How to protect your home and family from lice.
How to make sure it never happens.
Head lice has become a pestilence, not least because of the stigma attached to it. Parents who for years thought that lice "couldn't happen to people like them" are finding that in the toniest schools and camps, lice are just as prevalent as anywhere else. During the first season of Real Housewives of NYC, one of the most shocking conversations was when Countess Luann deLesseps announced at lunch with the other Housewives that her son had lice. That a person of her station could deal with this was proof-positive that lice are no respecter of class or income.
Better than a cure for lice is prevention, so we will start there. One of the major difficulties in lice eradication is that parents often don't realize their child has lice until the infestation has gone on for some time. Many parents don't recognize the lice until the child is uncomfortable and scratching frequently and hard. By this time there are hundreds of lice and their eggs all over your child's hair and all over their bedding, furniture, hairbrush, and other memebers of the household. So checking for lice and their eggs should be a regular part of your child's care.
Lice and nits often congregate on the hair follicle close to the scalp and in the back of the head, especially close to the back of the ears. Check here frequently, looking carefully for white or translucent nits that do not blow away (like dandruff or dry scalp will). Anything that seems to adhere to the follicle is particularly troubling. If nits or a live bug are found, begin treatment immediately.
Another way to prevent lice is through essential oils in shampoos and conditioners. Lice tend to like very clean hair, so try not to wash your child's hair every day. When you do wash and condition hair, try to avoid the very sweet-smelling, fruity shampoos and conditioners. Some of the better fragrances and essential oils for the prevention of lice are rosemary, mint, lavender, and tea tree oil. Aveda makes a rosemary mint shampoo that is particularly good, but somewhat expensive. A cheaper alternative is Tea Tree shampoo from Trader Joe's.
Be very cautious about overzealous use of essential oils. Because they are absorbed through the skin and have medicinal properties, they can cause illness and in very high concentrations can be toxic. Stick to shampoos and conditioners with the oils mixed in.
One bad habit that parents often get into is using one hairbrush for all of the children in the family. Moms often carry a hairbrush in the purse or diaper bag and take a quick swipe at everyone's hair at the same time. Use a separate brush for each child whenever possible, and make sure that girls are not trading hairbands and hair ribbons.
Since lice are passed from one head to another through direct contact (they don't hop!), you can help to protect your child with long hair by pulling his/her hair back, especially for school or playdates. A spritz of hairspray with tea tree or rosemary will offer another layer of protection.
With a little everyday prevention, you can help to protect your family and home from the miserable task of lice eradication.