From the child who comes home scratching her head as soon as the first louse has strolled into her hair, to the eight year old boy who’ll happily walk around with a wildlife park crawling about his scalp, there are few things about bathtime that are less fun than dealing with nits and lice. And because head lice can be passed on so easily among children – who like to snuggle up to each other at school or when playing together – if you don’t keep these pests at bay they will come back again and again in a cycle that passes around your child’s class.
• Keep hair tied back. Head lice walk onto hair rather than jumping, but close contact between children when they play together (or when they hug us) mean lice have plenty of opportunity to crawl from head to head. If possible, keep hair short, but don’t presume this means you don’t have to check regularly for signs of infestation.
• Comb regularly. Head lice can live in your hair for up to three months before you realise you have them and if they take hold you will need to use a special shampoo. To avoid this, even when you don’t think your family have an attack of head lice, do a weekly comb through of everyone’s heads (mum and dad included).
• For a regular check, you don’t have to get special shampoo. Instead, after you have washed hair, brush the hair to smooth it out, work a conditioner through the strands and then comb with a very fine ‘nit comb’. A normal comb or brush simply will not pick up the eggs, lice and empty shells (nits) that stick to the hair.
• When combing, be careful to comb in one direction and continue all the way to the end of the strands with each sweep. After each single comb-through, dip the comb into a clear bowl of clean hot water to rinse off any lice or debris. Even if there are no signs of lice with the first few sweeps, continue to go across the whole head, one stroke and rinse at a time. Make sure you run the comb through the back, around the ears and the fringe area as these are prime lice spots.
• Don’t forget to rinse out the remaining conditioner once you’re done.
• Whether you find any lice or not, keep up a regular comb through at least once a week.