Go Head-To-Head with Head Lice!
By: Yvonne Klemets Wright
Back to school jitters come with many firsts: First bus ride, first homework assignment, first best friend, and in some not-so-fortunate cases, the first head lice outbreak. If you’re like me, you’re itchy just thinking about it! Thankfully we’ve not yet had to deal with head lice but with two girls each of whom have a head full of hair, we are sure to go head-to-head with those little buggers. So, how do you prepare to combat these creepy critters?
What are head lice?
Head lice are tiny brown and gray parasites that can cause itching and scratching, especially on areas of the body that are covered with hair, typically the scalp, neck, and behind the ears. They are about 2-3 mm long, with 6 legs, each with a claw at the end. An infestation can start out from just one of them crawling onto your child’s hair from another child (they can’t jump) to lay its eggs, which are called nits. The eggs take a week to 10 days to hatch and the nymphs mature into adult head lice 14 days later, and can then reproduce itself.
Who is likely to get head lice?
School age children are the most likely culprits to get head lice, but anyone who has been close to someone who has head lice is at risk. Head lice prefer to live in clean and healthy scalps, quite contrary to the common perception that only dirty people get them.
How do head lice spread?
Head lice mainly spread through close head-to-head touching.
They may be spread through sharing brushes and hats.
They are not likely to be spread through bedding, furniture or carpets, as they cannot live and lay eggs away from a warm human scalp.
Head Lice will lay their eggs at the base of hair follicles. These take up to a week to hatch.
Hatched eggs stay stuck to the hair. They are white, flat and usually easy to see and comb out.
Head lice will dehydrate when off the head. The rate at which this occurs depends on the amount of water vapor in the air. In an air-conditioned room, head lice will be severely dehydrated after a few hours. When it is wet and raining, head lice may live for 24 hours.
How to treat for Head Lice
There are many over-the-counter treatments and natural remedies which have pure tea tree oil as a main ingredient and will act as a natural deterrent. Those who have encountered head lice also swear by smothering the buggers with mayo. Many home remedies are available online.
Ensure you follow the instructions on the box if using packaged treatments and to follow up the treatment to prevent future breakouts.
What other precautions can I take?
Check all family members. They may have lice without itching. Ensure when treating the children that all family members are treated at the same time.
Pull back tightly long hair. Ensure that children do not share hats and brushes, and tell them how head lice are spread.
Make a mixture of tea tree oil in a spray bottle and spray onto hair and into hats each morning.
Dip brushes and combs into a stronger mixture of tea tree oil and water every day.
Do I need to clean the entire house?
No. Head lice die if they leave the head as they feed from sucking blood from the easy to access scalp. Other parts of the body are too tough. Any live lice will be killed by heat. So washing in normal hot water, or putting bedding etc. into a hot tumble dryer, or ironing clothing or bedding will kill them and their eggs. Change pillowcases when you are treating your child.
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