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Now that winter vacation is over, kids have returned to the hotbed of germs and illness we commonly call school. For most infections, you can’t do much more to prevent them other than vaccinate and pump everyone with vitamin C.
Fortunately, there’s a little more you can do to prevent one of the most dreaded school plagues: head lice.
When your family learns about head lice and how to prevent them, you’re doing your future selves a favor. Head lice infestations are the worst. Unlike a seasonal cold or flu, they don’t just “run their course”. Left untreated, the problem worsens.
We’ve compiled four key pieces of information to help keep everyone in your home free of head lice—or at the very least able to rapidly and effectively get rid of them.
Good hygiene isn’t enough to prevent head lice.
People often associate head lice with dirty houses and sparse showering. While this certainly prolongs a head lice invasion, it doesn’t cause one. Unfortunately, the good hygiene routines you put in place for your kids won’t protect them from a head lice outbreak.
Only prevention practices can do that.
Teach your children not to share brushes and avoid coming into contact with the heads and shoulders of other students. Personal space works wonders.
Schools can keep lice-infested kids in class.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines state that students diagnosed by the school with head lice can stay in class until the end of that school day and return to class as soon as they begin treatment.
So… your child’s school may be exposing your student to head lice knowingly.
Of course many schools choose to implement stricter head lice policies. Regardless of your school’s procedures, however, arm your kids with prevention tips and even check them regularly for lice yourself. (Seriously, you don’t want your child to be known as patient zero of a school-wide epidemic… talk about a bad rap.)
See a doctor prior to treatment.
Wait, head lice treatments are over the counter. That means you can skip a trip to the family doctor, right?
Ehh… well… technically… yes.
But anytime you begin a course of treatment, even for something as simple as head lice, you should consult your doctor (or possibly pharmacist) to at least obtain an accurate diagnosis.
It’s actually pretty common for people to mistake dandruff, scabs, dirt, or other small bugs for head lice—and who wants to go through the painfully elaborate lice treatment process for nothing?
Lice need hosts to survive.
Head lice are extremely dependent on having a host (i.e., your scalp), and they can’t live more than 24 hours without one. While it’s regrettable they take up residence in your hair at all (super gross), it’s good that they can’t just hang out on your carpet for weeks waiting to reinfest you like fleas.
Having said that, head lice eggs, called nits, can sometimes survive without a host before hatching. That’s why it’s important to still bag and wash all clothing, bedding, towels, toys, etc. when treating.
Ultimately, make sure you approach both head lice prevention and head lice treatment with your family’s needs in mind. Not every approach will be optimal for everyone, and that’s okay. Remember, head lice are a nuisance, but they’re not the end of the world!