(This article was first published in Your Baby, April/May 2016)
It’s not a topic that
anyone is really comfortable with, but the fact remains that lice happen.
They’re just one of those inconveniences that come with childhood territory, and
if your child gets them, rest assured that you won’t get a parenting demerit.
lice infestation is not a sign of uncleanliness or neglect, despite their icky
Lice are easily missed because their tiny eggs (or nits) can
be mistaken for dandruff flakes. Nits are laid by the adult female on the hair
shaft close to the skull – usually behind the ears and nape of the neck,
possibly because the skin here is softer.
The nymph (or lice hatchling) emerges
eight to ten days later and feeds on blood from the skull.
This is when the child begins to itch and scratch –
especially at night because these little parasites prefer the dark. The nymphs
are very small and transparent so they’re camouflaged by the hair.
to 12 days they’re about the size and shape of a sesame seed, and greyish-white
How your child got
Probably the only good thing about lice is they can’t jump
like fleas! They’re not spread by pets and they don’t spread disease. They’re
yucky because if you leave them, lice will make a nest in the hair, so their
family will quickly expand and feed from their host.
Lice rapidly spread
through a crèche or nursery school because children play closely together, they
share hats and sleep on mattresses where lice fall off, then quickly find another
host. Lice can spread on brushes and combs, towels and carpets, bed linen and
How to get rid of
Getting rid of lice takes patience and persistence. To
guarantee the successful elimination of these nasties, full treatment with daily
checks for nits must be repeated at least three times over a two week period.
And don’t forget to do random lice checking throughout the
school holidays. All parents should be notified when there is a lice outbreak
at a preschool or crèche. All children should also be checked and treated when
necessary and the affected children should stay away from school until they are
Lice don’t choose their hosts with specific hair colour or
type – but children with long, straight, fine and clean hair are their
favourites. This hair type is easier to grip. Oily and curly hair is slippery
and difficult to cling to. The nits, nymphs and adult lice must be dealt with
independently. First, the nits have to be picked out one by one because they are
actually “glued” to the hair shaft.
This is laborious, especially in the case of long hair.
Leave one behind and you’re back to the beginning! The best way to tackle this
task is to separate the hair and tie it into sections to work methodically. Nit
combs (availablefrom a pharmacy) are helpful – but can be ineffective. When
infestations keep recurring,
cutting your child’s hair short may be unavoidable. Once the
nits have been removed, smear Vaseline, baby oil or tea tree oil into the hair
for a few hours (even overnight) to smother the live parasites and make the
Then wash your child’s hair with a special lice shampoo
available from your pharmacy. Be sure to wash all bed linen, air mattresses,
pillows and duvets on a hot cycle. Don’t forget to wash your child’s favourite
toy too – but be prepared for disgruntled looks when teddy doesn’t smell like
Basically, you want to clean everything that may have come
into contact with your child’s head, even inadvertently.
How do you take care of head lice? do you have a special formula? Send us you comments and stories to firstname.lastname@example.org we might publish it, Inbox us should you wish to stay anonymous.