Head lice: everything you need to know and all your questions answered
It's often the thing we'd rather not think about, but to all parents with school-age children, the issue of head lice will sooner or later raise its head.
This could be it in the form of an e-mail informing you that the critters are now doing the rounds in your child's classroom, or that you actually (shudder!) find them, all creepy and crawly, in your child's hair.
(I feel itchy even just typing that.)
The thing is, though, head lice is just another one of those gross parenting things that sooner or later happen to all of us. Heck, Jennifer Garner even admitted to having her head full of lice treatment cream the first time she met George Clooney (and also admits she suspects this is the reason herself and Ben Affleck were left off the guest list for George's wedding a couple of years ago!)
Now that school is nearly around the corner, you're better off being ready for that dreaded email to do the rounds...
What are head lice?
Lice are parasites that nest and live on the scalp, hair and clothing of humans. They are greyish in colour and between 2 and 4 mm in size. The eggs they lay are called nits, and these often appear to be more whitish coloured. Lice crawl around the head but the nits remain stuck to the hair.
Head lice most often infest children's hair and scalps, but can also happen to adults. What is important to remember us that the presence of head lice has zero to do with lack of hygiene.
Can head lice be avoided?
The thing about children is that they play all the time. And a lot of that play involves them being in close proximity to one another, something that obviously increases the risk of being infested with head lice if whoever they are playing with at the time happen to have it.
However, there are measures you can take to at least try to limit your kids' chances of catching it. These are:
1. Make sure they know not to share any 'touch the head' items, like combs, hair ties, ribbons and clips, hats, bike helmets, headsets, earplugs or even towels.
2. If someone they play with has head lice at present, try to make sure they avoid games and activities that lead to head-to-head contact.
3. Keep belongings, especially upper body clothing, away from shared areas like coat closets.
4. If you have a child with long hair, tying it up can to a certain extent help protect them from catching head lice.
5. Use Hedrin Protect and Go Conditioning spray. This clinically-proven conditioning spray works by killing lice before an infestation can take hold, and is perfect for things like play dates, parties and sleepovers when you can actively protect your child's hair by just giving it a spritz of this before they go.
Head lice: all your questions answered
Lice cause an itchy scalp. If your child is scratching, especially check areas like their scalp, behind the ears and at the nape of the neck.
Lice are transmitted by direct contact, and can also be indirectly transmitted by objects like hats, hair bands, headsets and even towels.
There are a wide variety of lice-treating products available in pharmacies. Ask your pharmacist or doctor about the formulas and brands available (shampoos, lotions, sprays etc) and follow the directions for use on the package leaflet carefully.
Make sure to wash all bed linens and towels on at least 60 degrees, and disinfect all combs, brushes etc.
Note: Many commercially available products contain an insecticide and/or an ovicide (to kill the eggs) and are contraindicated in children under 30 months of age and pregnant women.