Full Disclosure: I am itching just thinking about writing this article. Ugh.
It’s hard for a kid to get through childhood these days without at least one bout with lice. It’s easy for a parent to panic when they get the call from the school nurse, or when they see bugs on their child’s scalp for the first time. It’s easy to feel dirty and ashamed and overwhelmed. But there is really no reason to overreact!
Lice happens, and it happens to the cleanest, the richest, the most vigilant of all families.
Keep in mind there are a lot of myths about lice, and most are not true. For one thing, lice do not discriminate between dirty hair and clean hair – you can shower twice a day, and still get lice.
Second, lice do not fly or jump, and they do not come from animals. They cannot survive long without a human host and are only spread via head-to-head, hat-to-head, comb-to-head kind of contact.
If you suspect your child could have lice, look at their scalp carefully. An adult louse is about the size of a sesame seed and will be light in color (white to tan). They lay eggs, or nits, about 3 millimeters from the scalp, right on the hair shaft. The lice feed on human blood and their bites will cause your child’s scalp to be very itchy.
If you do find lice, don’t panic. You have several options available to start fighting them right away.
One option is to get to the drugstore and pick up an over-the-counter lice treatment such as RID. Generally these treatments come with a special comb that you will use to comb for nits after the shampoo, which is the most important part of the treatment, to ensure that all of the eggs are gone! You will also be directed to use the shampoo again within several days, just in case you missed any of the tiny eggs and they hatched.
These shampoo treatments are pretty effective, but that is because they are basically insecticides. If you are not comfortable using a pesticide on your child’s head, there are some natural products that appear to be effective as well, including eucalyptus oil or tea tree oil.
In some areas, there are actually mobile lice-removal companies that will come to your house and do the de-lousing for you! These companies will screen every member of your family for lice and nits, and will treat everyone who is affected with their lice treatment products and with a professional comb-through and follow-up services. Some of these companies with locations in Pennsylvania include Lice Happens, Lice Lifters, or the Center for Lice Control.
It used to be that when kids got lice, we were told to bag up all of their stuffed animals and bedding for a month to make sure the nits & bugs were all killed. These days, the American Academy of Pediatrics says extreme housecleaning is no longer necessary as a response to lice, since they do not survive long without a human host.
So, if lice does happen in your house—and at some point it probably will–don’t overreact!
Yes, it is a challenge and an inconvenient annoyance, but it is certainly not dangerous or anything to be ashamed about! Think of this as a teachable moment for your child—an opportunity to show them how to remain calm during a challenging situation.