Sources: hairfairies.com, pediatricscalpcare.org
Did you know that 3 percent of the kids at most
schools have lice at any given time? And that's when there isn't a
Lice is a nationwide epidemic that gets a little bit worse every
year. Even though most families don't want to talk about this
unpleasant topic, it is time to face the facts when it comes to
these creepy crawlers trying to make their home on your child's (or
even worse, your) head.
While there is no way to completely protect your family
against lice, you can take some common-sense steps to educate
yourself and be proactive against the problem.
"Trying to avoid head lice is like trying to avoid
catching the common cold," says Maria Botham, president of Hair Fairies,
a full-service, clinical salon devoted to lice removal. "My kids
are 6 and 8 years old and they could be running around with lice
right now and I wouldn't know it. This problem can quickly get out
The most important thing parents can do is check their
child's head regularly, because early detection is key.
"Even if you don't have any information that there is an
outbreak at school or that your child has had contact with someone
who has lice, you should check your child's head twice a month at a
minimum," she says.
Once the lice are discovered, many people spend a ton of
time cleaning their home and discarding toys, clothes and other
items. While Botham does advise daily washings of the clothing,
bedding, brushes and hair accessories used during head lice
infestation, she also advises parents to spend the most time
cleaning their child's head.
"I don't think that anyone can ever truly be prepared for
lice. I know this from both a personal and professional perspective
because my daughter has had lice twice this year," says Erin
Taback, a pediatrician with Oak Park Pediatrics. She urges parents
to remember that lice isn't hazardous to your family's health, "it
is just a huge nuisance."
This problem generally originates in schools, Taback says,
so she advises parents to keep informed about what is going on in
She says basic precautionary steps are important: Don't
share hats or hairbrushes and frequently wash items like winter
hats, scarves and coats that are worn to school.
Parents have a variety of product and treatment options
when it comes to dealing with lice.
"There are the chemical products, prescription-strength
options and also herbal or natural options," says Taback. The major
difference is that the herbal-based products kill live lice, but
"Parents choosing non-toxic treatments need to understand
that the nits need to be manually removed," she says.
She warns that lice are becoming more and more resistant
to the chemical treatments on the market. "The staple of the
treatment is really just the literal 'nitpicking,'" says
Botham also recommends the use of tea tree oil-based
"Use these products everyday if you have lice and I also
recommend using them as a preventative measure if you know there is
an outbreak in your community," she says.
Families who have dealt with lice also know there is more
to the experience than just the diagnosis and treatment.
Angela Hunsicker and her daughter both got lice last
summer after her daughter came into contact with it at summer camp.
It interfered with her family's ability to enjoy the end of their
summer, she says.
"I really think that this is the worst non-serious illness
out there. We couldn't have any play dates or go to the pool. It
was just a really hard time for us to be cooped up at home, not
having contact with anyone else," she says.
Having been through the experience, Hunsicker also
recognizes there are limits to what families can do to protect
themselves against lice.
"My advice is to do what you can do to be proactive
against it, but you can't not send them to school or camp," she
"The good news is that you can get rid of it. You just
have to be really diligent."
Caitlin Murray Giles is a full-time mother of three and part-time freelance writer living in Wicker Park.
See more of Caitlin's stories here.
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