**_If you have ever had your children come home with lice, you know how much work it takes to rid your child, and your house, of the pesky little bugs. During the treatment, you probably asked, “What can I do to prevent this from happening again?” You might not be able to completely eliminate the risk, but there are steps you can take to greatly reduce it.ho gets lice?**Anyone can get lice. It does not discriminate, although in the United States it is most commonly found in children between the ages of three and 11 years old. This isn’t necessarily because the lice like children’s heads better, but because children this age more often engage in activities -- such as playing with heads close together, taking nap time on the floor and sharing hats, scarves, combs, brushes or towels -- that allow the lice to move from head to head.**When is lice season?**Some people refer to the months of September and January, the start of the school year and the time school resumes after winter break, as, “lice season.” These months are notorious for lice outbreaks because they are times when children are suddenly in close proximity to one another and the lice begin to move from person to person. But you can get lice any time. Another theory is during these months, children are sitting still for longer periods of time and might finally notice the itching.What can I do at home to prevent my children getting lice?Although there aren’t any guarantees, there are a few ways you can reduce the risk of bringing lice into your home: Keep long hair tied into ponytails, braids or up in a bun. Lice will move from head to head by crawling on hair. If your children have long hair, the lice have an easier opportunity to climb aboard. Keeping hair pulled back or up minimizes the surface the bugs have. Using hair spray after your child’s hair is styled can help tame loose hairs.
Talk to your children about prevention. Make your children aware of how lice move from person to person. Discuss why they shouldn’t share barrettes, hair bands, coats, hats, scarves, combs, brushes, helmets or towels. Ask them to avoid putting their head together with a classmate or playmate (girls are more likely to play with their heads together).
Check your children’s heads for lice once a week. Pick one night each week to carefully comb through your child’s head to look for signs of lice. Do this after washing and conditioning your child’s head. Using a nit comb (available at any pharmacy), part your child’s hair looking carefully at the scalp, especially around the neck and ears. Nits are very small and easily missed; each time you comb your child’s hair, wipe the nit comb on a white paper towel. Once you are finished, examine the towel for small brown specks that are relatively the same size and shape.
Wipe down backpacks before bringing them in the house. Keep towels and extra clothes that are sent to school in zip-lock plastic bags so you can immediately wash them in hot water. If you do get a letter from school about lice, place all brushes and combs in boiling water. When they’re cooled, place them in a zip-lock bag and keep them in the freezer for a few days, as the cold will kill any lice.
How can the school help prevent the spread of lice?
Children should have separate cubbies or lockers to keep their belongings. If hooks are used, the hooks should be placed far enough apart that coats, backpacks and other belongings are not touching. Children’s belongings should never be thrown in a large heap or in one single area.
Some schools do random nit checks, similar to the one described for your home but without the washing/conditioning hair first. This is often done by the school nurse, an outside company or parent volunteers. Once nits are found, the school sends home a letter to all parents.
What about lice prevention products and home remedies?
There are a few over-the-counter ingredients that might help prevent lice. These include
- Tea Tree Oil
These products, however, are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and could pose dangers such as skin irritation, be flammable or be dangerous if fumes are inhaled. The Mayo Clinic finds, “little or no evidence that these are effective.” If making home remedies, do your research first and take precautions.
There are also some prevention products on the market, such as Rosemary Repel Lice Prevention Products that include shampoo, conditioner and a spray you can use each morning on your child’s hair. Other products include So Cozy Boo Shampoo, Lice Shield Leave in Spray, and Circle of Friends Tea Tree Shampoo. Lice prevention treatments can often be more expensive than products you use every day.
See More Helpful Articles
Back to School with Head Lice: A Dermatologist Discusses Your Concerns
What You Need to Know About Head Lice
Should Children Miss School Because of Lice?
What Are Super Lice?
Head Lice: Mayo Clinic
Frequently Asked Questions (Head Lice): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of Idiot's Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot's Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love and Essential Guide to Asperger's Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbaileyand on Facebook at eileenmbailey.