Tips for Avoiding and Preventing Lice
Lice are every parent's nightmare - mine included. We successfully avoided it for 11 years, but I think it is a rite of passage and we finally succumbed last year. Lice have been around for hundreds of thousands of years and I am sure they will continue to be for at least that long. But that doesn't mean that you or your children have to live with them. There are ways to avoid getting lice and hopefully prevent them from ever getting on your child's head.
First here are some facts to help you understand lice. A louse cannot fly or jump. They can only crawl. This means that there needs to be head to head contact in most cases. Lice can also be transmitted from hats, scarves, helmets, combs, brushes, and hair pieces like ponies or clips. BUT lice can only live for about 30 minutes when not on a head so that does help prevent the spread. Lice eggs however can take up to a week to hatch so if the eggs are spread you might not know you have lice for a few days after being infested.
In light of this information teach your child to never wear anyone else's hats or scarves. Also tell them not to share combs or brushes with anyone. Picture two kids bending over the same book or sitting close on a bus, especially girls with long hair. This is a prime opportunity for lice to travel from head to head. Sports helmets are harder, as they can be expensive and many teams share helmets. Try to purchase your own and don't let your child share. This might seem silly or extreme, but lice can be very difficult to get rid of, so if you really want to avoid it, every precaution must be taken.
Lice do not like the smell of tea tree oil I learned. Although expensive, a small bottle goes a long way. I have mixed a capful in each of our shampoo bottles. This is enough to give our hair a strong tea tree smell and the lice typically will avoid a head that smells bad to them.
We also cut our children's hair short. To make it easier to comb through and give the lice fewer places to live. Unfortunately I have a daughter with curly hair and it puffs out quite a bit. This means that when she stands next to other girls her hair can easily overlap theirs, allowing for transmission of a louse. I prefer her to keep her hair in a pony tail or held down with a headband. I figure it can't hurt anyway and whatever I can do to prevent another outbreak the better.
Once you have lice in your house, more precautions need to be taken. Because eggs can live for so long before hatching, you need to wash and dry everything that could be hosting an egg. Think sheets, pillow cases, all bedding, stuffed animals, even coats and hats. If you can't wash all this, bag everything up and set it aside for two weeks. When the eggs hatch they will have no source of blood and die quickly. By regularly washing items you can at least prevent the spread of lice if they are in your house. Avoid borrowing stuffed animals from friends, the school or the library. There was an outbreak in our town a couple of years ago and the lice were being spread through stuffed animals borrowed from the library. You just never know where those eggs could be hiding.
Lice are no fun! If you get them there are plenty of homemade remedies out there. While these home remedies work well, I much prefer to avoid the lice to start with. I wish I could say it is completely avoidable, but you can still do everything right and end up with lice. Hopefully these tips will help you.