Back to School Series: Fight the Lice

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school kidsAm I the only one who starts scratching their head as soon as they hear the word lice? It may be one of the most dreaded words a parent can hear once school has started. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for children 3 to 11 years of age, an estimated 6 to 12 million infestations occur each year in the United States. Fortunately, in most cases, lice can be treated easily and although annoying, they are harmless. In fact the The American Academy of Pediatrics does not endorse “no-nit” policies that exclude children from school because nits are present. And if you think it could never happen to your kid, think again… lice are equal opportunity pests! Anyone can find themselves in the situation of needing to fight the lice.

So what do you do if your kid comes home with lice? When it happened in our house, I researched lice treatments and discovered that traditional treatments like Nix and Rid have become less and less effective over the last 30 years. Basically, lice have mutated to resist these types of treatments. Dousing my children in chemicals and having the treatment potentially be ineffective was not an option for me. I needed to learn how to get rid of lice naturally.

I continued my search and found that Consumers Reports had a step-by-step guide for lice and nit removal from an infested scalp. They found that the safest method of getting rid of lice is to physically remove the insects and their eggs by combing with a lubricant such as a hair conditioner, followed by treatments every few days for about a month. This worked for us and my children were never exposed to chemicals. There is no question in my mind that it was effective, but it is very time consuming! (I don’t think I can emphasize the time consuming part enough!)

Here is what I did to remove the nits and lice.

Step 1: Cover every inch of hair with a conditioner of your choice. Make sure to get it down to the scalp. (You can use olive oil instead.) Let it sit for 30 minutes.

Step 2. Using a fine-toothed metal comb – because the tines of those metal combs are small enough so that an individual hair can go through, but not the egg itself – and comb through small sections, starting at the scalp and going all the way to the end. Dunk the comb in hot water and wipe it on a paper towel each time it is run through the hair.

Step 3. Repeat until the whole head is done and you no longer see nits or lice. You may have to go over the head a few times.

Step 4: Repeat in 3 to 4 days.

Here are more tips to keeping your house lice-free:

• If you don’t have the time to do a treatment like above, there are natural lice treatment kits. Choose a natural lice treatment like KaPow, which is very safe and effective. Recheck frequently for 2 to 3 weeks, and always read instructions carefully.

• Wash anything your child’s head has touched, including linens, towels, and clothing, in very hot water, and then dry in a hot dryer for 20 minutes. Store brushes and head gear that can’t be washed in plastic bags for several days or in the freezer.

• Vacuum rugs, upholstered furniture, mattresses, pillows and car seats. Since head lice can’t live for more than a day or two without a host, concentrate on your child’s scalp rather than on the house.

Photo from here, with thanks.

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February 2023