Toolbox Tip: Head Lice
Non-chemical and least toxic strategies for treating head lice.
Late September is back-to-school time. For some folks that means pencils, books and dirty looks. For others, it could mean head lice. Back-to-school time is boom time for head lice, which makes it easy to understand why September is National Head Lice Prevention Month. Here are some tips to help you and your family catch these lousy bugs early or, better yet, avoid them altogether.
is one of the most important things we learn during childhood.
Unfortunately, sharing certain items can lead to the transmission of
head lice. Items such as headphones, hair brushes, combs, pillows, hats,
bicycle or football helmets, hair clips, jackets, scarves and even
plush dolls can transmit head lice from one person to another. Help your
child to avoid sharing items like these when lice are on the loose. As
sleepovers necessitate the sharing of pillows and blankets, these should
especially be avoided for children with lice. If your child has long
hair, keep it pulled back during the school day, and consider talking
with your child’s teacher about storing their jackets and scarves in
separate cubbies during class, rather than on racks where they may
contact each other.
Early detection of individual lice is far easier to deal with than an advanced infestation. Throughout the school year children should be inspected weekly by parents.
To Inspect for Head Lice:
Look for eggs (also called “nits”) at the nape of the neck or behind ears. Unhatched eggs will be firmly attached to the hair shaft close to the scalp. These nits are camouflaged with pigment to match the hair color of the infested person. They are most easily seen at the hairline at the back of the neck. Empty egg casings are easier to see appearing white against the hair.
Getting Rid of Head Lice
There are many products available to control lice. Below are some options that have proven effective.
Them Out: no matter what management technique you choose, you’ll need
to do some combing. No treatments kill all lice. Even the pesticidal
shampoos, some of which can be harmful, kill all lice with a single
treatment. Up to 30% of adult lice can survive lice shampooing.
Special fine-toothed metal combs are needed to remove lice. They are effective if thorough combing is done every day for up to two weeks. Brand names include LiceMeister and LiceOut. These can be found at your local drugstore or ordered from the National Pediculosis Association (http://www.headlice.org/ or by phone at 1-800-446-4NPA).
* See bottom for proper lice combing procedure.
There is a new device known as thethat has been proven very effective controlling lice. It is a 30 minute heat treatment.
Petroleum Jelly (Vaseline®)
study found that petroleum jelly can be an effective way, if an
extremely messy one, to deal with lice. Apply petroleum jelly generously
to the hair, making sure the hair and scalp are saturated (use
approximately two ounces depending on the thickness and length of the
hair being treated). Cover the hair with a close-fitting shower cap.
Leave the cap on for eight hours (avoid doing this overnight as the cap
may become a suffocation hazard during sleep). This treatment works by
suffocating the lice. Remove the shower cap and wash the hair with
shampoo to remove most of the petroleum jelly (consider rinsing with a
mild degreasing soap as it will be hard to remove). Remove all remaining
lice by combing.
There is a new prescriptive treatment,
Wash all clothes in hot soapy water. Pillowcases, sheets, blankets and stuffed animals should also be washed and placed in the clothes dryer on high heat. Any non-washable items should be dry cleaned or sealed in plastic bags and placed in the freezer at 5 F or lower for 10 hours or more. Vacuuming the home will remove shed hair and nits.
Avoid re-infestation with weekly head checks of the whole family. Don’t worry about scruffy or fluffy though. Head lice do not go after household pets.
* Proper Lice Combing Procedure