How to Prevent Lice in Your Home This School Year

Updated on August 24, 2018
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Owner of MommyDaddyKids and mother of two, Meagan is passionate about her family and sharing real-life advice with everyday people.

Head lice are very small and translucent in color.
Head lice are very small and translucent in color.

Years ago, if a school nurse had discovered a nit in someone's hair, they sent the child home until a medical professional cleared them to return to school. Today, children may remain in school as long as their parents are treating the problem. Many parents expect the new policy will lead to an increased rate of infestation and expose their children to greater chances of contracting the bugs.

There's not much parents can do to change a school policy but there are numerous ways they can prevent lice. Continue reading to learn how you can keep lice out of your home this school year.

What Are Head Lice?

Lice are a species of louse that feed by sucking blood from mammals. There are almost 500 species of louse, but head lice are one of only three species that feed exclusively on human blood.

These tiny, parasitic bugs do not have wings. They crawl into clothing, hair accessories, or furniture and this is how infestations spread. Nymphs (baby lice) hatch from eggs that adult lice have secured to hair strands. Although they're present everywhere on the head, you generally find eggs around the ears, where the hairs parted, and the nape of the neck. It's sometimes hard to detect these small egg sacks, but not impossible. They're found in clusters and can appear clear, yellow, or white.

Nymphs grow inside the eggs for about a week before they hatch. They eat constantly and grow quickly. Within a week, they'll have transitioned into adult lice and begin to lay eggs of their own. Because lice grow and reproduce at such a fast rate, infestations can get out of control quickly. One single louse can turn into a full-blown infestation within a week or two. It is very important to catch it quickly in order to make treatment easier.

How Can I Prevent My Kids From Getting Lice At School?

1. Avoid Sharing Head-Touching Objects

We show our children that sharing is the appropriate thing to do, but sharing some items could do more harm than good. Teach your children to avoid sharing these high-risk things to lessen their risk of catching lice.

Things That Should Not Be Shared

 
 
Headphones
Hair Brushes
Hats
Hair Accessories
Scarves
Jackets
Helmets
Pillows
Blankets
Clothing
Towels
Shower cap

2. Keep Their Distance From Others

Children do not understand the concept of personal space. They spend a lot of time in close contact with one another. Since lice do not have wings, they rely on this contact to spread from one host to another. Minimize your chance of contracting lice by keeping your distance.

Risky Activities

 
 
 
Trading clothes
Napping together
Wrestling
Playing dress-up
Whispering in ears
Laying on one another

3. Don't Touch Hair

There's a lot of down time during school hours. Recess, lunch breaks, and study halls all provide free time to students. One of the most common ways for young girls to pass this time is by playing with their friend's hair. While this activity may be fun, it's a guaranteed way to pass lice to one another. Since most children don't know how to check for head lice properly, they wouldn't notice it if someone did have an infestation. It's better to teach your children to avoid the activity altogether.

4. Put Their Hair Up

Lice crawl along strands of hair. They cannot fly so they rely on physical contact to travel from one person to another. It's much easier for the bugs to grab of a stray strand of hair when your hair is down. The chances of your hair brushing along something infested with lice decrease when your hairs pulled back and secured.

5. Try to Avoid Shared Storage

This is sometimes easier said than done and could be next to impossible at school. Most schools have coat closets or shelves where kids are required to hang their jackets and outdoor wear. Whenever possible, you should try to avoid these areas:

  • Ask the teacher if your child may hang their jacket on the back of their chair instead of on the coat rack.
  • Put hats, scarves, mittens, or earmuffs in the sleeve of your jacket when they are not being worn.
  • Hang your coat in a place where it is not touching anyone else's stuff.
  • Try to use the same locker or cubby every day when possible. Otherwise, check the location for bugs before putting your things inside.
  • Don't use storage areas that multiple other people use every day.

6. Use Lice-Repelling Products

If you prefer to resolve the problem before it starts, you might consider using a product that claims to repel lice. Most of these items aren't approved by the FDA, but many people testify they have worked for them.

Lice treatments come in the form of a shampoo, and you can typically find the bug repelling hair products in the same area of the store. Most of them contain tea tree oil, which they say will prevent lice from crawling into your hair. If you cannot afford these products—most of them are expensive—you can find other home remedies online that are made with things most people already have at home.

What Do Lice Eggs or Nits Look Like?

They are small half circle pods attached to a strand of hair. They resemble tear drops in shape and can be white or clear in color.
They are small half circle pods attached to a strand of hair. They resemble tear drops in shape and can be white or clear in color.

What Do I Do If My Child Does Get Lice?

Don't panic. It happens, and it won't lead to the end of the world. You can go to your primary physician for help, but most cases can be treated right at home. Lice treatment kits can be found at any local pharmacy, grocery, or department store. Follow the instructions provided in the letter, and you should find the problem resolved within a few days.

Additional Advice for Getting Rid of Lice

Treating the infested hair is obviously going to be your first step, but it's not a bad idea to consider the following advice:

  • It's recommended that you only treat the people who have a confirmed case of lice, but if you believe everyone has been exposed it might be a good idea to treat the entire household.
  • Please do not treat your pets with human lice shampoo. Fleas cannot live in human hair, and lice do not live on house pets.
  • Bag up pillows, blankets, jackets, stuffed animals, or anything else that has a surface that lice could crawl around on/in. They will not have a source of food and will eventually die.
  • If you don't want to wait for them to starve, you can throw bedding and clothing in the dryer on high heat. This will kill any lice that have crawled onto the items.
  • Using mayonnaise or other food product in your hair works by suffocating the bugs. However, it won't kill any eggs that have already been laid, and they may still hatch and start the cycle all over again.

How To Tell If You Have Lice

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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    © 2018 Meagan Ireland

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