You know the feeling when your child comes home from school, or club, with a nits and lice letter.
Your heart sinks as you know that you need to give their heads a good going over to make sure they don’t have headlice. At the same time, you smugly know that someone, somewhere in their life has a good head of lice and you instantly start to scratch at your own scalp, even though you know there’s nothing there.
Okay, it’s not a very nice subject to talk about, but I see parents looking horrified and holding their hands up in shock and disbelief if a child’s classmate ends up with any sort of head lice. I’m not sure what kind of prejudice that holds, but head lice like any head, so don’t feel awful because your child has ended up with lice or nits, as they have simply been a nice new head for them to live on.
A head louse is usually a small greyish insect that clings to hair and lives on blood from their host. The biting of the scalp and moving through the head tends to make the scalp itchy. An itchy scalp might be what makes you notice that there is something wrong.
I remember sitting in front of a girl at school and seeing her hair move on its own, which freaked me out as a ten year old, so I think it’s important for us to let our kids know that head lice are common, and it doesn’t mean the other kids is dirty.
Head lice can lay eggs that settle very close to the scalp and are difficult to remove. They can hatch about a week later and the leave a gluey shell (nit) that site along the hair.
Last year, Boots gave us one of their Electronic Head Lice combs for use in children of 3 years plus. We’ve not had the chance to try it out, but with a friends two children getting head lice, we actually had a chance to see if it worked. It did, – pretty well, although she did still use the shampoo, just to make sure.
More about head lice
Schools are common places to pick up head lice, as are buses, shops and anywhere that there are crowds and children might touch heads. Lice can’t jump or fly, so when kids huddle up close, lice can walk along the hair and transfer to a friend’s head. Lice will live on clean or dirty hair, so it doesn’t mean children are dirty.
How do we know a child has head lice?
The itching from bites is a tell-tale sign, but by the time that happens, the lice might have been there for quite a while.
It’s worth checking children’s heads frequently. I used to look regularly when my kids came over for a cuddle when they were smaller. The lice will hide away, but the little eggs might be noticeable if there are any.
I suspect my child has head lice so what do I do?
I remember when I had head lice as a child and my mother had me sit with my head over newspaper to catch any lice and nits as they fell off my head while she combed my hair. I was thankful that she took the time and made the effort to find them, and shampoo my hair as some friends who were infected had their hair cut off to get rid of them.
- Brush hair to take out tangles.
- Use lice comb to find and shake out any lice and nits onto the sheets of paper.
- Start at the top of the scalp and work out and down from roots to tip of the hair.
- Check the comb for nits and lice at every pass and clean them off.
Getting rid of head lice – What next?
Check everyone in the family to make sure they haven’t already got head lice and nits. Let the school and clubs your child attends know, so that other children can be checked. If you don’t, your child could easily be infected again.
Shampoos and lotions
Chemical shampooing is recommended if there are live lice. There are prescription and chemist strengths. Make sure you use enough shampoo as a child with thick hair will need more. The instructions on the bottles are very good, with step by step methods.
If you only use chemical treatments, you will have to let the hair dry naturally and repeat the process at weekly intervals for a while to make sure that no lice survive.
Using conditioner on wet hair allows the nits to slide off the hair more easily. Using a fine toothed comb for about 30 minutes every few days for a few weeks will remove lice and eggs until they are all gone.
Electronic lice comb
The electric lice comb says it destroys lice without chemicals.
The principle is that it uses a small electrical charge to kill all head lice that come into contact with the comb teeth. It has to be used on dry hair and gives out a buzzy noise that lets you know the unit is working.
The comb gives a moment of silence when it has found a louse and destroyed it, which is slightly disconcerting, but also reassuring to know one has gone.
From talking to parents and people who have suffered head lice, they prefer a mixed approach to getting rid of any infestations.
The electronic lice comb was indeed helpful, but to get kids back to school quickly, using it in combination with a chemical shampoo would be how I would move forward if my kids get lice.