5 Things to Do if You Think Your Child Could Have Lice

Now that school is back in session, cold and flu germs aren’t the only thing that kids can catch in the classroom. If you get the call from a school nurse or suspect your child has head lice, be ready to take care of it right away.

Dr. Mia Finkelston, a doctor who treats patients for LiveHealth Online, discusses tips on what to do if your child has lice:

  1. Check your child’s scalp for bugs as well as tiny eggs (called nits, which are small, oval-shaped, usually yellow or white in color and attached to the hair shaft). You’ll be fighting both. Focus on behind the ears, the back of the head and lower neck. That’s where lice often hatch and thrive. Use a magnifying glass and good light. Know that eggs are usually located about half inch up the hair shaft. 
  2. Suffocate the lice and kill them. Avoid using formulas that include chemicals, as they are not the safest way to remove the lice and lice have become genetically resistant to the insecticides in these products. Consider mayonnaise as a home treatment. Massage the mayonnaise into your child’s scalp and leave it in your child’s hair for a few hours or overnight (use a shower cap) before combing. If mayo is not your “thing,” you can use other oils, such as diluted tea tree oil or primrose oil.
  3. Get rid of the nits. Go through your child’s hair by sections with a fine-tooth comb (a special lice comb) to remove the nits. Soak the comb in a bowl with hot, soapy water in between combing. You can section off the hair with clips to make this activity fun. Wetting the hair, with a moisturizer or conditioner applied from scalp to end of the hair, will also make combing and checking easier. Once you’ve gone through the entire scalp, do it again to be sure. Then flush the water with the lice and nits.
  4. Check your child’s hair daily. If you see nits, again, removed them with the comb. Once you do not see any more nits, wait a week and then wet comb again. Keep in mind that it takes four weeks to make sure your child is lice-free. Stay vigilant. Also, keep longer hair in a French braid, so it’s tightly pressed against their head to prevent the lice from crawling from head to head. If your child has shorter hair, cut it close to the scalp, removing the hair that the lice can live on.
  5. Check your child’s surroundings too! Wash everything he or she comes in contact with in hot water and dry the items on high heat, especially bedding and stuffed animals. Treat everyone in the house as if they have lice. Throw away brushes and combs and go shop for new ones. You can use lice prevention products such as Fairy Tales’ Rosemary Repel, which includes rosemary and tea tree oils, to help keep lice from spreading to your child’s hair.

Remain calm. Don’t beat yourself up emotionally. Remember lice spreads in schools. It’s not an indictment of your parenting style.

If you have any questions about head lice, you can always reach a board-certified doctor online at www.livehealthonline.com or download and register using our app at Google Play or the App Store.

Comments and opinions from Dr. Mia Finkelston are hers alone. This is an essay and is not considered medical treatment.

Photo of Mia Finkelston
Mia Finkelston
Family Physician
20 years of experience
MCP Hahnemann University School of Medicine

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