Head Lice: How To Get Rid Of Them For Good
Have you noticed your child scratching their head more than usual? If the answer is yes then you should keep on reading. There’s a good chance your little darling might be carrying a few unwanted guests.
Nits Or Head Lice: What’s The Difference?
If you’re confused about whether it’s nits or lice that may be populating your child’s head, don’t worry. You’re not alone!
Let’s start with nits.
Nits are lice eggs.
When the nits – or eggs – are still live, they’ll be white and close to the scalp.
It takes around 8 or 9 days for the egg to hatch.
Once the eggs have hatched, the nits – now empty egg cases – will be brown.
You’re likely to find them in the hairline around your child’s ears and neck. But they can be anywhere in your child’s hair.
Nits are incredibly clingy. They’re stuck to the shaft of a single hair strand with a sort of glue. Just brushing or combing won’t shift them.
Related: discover 21 non-toxic toys your toddler will love here
So what are head lice?
Head lice are the tiny little wingless insects that hatch from nits and can only live in human hair. They are parasites that feed on minuscule amounts of human blood.
They cannot jump or fly. Head lice can only crawl. And so they can only be spread by head-to-head contact, but we’ll cover that in more detail later on.
It takes around 12 days for a louse nymph (young louse) to reach maturity, and they live for about 30 days in total.
An adult louse is only about 2-3mm long and they’re brown or grey in colour. They cannot survive without a host (that’s your scalp by the way!) for more than about 24 hours.
Adult females can lay around 6-10 eggs per day. Just one adult female could lay 180 eggs in her short lifetime!
They hide in the hair closest to the scalp, which is where they feed. They move quickly and shy away from light.
So, basically, they’re shifty little buggers that reproduce quickly and are hard to spot, even when you know what you’re looking for!
Common Myths About Head Lice
Right, before we go any further, let’s just clear up a few myths shall we?
You might have heard that only people with dirty hair can catch head lice.
Or you might believe that children with short hair can’t catch head lice.
You may think that grown ups can’t get head lice. Or that lice don’t live in blonde, red, brown, curly, straight or any other particular hair type.
That’s simply not the case.
Lice can and do live in all hair types. And being clean or dirty, long or short, curly or straight has nothing to do with it.
It’s also very unlikely that lice will go away on their own. So, if you do find signs of an infestation you should tackle it straight away.
Using heated styling tools (straighteners / hairdryers / curling tongs etc) will not kill of head lice.
And you can catch head lice at any time of the year. We might associate them with summer and the warmer weather. But it’s not uncommon for head lice to spread during the colder months too.
So it’s important to keep checking all year round.
How To Spot Head Lice
The only way you’ll know for sure whether or not your child (or you) has head lice is if you spot one running around in their hair.
This can be really, really tricky because they’re small, fast, live on the scalp and shy away from light.
It’s easier to look for lice in wet hair. So I’d recommend having a good old rummage after bath time.
You’ll need a fine comb to separate out sections of hair to examine different parts of the scalp.
If you’re hunting live lice, start in the crown. That’s where you’re most likely to see them.
Even with the most thorough inspection you still may not see any live lice scuttling about. But you may see signs that lice are there.
A less reliable way of seeing whether or not you child has head lice is to look for nits instead.
Roughly the size of a pinhead, nits are small but can still be seen with the naked eye.
If you see white nits stuck onto hair near the scalp then you have live eggs and, probably, at least one live louse.
But if you find brown nits – look behind the ears and around the nape of the neck – then you know lice have hatched at some point.
Either way, you’re going to want to treat your child for head lice.
Why Does My Child Have Head Lice?
An infestation of head lice has nothing to do with hygiene and cleanliness. So your child doesn’t have lice because he or she is unclean.
And remember that lice don’t have wings. They can only crawl.
Your child will only catch head lice by head-to-head contact.
It’s not unusual for children aged between 4 and 11 to catch head lice. And it’s to do with kids coming into close proximity with one another, usually at school.
It is possible for head lice to spread through shared headwear – so hats, headscarves, combs, pillows and so on – but it’s unlikely.
Try to avoid sharing hats and combs if you know your child has head lice. The chances of spreading them this was is very slim, but I personally wouldn’t risk it.
Should I Tell People My Child Has Head Lice?
