3 Misconceptions About Lice, Busted!

By Dawn Van Osdell

There’s a lot of contradictory and downright erroneous parenting info floating around out there. We’re not afraid to tackle it head-on!

Few notes sent home from your child’s teacher are as dreaded as the one that alerts you to a head lice outbreak in the classroom. No parent wants to battle the parasitic insect that makes itself at home on the heads of an estimated six to 12 million school-age children each year, and is notoriously tough to tackle.

Whether or not you’ve battled head lice on your kid’s head, chances are you may not have straight facts on preventing and treating the reviled pest that is, thankfully, little more than a big nuisance. To help dispel three common myths about the prevention and treatment of head lice, we spoke with Farrell Kaufman-Hogenauer, a director at Lice Knowing You, a popular lice-removal service on the West Coast.

Myth #1: The right products will rid hair of lice, pronto. 

Truth: There are loads of products on the market promising to remove head lice—either with powerful chemicals or non-toxic, all-natural ingredients. Unfortunately, no product on its own will completely eradicate head lice and their eggs—called nits—that attach to the base of a hair shaft, says Kaufman-Hogenauer.  “When people see head lice for the first time, they often run to the store to buy the first product that they see. But while some of these products might kill some of the bugs, the nits still stay attached to the hair,” he says. These can be hard to spot and are often confused with dandruff or hair spray, and they will hatch into lice within eight or nine days.

“The only way to get rid of head lice successfully is to comb everything out,” says Kaufman-Hogenauer. Apply a lice treatment product and thoroughly comb through each and every hair with a metal lice comb, paying close attention to the hair around and behind the ears and near the neckline, where lice especially like to lay their eggs. Since lice spreads by direct head-to-head contact—and also by shared clothing, hats, and belongings such as blankets and pillows—inspect other family members for infestation and alert anyone that your child has been hanging out with, so they can be inspected and if necessary, treated, too.

Myth #2: Dirty hair will repel lice.

Truth: Lice like clean hair—it's easier to attach to a clean hair shaft than a dirty one—but they make themselves at home on dirty hair, too. Simply skipping shampooing won’t keep the lice at bay. To do this, many experts, Kaufman-Hogenauer included, recommend spritzing hair with lice-prevention products that contain essential oils, such as tea tree oil that, while not fool-proof, can at least deter them. It’s also smart to keep long hair in ponytails or braids to limit contact with other hair, and to remind kids not to share hats, jackets, hairbrushes, or hair accessories. Most importantly, Kaufman-Hogenauer advises parents to “once a week, sneak a peek” at your child’s scalp. If he does have lice, you can stop it before it becomes a bigger infestation and a much bigger problem, for you and others.

Myth #3: Lice have become a Super Bug that’s nearly impossible to treat. 

Truth: We’re giving the tiny bug too much credit, says Kaufman-Hogenauer. While lice have become resistant to the chemicals—called pediculicides—that are found in over-the-counter products, making them harder to get rid of them, it’s not impossible to knock them out. Lice Knowing You uses all-natural ingredients and proper combing methods to remove lice. “The bottom line is that if you take preventive measures and check weekly for head lice, hopefully the little bugs will not make a home on your child’s head,” says Kaufman-Hogenauer.  And if they do, knowledge of the enemy, effective treatment, and persistent follow-up will have your child’s head free and clear in (almost) no time.

Photo via courosa at Compfight