Ask a Pediatrician: How Do I Prevent My Child from Getting Head Lice?

Dr. Jeremy Friedman, chief of pediatric medicine at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, answers your most pressing questions about your child's health

Photography by Tom Conger, via Flickr (CC)

Q: My daughter’s school went through a huge lice outbreak last winter. What can we do to prevent her from getting it?

A: I must admit when this happens at my kids’ school we also get a bit anxious, as getting rid of them is laborious! It’s not surprising that there are so many new products to treat head lice and professional services offering to take care of them for you. Not sharing hats, hair accessories, combs, brushes, scarves, etc., and avoiding contact with beds, couches and fluffy toys belonging to a recently infected person is always a good idea (the adult louse can survive for two days not attached to someone’s head).

For treatment, make sure that you follow the instructions for the product you choose to use, and most will involve a second treatment seven to 10 days later. Machine washing all clothing and linens using the hot cycle is important. Those things that cannot be washed should be sealed in a plastic bag for two weeks before reusing. Combs and brushes should be disinfected with rubbing alcohol or placed in boiling water, then sealed in a bag and left in the freezer for a few days.

Looking for more? Be sure to read Dr. Friedman’s response to “What are the signs of celiac disease?”

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