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Lice: They're Not Nice!

By Krista Elliott

You happily send your children off to school, backpacks in tow, waving as they get on the bus. You merrily go about your day, completely unaware that a silent menace is lurking, lying in wait for your unsuspecting children. 

That afternoon, the phone rings, startling you out of your work. You listen to the voice on the other end of the line with a mounting sense of horror. 

The call came from the school, and your child has head lice. (Insert horror-movie violin screech.) 

You may be tempted to shave your child's head, your head, the dog, and to douse the house in gasoline and set it on fire. But put down the clippers and the matches, OK? We'll get through this. 

S-T-I-C-K-Y L-O-U-S-E!

The head louse (and now you know the origin of the word "lousy") is a tiny, wingless, parastitic insect that lives among the hair of humans and feeds off of the blood drawn from the host's scalp. They also lay eggs, called nits, that stick to the hair shaft and are notoriously hard to remove. 

Lice, while not a disease per se, are still extremely contagious in that they can spread easily from person to person. Kids are much more prone to lice, due to being in close contact with each other and sharing things like hair accessories and hats. 

Begone, Foul Pediculus!

So, now we're at the important question: How do you get rid of these loathsome creatures, and keep them from coming back? 

  • Kill the Beast - Your doctor will likely prescribe an over-the-counter or prescription-strength shampoo, conditioner, or hair treatment that is designed to kill live lice. Because they contain insecticides, you'll want to follow the directions to the letter to avoid harm. The treatment may need to be repeated every so often, to get any lice that have hatched since the last treatment.
  • Nitpicking - Yes, that's where the word comes from. (Did you know you were getting a vocabulary lesson along with your health lesson? It's added value!) Nits don't respond to insecticidal treatments, and have to be physically removed from the hair, either with a fine-tooth comb or with your fingers. Be sure to keep your hands scrupulously clean and for the love of Mike, don't touch your own head while treating your child! 
  • Let's NOT Put Our Heads Together - Be sure to keep your child home from school until they have received a round of treatment, and remind them often to avoid letting their head touch any other kid (or their belongings). 
  • We're in Hot Water Now! - To avoid reinfestation, wash all of the affected child's bedlinens, hats and towels (and it wouldn't hurt to do everybody's, really) in the hottest water possible, followed by a tumble in a hot dryer. Stuffed toys can be washed as well, dry-cleaned, or put in airtight bags for at least three days. As well, be sure to vaccuum rugs and upholstery, and sterilize (or throw out) combs, hair elastics, headbands and other hair accessories. 

Fighting an infestation of lice is a tough battle, to be sure. But with vigilance and consistent effort, you'll be able to banish these tiny vampires from your home — hopefully for good. 

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