Back to school: Prevent head lice this fall

While an exciting time of year, "back to school" can also mean a return to shared...

While an exciting time of year, "back to school" can also mean a return to shared contagions like the common cold or lice. As your happy student returns their attention to learning, you should also teach them simple ways to avoid head lice. Studies do indicate that lice are not harmful to your health. Still, the thought of tiny creepy crawlies wandering through your child's hair can be difficult to bear. Plus, lice can cause itchiness, and too much scratching might lead to skin irritation. While there is no guaranteed way to prevent head lice, there are a few simple things you can do to decrease your child's risk.

Ban the sharing of certain items

Sit your child down and explain that certain items, such as hats, scarves and hair accessories, should never be shared. Practice the no sharing rule at home to help your child remember at school. Ensure that each member of your family has their own comb or brush. Be sure to label or color code each one.

According to the CDC, lice must be transferred through direct contact. Remind your child to keep a safe distance from their friends, especially during play or group work. It is impossible for lice to jump or fly. Demonstrate how to share a book or worksheet without touching heads with their partner. Ask your child's teacher and childcare provider to encourage these simple rules as well.

Braids, up dos and hair cuts

Style your daughter's hair in a braided bun. A bun keeps hair from hanging, preventing strands from making contact with infested items. A braid makes it more difficult for lice to reach the scalp. As for boys, keep their hair as short as possible. If your school's dress code allows, children can wear a hat or bandanna for extra protection, particularly during warmer months when lice are more active.

Shampoos and herbal extracts

Lice prefer clean hair. Shampooing less often increases the amount of oil in hair, which makes it difficult for lice to get around. When you do wash your child's hair, consider using a citrus shampoo. Research suggests that lice dislike citrus. Additionally, you can spritz hair with essential oils that are known to repel lice. Choose from rosemary, mint, tea tree or lavender.

Weekly lice checks

Prevent the spread of head lice by catching them early. Make a habit of checking your child's hair at least once a week. Choose a set night to always perform your checks. You may want to purchase a lice comb to make this easier. Opt for a room in your home with plenty of light.

Remember that there is no blame or shame when it comes to lice. Sometimes these things just happen. Do the scalp treatments, quarantine the recommended items, clean your house and move on with your life. Phone an Atlanta Physician to learn more about how you can help treat and prevent head lice.

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