(The article no one wants to have to read)
If writing this article is enough to get me itching, then its safe to say the thought of head lice fills all you mamas with nothing short of dread. But head lice can be prevented and if, in the event your child does get lice, they are easily treated with a few simple tips. We’ve done the research and have found ways to not only prevent the little buggers from getting under your skin (they don’t actually, though!), but also to help you treat them if they do invade your home (we hope they don’t!).
What are Head Lice?
First, it’s important to remember, that whilst head lice aren’t pleasant they aren’t at all dangerous and so they’re nothing to worry about. They’re also extremely common; more than 6 million children get head lice every year, and this number is especially prevalent in pre-school and primary school aged children. The main reason for lice is the fact that children spend a lot of time in close proximity with one another; there is no link to hygiene. In fact, lice happen to like squeaky clean hair because it’s easy to latch on to!
What to Look for?
Lice are visible to the naked eye and lice eggs (nits) are identified as tiny yellow or brown dots that can be seen on the hair shaft – they often look like dandruff, but they won’t fall out by brushing as dandruff would. Nits are often easier to spot than the lice themselves and the eggs turn white once they’ve hatched so even if you can’t see any lice (as they’ve sneakily run off into the hair) you’ll still see the remnants of the eggs.
Most people associate lice with children scratching but not all children are as sensitive to the lice saliva – which makes them itch – and it may take weeks before they begin to scratch. It is therefore best to check your child’s head regularly for any sign of eggs and treat them as soon as possible. If head lice aren’t treated the lice lay new eggs and the process simply repeats.
Other signs of lice include sores on the head (because of intense scratching). Children may also complain that they can feel something tickling their head, especially at night, when lice are more active.
Checking for Nits
Part your child’s hair into small sections and checking with a fine-tooth comb on the scalp, behind the ears, and around the nape of the neck. Use a magnifying glass and a bright light to be sure.
We all know prevention is better than cure, and whilst there is no sure way to prevent nits entirely you can help stop outbreaks by keeping children’s hair tied back on play dates of when they go to school. Make sure your children don’t share sun hats with others by providing them with their own if they need one, and have them avoid sharing combs and brushes.
There are several ways to treat lice here are just a few at-home ideas you can do:
- Apply liberal amounts of hair conditioner to dry hair and comb out over paper towels using a fine-tooth comb. Specialised nit combs are available in Bumps to Babes and from any market stall that sells combs. You can also use flea combs that are available in pet stores.
- Keep combing until the comb comes away bug free and then place the comb in boiling water for 20 minutes. You will need to repeat this process DAILY for ONE WEEK and then on alternate days for a following week. This will ensure all lice and eggs are gone and the cycle can’t repeat. If any lice are left, they’ll only go on to lay more eggs so make sure you keep this up.
- Opt for specific head lice treatments if you’d prefer but be aware that they contain strong chemicals so ensure you read the label fully and store in a safe place.
Coconut Oil + Essential Oils Recipe
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon each of ylang ylang, anise and tea tree oils (can swap for other anti-lice oils according to what you have on hand/what agrees with you or your child)
2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
Once blended; apply the mixture all over the scalp, massage in well and pull through the ends. Comb through the hair with a fine tooth comb, cover the child’s head in a shower cap and allow to sit for two hours. Use a hair dryer to periodically warm up the cap. After the two hours; carefully remove the shower cap, seal in a zip-lock and dispose immediately. Comb hair again before washing and rinse thoroughly, twice.
While the hair is still wet, combine 2 cups of apple cider vinegar and 1 cup of water in a small spray bottle. Saturate the hair, spraying ½ the bottle on the scalp and hair.
Lean over the sink and pour the remaining mixture over the hair, massaging lightly.
Rinse thoroughly and comb hair once again with a finetooth comb.
Follow with a light application of coconut oil and keep this on the hair until the next washing.
You will need to repeat the process every five to 10 days for a couple of weeks. Between treatments, comb hair morning and night with a fine tooth comb, and use coconut oil as a leave-in conditioner.
Keeping Lice Away
Make sure you also sanitize all hair accessories, brushes, hats, scarves by washing in boiling water and soaking in rubbing alcohol for at least an hour.
Wash bedding, cushions and cuddly toys on a high setting and dry on a high heat setting for at least 20 minutes.
Hoover everywhere that you can including the sofa and mattresses. If you are in the middle of lice treatment you may wish to cover sofas with a throw.
Remember lice will come back if you haven’t fully broken the cycle, so be thorough in your treatment to avoid another outbreak.
Many mums swear by Fairy Tales products to keep lice at bay. Sassy Mama Senior Editor, Roxanne Dowell, says she always used the Rosemary Repel Lice Prevention Spray on her daughters whenever they went to school. For babies age six months and older, try Kit & Coco Complete Lice Treatment. Many doctors offices, include Central Health Medical Practice, will have products such as RID on hand in the pharmacy departments, but you can also buy it here.
If none of those suit your fancy, you can also find a variety of lice prevention shampoos, conditioners and treatments available at iHerb, Fishpond, and Baby Central Hong Kong.
For more information on lice, treatment and prevention, click here.