When your kids start school, they instantly become at risk for getting head lice, which they may then spread to other people in your household. Head lice can occur at any time but are most common in the fall when kids go back to school, as well as in January, according to Patricia Brown, M.D., a dermatologist at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
While many people believe that poor hygiene is the cause of head lice, the truth is that direct head-to-head contact with a head lice sufferer is how they spread. Head lice are only ever found on humans so your pet will be safe.
Discovering and Treating Head Lice
Head lice are generally about the size of a sesame seed, tan or grayish-white in color, and feed on human blood. They attach to the skin and lay eggs known as nits in the hair.
The best way to check for lice is to part the hair in a number of different spots. Using a bright light and magnifying glass will help you find them. Head lice move fast so you may have more luck tracking down the eggs. The nits have the appearance of dandruff, but when you pick up a strand of hair close to the scalp, the nits will stay in place, unlike dandruff, which is easily removed.
The FDA had approved head lice treatments that are available over the counter (OTC), as well as in prescription form. They often come as creams, lotions, and shampoos, with Nix and Rid among the most common. If you are using a product on a child under the age of 2, Brown says that it is important to carefully read the label to ensure that it is indeed safe to use.
Head Lice Prevention Tips
- Make sure that your children know that they should avoid head-to-head contact at home, school, and when out playing with other kids
- Teach little ones not to share items that they use on their head, which includes hats, scarves, helmets, bandanas, hair ties, brushes, and combs
- Steer clear of items that have come into contact with someone who has head lice. This includes items like carpets, pillows, beds, and stuffed toys
- Steer clear of items that contacted the head of a person with head lice 48 hours prior to the start of treatment
How to Safely use Treatment Products
Using the following steps will help you use head lice treatment products safely:
- Once the product has been rinsed from the hair and scalp, use a nit comb to remove lice and nits that are now dead
- Only apply products to the hair on the scalp, not anywhere else
- Ask your doctor for a product recommendation so that you get the perfect treatment for the age and weight of your child
- Read the label on the product and use it exactly as described, unless you are told to do otherwise by a medical professional