Let’s Talk About Head Lice

Another term, another raft of frustrations bound to come our way in the form of head lice. Having done some work for a head lice brand plus experiencing our own frustrations over the years (since nursery), we’ve developed some tried and tested strategies which meant we only had ONE bout last academic year.

The facts, the myths

There are some things we need to acknowledge before attempting to dealing with head lice.

Firstly, 1 in 3 kids in the UK will get them. Which means in my view we need to open with our children about the likelihood, without shame or disgust. It’s annoying, uncomfortable but completely natural.

They live in ALL types of hair, clean, dirty – anything else you heard about this is a myth. Head lice can’t fly or jump.

Lice are passed by head-to-head contact. We should also be vigilant about sharing brushes, hair accessories and hats. It’s very hard to explain to children about not touching heads without stigmatising, so don’t beat yourself up if you decide not to labour this point too much.

Nits are the egg-shell casings, not the lice. The eggs hatch within a week, nymphs become adults within 7 days of hatching then start to lay more eggs – prolifically.

How do I know we have head lice?

We can all do our bit by being on alert. However, it’s been yonks since we had lice most likely, so do we remember what they look like? Start at the NHS Choices page for images, symptoms, treatment, and prevention. In this blog, I’ve complemented official resources with our personal experiences.

If you see your child frequently scratching their head and discover live lice, it’s highly likely they have an infestation. This means they may have had them for 3-4 weeks. Scratching is an allergy to the lice saliva – not all children have it. My eldest isn’t allergic.

Sometimes an infestation isn’t spotted, as it appears like excess dandruff. This can be lice exoskeleton moultings. Their colour means they are often camouflaged on most hair colours, so impossible to spot with your own eyes.

Break the cycle

The above facts about head lice and the life cycle all point to why combing is the best method to remove and prevent the spread of lice. By removing all the lice and eggs, then comb continually to remove eggs before they hatch, nymphs before they start laying you break the life cycle.

That’s our secret. There are a number of complementary treatments you can use to make life easier; tea tree being the most pleasant and effective. We have found big brand treatments containing

head lice treatment
Head lice prevention strategies. Weekly conditioner comb-throughs.

There are a number of complementary treatments you can use to make life easier; tea tree being the most pleasant and effective. We have found big brand treatments containing dimeticone to be costly and not always effective (unless you carry out a 2-week combing routine, as explained below – but then why not skip the £20+ cost and just do the combing!?). You could look for new technologies on the market, with different ingredients or methods for killing lice, which could jump start your removal process.

So…ultimately it’s the combing routine with the Nitty Gritty comb which wins. Not least because of the cost. One time investment in the comb, currently retailing at £9.99 and conditioner supplies bought from a pound shop.

Here are the essential steps:

  1. Removal: if an infestation is detected, comb through thoroughly to remove lice and eggs. Use loads of conditioner, section hair and comb methodically. We put a movie on the iPad in the bathroom to diffuse the stress.
  2. It is then recommended to comb every 3 days to break the lice life cycle (see above) for two weeks until no lice or eggs are found.
  3. A wet check (with conditioner helps) every week. Some experts say twice a week, which can be stressful, we’ve found once to work for us.

Another tool in your lice armoury is tying long hair up in plaits (optimal) or ponytails (better than leaving hair down if plaits are too stressful).

We did all of this, so why did we still get lice?

I was ill on and off for 9 weeks with a cold and fatigue before last Christmas. My husband flying solo, so just about keeping everything afloat – lice checks dropped off our radar. And that’s we need EMPATHY most of all. We’ll never keep lice away if we assume everyone else isn’t bothering to check or remove lice. We just need to focus on our own routines.

I am in no way, no longer, associated with any of these brands mention in this blog. This is an honest post designed to empower parents to develop their own strategies.