Nice families get lice
There are remedies, says this mom of 3. But will you dare to ask for them?
Mention “lice” and one of two things happens: everyone starts scratching their heads, or they suddenly remember a pressing engagement and flee.  

In our household, the subject of lice and how to kill the critters was once something of an obsession. My daughter seemed to be repeatedly catching it from somewhere (it can’t be our fault, can it?) and we tried everything from lashings of lice shampoo to boiling anything she’d come within 2m of, to picking the pests out manually.

I trawled the internet, consulted with pharmacists, and, when I was brave enough, asked fellow parents what they’ve done in similar circumstances. This is no small thing. One has to muster courage to talk about a lice infestation to other parents. It’s a pride thing: no one wants to own up to having lice in their homes. It implies you’re dirty, that you don’t wash your linen regularly and that you don’t bathe your children often enough, doesn’t it?

Or does it?

What are lice?

One louse, many lice. A louse is a small, wingless insect, about 1-3mm long, that lives on human hair and feeds off of blood from the scalp. A louse is a fully grown nit. A nit is an egg, laid by a female louse, which attaches itself to the hair shaft. It looks a lot like dandruff, so it can trick you into thinking that your child just needs a good shampooing in the bath that evening. But don’t be fooled: a nit can’t be flicked off like dandruff. It clings to the hair shaft with a glue-like substance and can only be removed manually, or with several applications of conditioner… But we’ll come to that in a minute.

After 6-10 days, the nit becomes a nymph and within another 10 days, it becomes a fully grown louse. Lice can live for 30 days on the human head, but only for 2 when away from the scalp.  

Why are they in my daughter’s hair?

Head-to-head contact is the most likely cause of infestation. Some sources say that sharing bed linen or brushes is less likely to cause transmission because when lice aren’t in contact with the head, they have a very short lifespan. Head-to-head contact could be wearing someone’s hat, lying on a carpet, or sharing a pillow, all common occurrences in a crèche environment.
How do I get rid of them?

KidsHealth says you should:
  • consult a doctor for an over-the-counter(OTC) treatment, but not if your child is younger than 2 years old.
  • Lice may be removed with a fine-toothed comb on conditioned hair, as conditioner temporarily immobilizes the lice so that they can be combed out.
  • If you do choose an OTC treatment, it’s advisable not to wash your child’s hair for a day or two afterwards.

Dr Sandi Nye, naturopath, advises the following:
  • Wash all bedding, clothing and accessories.
  • Treat all children in close contact.
  • Use lice-deterrent essential oils in the hair, like rosemary, geranium, lavender, eucalyptus, bergamot and lemon.
  • Spread the oils through the hair by using a fine-toothed comb.
  • Wrap the head in clingfilm or a swimming cap for up to six hours.
  • Shampoo the hair the following morning.
  • Repeat the treatment every 7 days until the infestation is gone.
Has your child had lice? How did you get rid of them?

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