If you find that your dear little one is carrying a few unwanted guests, don’t fret.
And absolutely don’t worry about telling the other mummies in your child’s circle of friends. In fact, it’s best to tell every mama, daddy, carer, granny, teacher, childminder, play assistant that your child comes into regular contact with.
Forget about any stigma you may think is attached to head lice.
You absolutely have to tell them. Even if that’s just via a message to the school or nursery secretary.
You’ll probably find that the other parents are just grateful that you told them, so they can check for signs of lice too.
Many of your mummy-mates will most likely have encountered head lice before, and may even be able to offer their own tips on treatment!
Practical Things You Can Do To Avoid Catching Head Lice
- Keep long hair tied up. Plaited is best.
- Use a lice-repellant shampoo or spray
- Lice dislike citrus, tea tree and lavender oil so look for natural products that contain them and apply to your family’s hair
- Wash bedding regularly
- Vacuum and dust your home regularly
- Avoid sharing combs / hats / headwear
- Wash combs / brushes in hot water
- Treat your kid’s fave soft toys to warm wash
- Check your family’s heads for signs of lice every week
How To Get Rid Of Head Lice For Good
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Okay, so your child can’t stop scratching their head. You’ve had a look and you’ve found signs they’ve got head lice.
Don’t waste your money on over-the-counter pesticide products. We’ve tried them all and they’re all pretty much useless!
Full of chemicals, these products stink and they simply aren’t effective.
I’m sorry to say that there are no shortcuts to permanently de-lousing your child’s scalp.
You’re going to need to get rid of the eggs as well as any live lice.
And this is where most people fail to deal with the problem.
So what should you do?
There are two stages to getting rid of head lice for good: treating the people in your home; and cleansing your home.
Step One: head treatment
By far the most effective tool for getting rid of head lice is the Nitty Gritty NitFree Comb.
This comb is cleverly designed to remove lice and nits from hair. More than this, though, it crushes the eggs and kills the lice as you comb it through each section of hair.
The only thing I’ve found to be really, really effective in getting rid of head lice for good is the Nitty Gritty NitFree Comb.
The Nitty Gritty teeth are cleverly designed to crush the nits and head lice without damaging the hair.
Make sure the hair being treated is wet and has conditioner on it, too, otherwise the comb won’t work.
And you need to be meticulous in combing every section of hair.
It does take a while, but it’s so effective.
The Nitty Gritty comb costs just under £10 – so it’s cheaper than the chemical solutions – and it has a lifetime guarantee, so you only need to buy one!
And because you can hot-wash it, the same comb can be used for the whole family.
Remember earlier when I said that the eggs (nits) take about 8 or 9 days to hatch? And then it takes about 12 days for a nymph to reach adulthood?
Yep, so you’re going to need to repeat the combing process every 2-3 days for about two weeks.
By doing this you’re sure to get every egg and louse at every stage of the life-cycle. And, honestly, it’s the only way to be sure that you’ve completely got rid of the entire head lice colony.
Step two: home treatment
Once every member of the household has had the comb treatment, there are things you should do in the home to minimise the risk of the head lice spreading.
- Thoroughly vacuum the entire house, including beds and soft furnishings
- Put all the bedding on a hot wash
- Same for towels
- All those favourite snugglies and cuddly toys need to be put in a tied bin bag for 48 hours
- Combs and brushes need to be washed in hot, soapy water
- Hats and headwear also needs to be washed
- Consider buying new pillows or, at the very least, vacuum them all as thoroughly as you can
- This last one is really hard, but you should avoid hugging too much simply because of the risk head-to-head contact has for spreading lice
Things To Remember
- Head lice don’t care whether hair is dirty or clean. ANYONE can get lice
- You can get head lice at any time of the year
- Check for nits and lice in wet hair every week, and pay special attention to the hairline behind the ears and along the neck
- Head lice are spread by close contact, but they cannot fly or jump
- Nits are lice eggs and take around 8-9 days to hatch
- Lice live for about 30 days, and each female can lay around 6-10 eggs per day
- If your child has head lice you must inform their school / nursery / daycare centre to minimise the risk of them spreading
- The Nitty Gritty NitFree Comb is the single best tool available for getting rid of head lice for good!
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