School has begun and that means it's officially lice season. For the uninitiated parent, it can be traumatizing to get that fateful note home from school saying your child has lice.
Most people live a lice-free existence until they have kids, so this first note comes as a big shocker. What!?! Lice!?! How!?! No!!!!
What occurs next is the tedious work of getting rid of the lice and their eggs (nits), which is a chore of huge magnitude. You skulk up to the cashier with your nit comb and shampoo.
At home, it's hours of looking through hair strand by stand, followed by the stripping of bed sheets, the bagging up of pillows and stuff animals. Basically, lice will hijack your time and energy.
Yup, head lice is a pain. We can all agree to that! However, it is a benign and common experience so it’s time to drop the stigma attached to having a lice breakout.
Stop The Stigma
In fact, you should just EXPECT to have lice if you have children. Just as children pass around the common cold virus, so do they pass along this critter who creates annoyance, not illness. Why does a louse get such a bad rap?
Lice prefers the small diameter of the hair shafts of young children. They also like squeaky clean hair, not dirty hair. Little kids are more apt to roll around on the ground knocking their heads together giving lice an opportunity to crawl from one head to another, so kindergarten students have the highest occurrence. Each year gets better! Hang in there.
Eradicating the stigma of lice means educating and encouraging people to speak up when they have lice in order to normalize the experience for others. If people shy away from the topic, they may not mention that their child has just had lice, fearing others will judge them.
If your child just had lice, I want to know so I can check my child more vigilantly or postpone the play date for a few more days until you're confident that all the nits are gone. That is being responsible and truthful.
We should all sashay up to the aisle of the drug store with our nit combs and tea tree oil with the same attitude as if we were buying tissues and cough syrup. Let’s do better to help our children not be shunned or judged by this most typical of childhood experiences.
Lastly, only 50 per cent of those infected have an itchy head. So, while you may think you are in the clear – it is still super important to check your kids!
A few parting hints and tips if you have already received the note home:
1. If you aren’t up to the challenge of picking nits, you can seek out a lice removal service to do it for you – it’s not cheap, but most offer a guarantee to get the job done!
2. Did you know that lice can live through a wash cycle? It’s actually the dryer (at full heat for 20 minutes) that kills the lice that may have transferred to clothing, bedding, backpacks and stuffed animals.
3. Don’t forget the backpacks or the car seats! The shoulder straps of backpacks are so close to the child’s head that it’s possible to for lice to transfer to backpack straps. Vacuum your child’s car seat or headrest in the backseat. With that said, there is only a two per cent chance of lice transferring to personal belongings!
4. For hairbrushes, hairbands and other accessories, the freezer works! Put them in a plastic bag and leave them in the freezer for 24 hours.
5. This one is a bit depressing, but it’s fair that you should know. Once your child has had lice, the louse leave a scent on the scalp for up to six months, making them more likely to get it again. Stay vigilant and keep checking!
ALSO ON HUFFPOST:
First off, you’re not just looking for one form of head lice. There are nits, which are the lice eggs (white or yellowish in colour, oval in shape and less than 1 mm in size). Then there are nymphs, the recently hatched immature lice. They are about the size of a pinhead and can be greyish, yellow or rust-coloured. Lastly, the mature adult lice are 2 to 3 mm in size (about the size of a sesame seed). They are oval, with legs and claws and generally brownish or rust-coloured.
Nits are found attached to hair shafts, near the scalp. Once they hatch, lice move to feed on the scalp, typically around the nape of the neck, the crown and around the ears. They can also live in eyebrows and eyelashes. Lice can also crawl onto clothing, hairbrushes, hats and bedding (though they can only live for a day or two if they aren’t able to feed on blood).
Lice bite the skin in order to feed on blood, and it’s the lice saliva that can be irritating and cause itching in some people. This can also result in sores or red bumps on the scalp caused by scratching. Others, on the other hand, are asymptomatic. Lice sufferers may also feel a “ticklish” sensation on the scalp, particularly at night when lice are most active.
The only way to really know for sure is to thoroughly inspect the hair and scalp. Go through hair, section by section, under a bright light, using a fine-toothed comb or a stick. Focus on the area around the ears and the back of the neck, but look everywhere. Look for movement in the hair. A magnifying glass can help, too. Here’s a tip for determining whether something is a nit or just dandruff: Try to move the object down on the hair shaft. If it moves easily, it is not a nit. Nits are “glued” to the shaft and will not move unless you really work at them with your nail.
If you can’t tell whether your child has lice from a dry inspection, wet your child’s hair and apply conditioner. Use a lice comb (which has teeth placed very close together) and methodically comb out the hair in sections, from root to tip. You should see the lice on the comb afterwards.
If you do find lice on your child’s head, be sure to check everyone else in the house (including yourself). If you’re in doubt, see your doctor. And don’t panic! With some care and effort, you can get rid of lice. Until the next time, that is… sigh.