Family Health: Heading Off Head Lice

Here are a few basic tips to help you identify, get rid of and prevent head lice

Adapted from the print edition, October 2012

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Photography by Klaus Post, via Flickr (CC)

If you have a child attending school, you will inevitably receive a lice outbreak update at some point during the school year. Head lice are spread through head-to-head contact or by sharing brushes, hats, etc., with someone who has lice. If your child is infected, you may spot white or greyish crawling forms (about the size of a sesame seed) and yellowish white eggs (nits) attached to the hair shafts close to the scalp (you may need to look very carefully for them).

There are a number of products on the market to help rid your child’s scalp of the critters, including some pesticide-free treatments (we’re fond of the Nyda line). Experts recommend that you follow the instructions for the product you choose to use—most will involve a second treatment seven to 10 days after the first application. In addition, machine-wash the bedding and any hats of the infected person using the hot-water cycle. Combs and brushes should be disinfected with rubbing alcohol or placed in boiling water.

For more information on head lice and prevention, check out these posts:

 New Solutions for Head Lice
 Keeping Lice Out of Your (Kid’s) Hair
 How to Prevent and Treat Hair Lice
 Ask a Pediatrician: How Do I Prevent My Child from Getting Head Lice?


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