In this mom’s book, lice is not only a four letter word, but a word that taps into my deepest, darkest fears: Creepy, crawly, itchy bugs that cannot be eliminated with a mere swat or can of Raid. Rather, getting rid of those buggers is a tedious and time-consuming process that takes diligence and can be a social stigma for children and leave parents feeling paranoid and unsettled, long afterwards.
Lice is nothing new and unfortunately with their ability to develop resistance to certain drug treatments over time, we are not likely to be rid of them anytime soon. In fact, the CDC estimates that 6 to 12 million children in the United States get lice, annually! Children ages 3 to 11 are most heavily affected.
So, what’s a parent to do? For starters, don’t rest on your laurels by assuming that lice are the result of neglect or poor hygiene and that it won’t affect your child. Lice are equal opportunists and anyone and everyone are susceptible. Don’t wait to receive an outbreak notice from your daycare, preschool or elementary school to take precautions. As soon as your child can understand, teach him/her some hygiene basics, such as to not share hats, helmets, brushes, combs, scarves, hair accessories, dress up wigs, pillows or sleeping bags. Also, avoiding head to head contact is ideal, though will not necessarily be top of mind for your child when playing.
Lice do not fly, but rather crawl. If your child (and this applies to not just girls) has long hair, put it in braids, a bun or even ponytail, as much as possible. This makes it at least a little harder to shimmy up a long strand of hair and nestle into the scalp. Though not conclusive, early research indicates that lice do not like tea tree, peppermint, lavender and some other essential oils – so make it a habit to spray your child’s hair, regularly. There are several products currently on the market if you prefer not to mix your own oil treatment.
Lastly, the best way to prevent a serious outbreak is to catch it in the earliest stages. Do regular checks on your child’s hair using the wet comb method. Helping to spread the word to other parents on prevention and detection can also help to deter the number of children affected by an outbreak.
If your child DOES get lice, thankfully there are numerous resources on treatment. Remember to also treat your home – vacuuming, as well washing and drying bed linens at high temperatures. Tot Squad can help to steam clean any items that cannot be laundered.