Head lice is the bane of a parent’s existence. It seems from the moment they start growing hair, children are trying their best to catch it and bring it into your house. If your child does get head lice, rest assured that you’re not alone - up to 12 million children get head lice every year, according to the CDC, and lice isn’t deadly. But it can be a nuisance, and no one wants to deal with cleaning all the bedding and fabrics in your house afterwards. You don’t have to be vulnerable to the whims of this annoying head louse, though - there are multiple steps you can take to prevent your children from getting lice.
Use tea tree oil and other natural lice repellents
One natural and relatively inexpensive solution to keep lice away is adding a few drops of tea tree oil to your shampoos. You can buy a bottle of high quality tea tree oil for just over $10, and each bottle will last you a long time. Tea tree oil can cause burns to your skin if applied undiluted, so you will only need five drops or so for a large bottle of shampoo. The whole family can add this to their hair care routine in order to keep lice out of the house.
In addition to tea tree oil, ingredients like rosemary, lemongrass, eucalyptus and citronella also help repel lice and add a lovely smell to any hair product you use. Using a shampoo with fatty ingredients like olive oil or coconut oil also helps repel lice, because the fatty acids inside the oil help kill lice that do arrive. Look for a shampoo with fatty oils and essential oils derived from a lice-repelling ingredient. Myths that lice prefer clean or dirty hair are inaccurate - the cleanliness of your hair won’t affect whether you get lice. Don’t worry about overwashing, because it won’t attract lice to you.
Teach your kids not to share head supplies
Lice spread by crawling from one object to another, just like bed bugs. Your child is most likely to catch lice from a playmate, which means when they begin school you must become vigilant about ensuring they know the rules about sharing. Although you should absolutely teach your child to share with others, you must also let them know that sometimes it’s not safe to share - and they should never share their combs, hairbrushes or hair ties. They should similarly keep hats, earmuffs and scarves to themselves, especially if you know lice has been passed around in their school.
Make sure your children understand how head lice is passed on. If a friend of your child has head lice, instruct your child to keep some physical space between himself and his friend for a few days, or until his friend’s lice is taken care of. If your child has long hair, try to keep it up in a ponytail or bun as often as possible and encourage her not to let her friends touch or play with her hair. The length of your child’s hair doesn’t affect how likely he is to get lice - as long as your child has hair, lice can live in it.
Respond early and stay vigilant
Preventing a lice infestation means staying vigilant. One louse doesn’t mean your child’s head needs to be shaved, and proactive measures can kill eggs before they hatch, preventing a lice takeover. When your child is scratching her head, take a moment to comb through her hair thoroughly. Look for small white eggs in their hair, clothing or bedding. If you find even one louse, get a lice comb and give your child a thorough examination. You can use an OTC lice killer, but do your research first - not all are safe or effective, and research has cast doubts on how useful they may be. When you suspect someone may have brought head lice into your home, give everything a wash in hot water and vacuum what you can’t wash.
Head lice don’t have to ruin your life. Remaining vigilant, teaching your kids good practices and staying calm in the face of an infestation will make keeping lice at bay significantly easier.