I thought this blog would be handy for all parents & families.
It’s the season for the first outbreak of lice to hit our schools and nurseries. On average, we have around 8-12 Million infestations occurring annually in the UK. Eeeek!
Now, there is no need to go into panic mode, these little blood suckers are so much easier to get rid of then they used to be and they aren’t in any way dangerous.They might make you lose your mind a little as just the thought of them alone can make us feel itchy (apologies).
I promise - no photos are included in this post.
Now, there are a lot of myths around head lice and I hear clients saying a lot of things that aren’t actually true. So to make the panic lessen, I thought I would clear a few things up for everyone.
Myth 1: Head lice are attracted to dirty hair
The truth is, head lice really aren’t bothered about hygiene standards. To them, it’s all about warmth and blood. As we all have warm heads with blood pumping through our veins, no one is ‘more’ or ‘less’ susceptible to infestations.
Myth 2: People with short hair are less likely to catch lice
This is untrue. As I said, lice like warmth and blood and that’s really all that’s needed to make them feel at home. Head to head contact is the easiest way of transference- If two people with short hair put their heads together, their scalps are actually a lot closer than two people who have a lot of longer or thicker hair in between their scalps. No need to chop off your son or daughters hair to minimise the risks.
Myth 3: Only children get lice
Lice have no idea how old the chosen scalp is and the size of the head makes no difference either. Anyone with a head is basically a target if they can make contact to build their new home. It is always wise to check the whole family for lice if one of you has had the pleasure of being their feeder for a while. As children and parents are often cuddling each other at some point, it’s then that they make a transfer to a new head.
Myth 4: Washing your hair more often will rinse any nits away
Sounds a bit like something from another world but these little lice can actually survive under water for around 6 hours (that is not a typo). I doubt that anyone can have a shower for that long so you will need treatment to remove them. Products that contain Pyrethroids are usually a success although some lice have evolved so much that they now resist this chemical meaning you may need to try a second topical treatment.
Myth 5: Sharing a comb or brush spreads lice
Well, the chances are pretty slim. As the grip that the lice hold on their victims hair is so strong, they are very hard to remove using a standard comb or brush. Basically, they’re happy where they are, so they try to stay there rather than moving to something bloodless for a while. Head-to-head contact with an infested person is the most common way for them to spread because to them, it is a direct move to another cosy place to make a home.
I would still recommend that you avoid using combs and brushes that belong to a person who has lice because it is not impossible for them to transfer if the lice did get caught in a comb, and then was quickly transferred to the next head. After brushing, I would recommend placing all hair brushes and combs used in boiling water for 10 minutes.
Myth 6: Lice carry diseases – like mosquitos
Lice can not transfer disease. The worst case would be that you scratch so much you end up with an infection to the scalp. The infection wouldn’t actually be caused by lice, but by living bacteria already in your skin.
Myth 7: All nits are white
Here is the rule, If you spot black nits in the hair, these are unhatched. A white nit is actually a nit shell that’s been left behind when it transformed into head lice. White nits will fall out on their own. Even if you haven’t had treatment.
Myth 8: Your Cat or Dog might catch them too
Animal ticks and human lice are quite different and lice will only eat human blood.
Myth 9: Kids sandboxes are a breeding ground for lice
This one makes me giggle. You would need to physically rub your infested head into the sand and really rub it in. If lice moved from the infested head and into the sand- it would die before it crawled to its next breeding space. They don’t move fast and need to feed regularly. Again, the only danger in the sand pit is an infested head that may come into direct contact with another childs.
Myth 10:Infested children should be sent home from school/Nursery
The fact is, they are so easily treated now that your child needs one treatment when he/she gets home and can return to school, nit free the next morning.
Most schools are good at staying on top of the issue so you usually are informed when there has been an outbreak in the classrooms. It’s good to always check your childs hair during this season.
So, If someone in the family has lice,
what should you do?
Pop straight to your chemist or supermarket and grab yourself a treatment. I recommend Hedrin -All in one shampoo and a Nit Comb (usually included).
This is applied to dry hair, left for 5 minutes and then lathered before rinsing. You then need to run through the hair in small sections from root to tip with the nit comb which will remove any eggs remaining in the hair. Thankfully, it also doesn’t smell anything like the treatments did when I was a child and the experience is so much easier and quicker than it’s ever been.
Please note that lice treatment products do contain chemicals which are unsuitable for children under 12 months of age.
If your child is under 12 months, wash their hair with their usual shampoo and then coat the hair in conditioner. You will then need to comb through the hair with a nit comb before rinsing.
How to avoid them returning
Of course try having no avoid head-to-head contact (not so easy) and use repelling scents on the hair such as tea tree and lemon. You will find a range of lice repelling shampoos with these scents, available in stores and online.
I hope that my blog has helped. If you have, or do get an infestation at home, you know that you can deal with it with minimal stress.
If you would like more handy tips for Childrens hair care, read my blog here.