As the summer rolls on, schools close for the long holidays and children get set to spend hours on the playground with their friends. As a parent, you probably have your young ones signed up for lots of summer camp activities and fun classes. But, summer fun can be spoiled by an infestation of hair lice in children. This itchy infection can be as bothersome as it is embarrassing and often proves a tough task for parents to handle.
What are hair lice?
Lice are tiny, parasitic insects which are usually found on human scalp and survive by feeding on human blood. Lice usually settle at the back of the head, close to the neck and behind the ears. The lice are averse to sunlight and will always move towards dark and shady patches on your scalp. Symptoms of this infestation include visible lice, constant scratching, visible nits (lice eggs) and a sore scalp.
Hair lice in children can be a very embarrassing situation, for both the parent and the child. Many schools have an isolation policy where a child, with a hair lice infestation, needs to take a few days off to avoid infecting his classmates. Hair lice can affect anyone in the family and it is therefore important to understand the condition, pick out the myths and then explore some good and workable solutions.
Some important hair lice facts.
#1 Lice prefer long hair
This one is not true. While it may be slightly more difficult ridding long hair from lice, the parasite is as likely to settle on a boy’s short hair as it is on a girl’s long tresses.
#2 Bad personal hygiene causes hair lice
Lice is primarily transferred from person to person. So, even if you make sure your child washes his / her hair daily, they could still get lice from their friends on the playground.
#3 Frequent washing will help get rid of the infestation
Lice are known to survive underwater for at least a couple of hours. So, frequent washing will not completely solve the issue. On the contrary, it might lead to other scalp problems such as a dry scalp and hair breakage.
#4 Pets can act as carriers and transmitters of lice
Not at all. Pets do not infect you with lice and neither can you infect them with lice.
#5 Lice can only affect children
Lice can infect anyone. Therefore, you must be careful about sharing combs, hair bands, unwashed towels, caps, and even bedsheets.
#6 Lice carry diseases
Lice do not carry or transmit diseases. They do however cause extreme scalp irritation and even perhaps, embarrassment.
#7 Lice can jump or fly
The good news is that lice are unwinged parasites. They therefore cannot jump or fly. They spread by crawling from an infected scalp to another. This is why children who play together are the most likely to get infected.
How to handle the situation?
#1 Check everyone at home
If the child has contracted lice, chances are one or more adults too might have picked it up. Check everyone’s scalp at home so you can be sure the hair lice treatment method that you adopt, will be effective.
#2 Invest in a good medicated shampoo
Many anti-lice shampoos are available that kill the pests and the nits too. Do make sure that you follow the hair lice treatment at least for a couple of weeks to two months, to ensure the nits do not come back. You also get many leave-in anti-lice medications in the market. Consult a doctor to prescribe the one best suited for your child.
#3 Clean all linen
Soak all linen in hot water, at least for a couple of hours. Dry bedsheets, towels, clothing, and pillow covers in direct sunlight. Dry clean items that cannot be washed, such as your child’s favourite stuffed toy. Soak combs, hair bands and any hair accessories in medicated shampoo for half a day to completely kill the infestation.
#4 Good habits first
While it may be next to impossible to stop your child from rolling in the mud with friends, you can tell him / her to avoid sharing caps, hair bands, helmets, ribbons, and any other kind of hair accessories. This will minimize the chances of an infestation.
#5 Don’t call pest control
Hair lice don’t survive for more than a couple of hours after they fall off the scalp. Calling the pest control to fumigate your house can be a time consuming and expensive affair. Vacuuming the carpet and washing and sun-drying all linen will suffice.
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