eggs by sucking out moisture on contact.
- Oil soaks – Oil soaks smother head lice, because the oils clog the spiracles the lice use to breathe. Keep in mind, however, because head lice can hold their breath for up to eight hours, this is a time-consuming method for removal.
- Zappers – Applied to dry hair, the zappers rid any louse found during this process. Note: The zappers only work on head lice, not the eggs.
Head Lice Myths Debunked
Can lice hop, jump or fly? No! Head lice crawl.Can my pets get head lice?
No! Head lice only like the environment on a human head.
Can head lice infest my house? No! Head lice can’t survive off their human host for more than 48 hours.
Can head lice swim? Yes! Head lice can swim. Though rare, it can happen. Remember, head lice can hold their breath for up to eight hours in the water.
Head Lice Prevention: Is It Possible?
One of the best ways to avoid head lice altogether is to practice good head lice prevention methods. Here’s how you and your family can stay “lice free” throughout the school year.
- Educate your kids – Teach your kids about head lice and encourage them to do what it takes to avoid head-to-head or head-to-surface Selfies are one the biggest culprits right now among teenagers. Sharing hats, hair brushes, and helmets are a no-go, too!
- Use essential oils as a repellent – Choose an essential oil spray like eucalyptus and lavender on your child’s hair and clothing. Lice can’t stand the smell. Doing this daily before school and/or daycare goes a long way!
- Take a peek once a week – Check your child’s hair at least once a week. Make this part of your household routine. It only takes a few minutes, but it can save you hours of time on head lice removal down the road.
Head lice is one of the most common child afflictions next to the common cold. If your child does have head lice, it’s important to let your school or daycare know right away. Find out what your school and daycare protocol is for head lice situations. If you’re not happy with what you hear, you can advocate for a change by utilizing the parent’s council. I hope this article helps so you can worry less about the stigma of head lice and get back to doing the more fun mom things!