Some people will tell you that there's not a lot you can do to prevent head lice from happening in your home. I disagree, and if you've had head lice in your home you're likely hopeful that you can prevent it from happening again. The current rule in schools is that kids are not sent home for lice treatment for a variety of reasons. While I understand the reasons for keeping kids in school, this policy makes it increasingly possible that a lice infestation can go on for months. In fact, several of my teacher friends and clients have reported that someone in their classroom has a case of lice almost constantly during the school year. I recommend following these tips for preventing head lice in your home.
It's really important to know exactly what you're looking for if you do suspect a lice case in your house. If you panic every time your child scratches their head, you're not doing anyone any favors. The internet is full of head lice pictures. Brace yourself, they are creepy little buggers. About.com Guide to Pediatrics, Vincent Iannelli, M.D., has put together a great photo gallery of adult lice and nits and everything in between to help you identify lice.
You should check your children for head lice at least 3-4 times per month during the school year and more often if a report of head lice comes home from school. This quick check really doesn't have to be a big ordeal, especially if there's no itching or reports of lice. A quick check behind the ears and at the back of the head are the first places to look for lice. Look for anything out of the ordinary, and then take a closer look, if necessary. If your child is scratching their head, has developed red bumps or a rash on or near their scalp, or if you've been notified of a lice infestation, more frequent checks with a nit comb should be preformed to make sure that if you do find lice, you catch it early and get it treated immediately. Honestly, a nit comb is one of those things that you don't want to find yourself rushing to get at the last minute. Have one on hand.
I love the Fairy Tales brand of kids organic hair products (they aren't bad for grownups either). They have developed a lice preventative shampoo, conditioner, and styling products that the kids at my house use during the school year (during the summer we switch to the stuff for chlorine and keeping hair healthy during summer activities). What's so magic about these hair products? They are infused with organic herbs and natural plant extracts, including rosemary oil, that have been clinically proven to repel lice. Kind of like bug spray keeps the bugs away from you (they make a great organic bug spray as well).
4. Teach the Boundaries of Sharing
As contradictory to the rule of sharing as it may sound, by the time your kids are school age it's really important that you discuss not sharing hats, scarves, coats, and even mittens. Lice do not jump, but they can stick in that winter gear pretty easily. While it may seem like a lot of fun for a kid to switch hats at recess, this is probably the easiest way that head lice is transmitted from person to person. The same rules apply to combs, brushes, head bands, and hair ties. Keep your items separate from others, send your child's own combs and accessories when they have sleep overs, and whenever possible don't let other people use your hair grooming tools and accessories.
5. Keeping Head Related Stuff Clean
Again, it may seem like a normal task, but frequently washing the things that come into contact with your heads is a little more important when head lice has been identified at your child's school or from a friend. Regular washing of combs, brushes, hats, scarves, bed sheets, etc. are important all year round, but if you've been exposed to head lice, being a little more diligent will pay off. Use hot water, and a hot dryer for at least 20 minutes whenever possible when you've been exposed to head lice. Combs and brushes can be rinsed with rubbing alcohol, or by using a comb disinfectant. And don't forget to be diligent about washing blankets, sheets, pillow cases, and sleeping bags anytime they are used by someone from outside your home, and when your child attends a sleep over. Better safe than sorry, I think.