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Tuesday, February 7, 2023
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Head Lice Prevention

It’s back to school time. While your kids are excited about being in a new grade or making new friends, you should give a little thought to something not so fun: head lice prevention. Treating head lice (or pediculosis) can be a pain and a half, and that’s why prevention is the smart move.

Let’s get one thing straight right away: Head lice are very egalitarian parasites. They are not a reflection on a child’s hygiene habits, and an infestation is not a sign of parenting failure or neglect. The host’s socio-economic status is not a part of any louse’s agenda. Since young children are in such close contact at day care and school, and often share hats, scarves, combs, head lice are able to spread quickly in these environments.

Here are some tips on how to prevent the transmission of head lice:

  • For starters, tell your child not to share personal items. That means no trying on their friend’s cool new hat, or using someone else’s hairbrush. Lice are spread most efficiently through head-to-head contact, but can still be transferred via clothing and accessories.
  • Make a habit of regularly cleaning or disinfecting headphones, car seats, pillows, and any other items that regularly come into contact with your kid’s hair.
  • Review head lice “mug shots.” This way you’ll know one when you see one. You can easily find pictures online.
  • Do head lice checks. Regularly examine the areas at the back of the head, behind the ears, and the nape of the neck. These critters thrive on the scalp and on neck hairs. Lice will stand out more distinctly on wet hair, and a fine-toothed comb or a head lice comb can also help.
  • Try not to alarm your kids, and lead them to think you’re on a scary “bug hunt.” In my experience, if you remain calm, your child is more likely to stay calm, too.

Head lice may be itchy and a nuisance, but they rarely cause direct harm, and they don’t transmit any infectious diseases. More damage is probably done by aggressive scratching if your kid breaks the skin. When it comes to treatment regimens, do your homework. You don’t have to clean your entire house—according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, washing items of clothing and furniture that someone with an infestation has come into contact within the last 24 to 48 hours should suffice. Whether you intend to use a prescription insecticide, over-the-counter/home remedies, or manual removal, discuss your plans and treatment options with a healthcare provider.

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