MPH Blog

My Child Has Lice, Now What?

Lice can happen to anyone—kids are especially susceptible. Children are always playing close to each other, sharing hats or scrunchies, and in close proximity at daycare or classrooms, allowing lice to transfer easily. Thankfully, getting rid of these pests usually isn’t very hard. Once they’re kicked off the head, they will die within a day from starvation. Truthfully, for many kids (and parents) the hardest part of dealing with lice is dealing with the social stigma. Lice can happen regardless of how clean your hair or home is.

Below we will go over ways to take care of lice and how you can positively present the problem to others.

First Steps: Check the Rest of the Family

Lice spreads easily, but the image you see on TV of them jumping from head to head is a myth. Lice cannot fly or jump very far. It is actually very hard for them to get to a new person without making direct contact with the affected area. Check your family for lice and buy shampoos with mint or tea tree oils that repel the bugs.

As for the child’s classmates, it is best to inform the school unless you are 100% certain your child has not been to school since the lice showed up. Some schools have a “no nit” policy and will require that your child stays home until the lice are gone. This is not always necessary, and if you are allowed to send your child to school, feel free to do so. The child has probably had lice for at least a month before it was noticed, so a lice check will be necessary either way.

Getting Rid of the Pests

Most lice remedies you can get over the counter. In order to help kill the bugs, you will want to use a shampoo with pediculicides. Afterward, lightly coat a brush with mint oil and brush the child’s hair. Repeat this process for a few days to make sure all the eggs are eradicated.

You’ll probably come across a lot of people proclaiming the value of home remedies. Somehow, washing your hair with mayonnaise has become an extremely popular solution. It’s not that these can’t work, just that they are not as effective as the regular treatments. If you are not big on chemicals, there are legitimate enzyme-based products that have come out in recent years that have proven to be effective.

If all else fails and you’ve got a kid that can pull it off, shaving the head is a surefire way to get rid of lice, especially for children since there is no other body hair for the lice to relocate to.

Scouring the Home

Once the lice are gone, it’s time to make sure they don’t come back. Throwing away items might be extreme, but if it’s something you’re not attached to, like a pillow case, go ahead. If your child has a stuffed animal, a wash cycle or even 30 minutes in the dryer will usually do the trick. Nonwashable items can be sealed in plastic bags for a few days. If the object can withstand cold temperatures, put it in the freezer for a day. If you used a hair brush, boil it or throw it away. As a final measure, vacuum the home and consider keeping the child out of their room for a couple of days. If you have pets, don’t worry, lice that target humans cannot survive on other animals.

How to Handle the Social Stigma

Many children—especially young girls—feel embarrassed after contracting lice. You might even feel slightly worried for the reputation of your children and yourself as a parent. Take a deep breath and remember that lice infestations can happen to anyone. The best way to move beyond the stigma is to know the facts.

Here are a few statistics you can keep in mind:

  • Head lice are second only to the common cold in diseases that affect children.
  • Lice often nest in hair for a month before anyone notices, making it almost impossible to determine who originally carried them.
  • Lice spread from direct head to head contact or sharing clothing—not by jumping from person to person.
  • Lice only survive up to 24 hours after being removed from a person.
  • Lice are equally attracted to clean and dirty hair.

Reinforce to your child that head lice are nothing to be ashamed of. Remind them (and yourself) of the facts above and continue to maintain healthy habits in the home. The more confident your child feels, the easier it will be for them to socialize.

This article contains general information about medical conditions and treatments. The information is not advice and should not be treated as such. The information is not intended to replace the advice or diagnosis of a physician. If you have any specific questions about any medical matter you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.

Categories: Children's Health