Back to School Lice Prevention Tips
Putting our heads together at school means it's time to break out the lice prevention kit.
It seems like every fall, during the first month of school, the dreaded "lice letter" gets sent out.
"Parents and caregivers, please be aware that a student in your child's class…." (For the South Orange-Maplewood School District policy on re-entry of students with lice, read here.)
Just seeing the word "lice" in print, don't you start to scratch?
As a parent to three daughters, I admit that it freaks me out. But over the past six years, I have come up with some preventive measures to help keep the family lice-free without having to resort to potentially toxic chemicals.
One can argue that store bought products, such asRID, are fine to use—they are approved by the Food and Drug Administration after all—but live lice and nits can be killed without dousing your scalp with chemicals. The real trick to preventing severe infestation is regular combing to remove eggs.
The worst thing you can do is let it get too far. That means that the number one rule for lice prevention is: check for lice weekly.
For kids with longer hair, use this opportunity to do a deep conditioning treatment. Use your favorite store-bought conditioner, or make your own. I like to make a deep conditioner using olive oil or warmed coconut oil, mixed with essential oils that help repel lice (they also work to kill lice, so you can use this recipe for treatment as well, see below). Jojoba oil is another option.
Here are some of my favorite oil blends to repel lice. For each one, add about 15 drops of the essential oils to a tablespoon of your carrier oil:
- Thyme, rosemary and lavender—5 drops each.
- Geranium, rosemary—15 drops total.
- Peppermint, ginger and lavender—15 drops total.
Let conditioner sit in hair a few hours (or overnight, wrapped in a shower cap, or towel). Comb through using a fine-tooth comb. Believe it or not, rich moisturizers suffocate the lice and kill them (albeit not as quickly as pesticides do), so regular combing with a deep conditioner will not only keep long hair tangle free, if your child is exposed to lice it will help get rid of them before you might even be aware. Another prevention tip is to mix about a teaspoon each thyme and tea tree oils into a cup of your child's regular shampoo, and use that several times a week.
When we do get the dreaded letter home, I make sure my girls spray their hair regularly with my homemade lice prevention spray. If you don't have the time to make your own, you can buy some from outlets like Whole Foods, or online at fairytaleshaircare.com. But it's easy to make yourself and less expensive in the long run.
In a spray bottle, I mix my lice prevention conditioner (recipe above) with water and 5-10 drops of tea tree oil. Shake well before spraying, and gently comb through. The tablespoon of oil makes it harder for the nits to adhere to the hair, but if you find hair gets too greasy, use a little less.
For those with long hair, braids or ponytails (where hair is worn close to the head) are good options. I also encourage my kids to store their hats and scarves in their jacket sleeves, and store jackets in their backpacks when at school if possible. When jackets do come in the house, throw them in the dryer on high heat for an hour.
What if your child does come home with lice?
Remember, the only way to get rid of lice is to remove all nits and eggs, not just the live bugs. So,comb, comb, comb. Some remedies in recent years have suggested using specific cleansers (Cetaphil) or conditioners (Pantene), leaving them in hair, combing, blowing dry (using the hot setting) and then rinsing, but really any thick conditioner will do the same thing. So will mayonaise or coconut oil. Make sure you comb through using a fine-tooth comb, or lice comb, every few days, for ten days, which is the gestation period. If after ten days you find any live bugs, continue the process. A vinegar rinse and comb out is good in between conditioning treatments, and there is no need to shampoo hair every single day. Lice prefer clean hair, so natural oils remaining on the hair and scalp is a good thing.
If you can't handle the comb-outs yourself, hire a nitpicker! Yes, even lice fighting has become big business. Costs vary, but figure on spending about $150-250 per head. Lice Be Gone, LLC in Millburn is one such local business. Owner Linda Strand can also be reached at 973-467-LICE.
Around the house, stuffed animals can "go on vacation" in a plastic bag for a few weeks. Vacuum upholstered furniture weekly, if not more often. Bedding and pillows should be put in the dryer on high heat too.
Having lice is never fun, but I hope these tips help prevent your family from bringing it home. And even if they do, know you are not alone!
Suzanne Hassler is a Wife, Mom, Interior Design Consultant, and Independent Distributor of Young Living Therapeutic Grade Essential oils, Member # 1109967. If you would like more information on using therapeutic grade essential oils throughout your home, please contact Suzanne email@example.com