The Facts of Lice

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Scalp feeling a little … itchy? It might not be pleasant, but kids all over the world end up with itchy, crawly lice – which they “thoughtfully” share with anyone else that they come into contact with. Lice are tough little bugs to deal with, especially when they go unnoticed for a long period of time and/or get loose in your house. Anyone can get lice, too, so if you’ve built up some kind of belief that only certain people get them, it’s time to sit up and face facts.

While they may be a very unpleasant hassle to take on, the good thing is that there are ways to prevent lice infestations, as well as natural remedies to effectively get rid of lice. Everyone should know about how to protect themselves from lice – especially those with children – so here we’ll cover not only the ways in which you can stop them from invading, but also how you can defeat them if they find a way to weasel their way into someone’s hair.

What’s a Louse:

A louse is a tiny little parasite that feeds off of the human head. Lice aren’t particularly dangerous, as they don’t carry any kind of toxins or bacteria and aren’t known to spread any sort of diseases. However, they do pack a rather itchy punch, which in turn leads to a lot of scratching – something young children don’t typically have the willpower to resist. Scratching causes the scalp to become irritated and inflamed, this can lead to problems. Irritated skin can become infected (children are basically magnets for germs, as it is) and these infections can lead to fever, nausea, and other issues. Plus, raw, irritated skin just plain hurts. Don’t want your kids to deal with this – or get stuck sharing the experience with them? Right. Let’s talk defense.

Handy Lice Prevention:

You don’t necessarily have to go into full out war mode when keeping lice at bay.

The very first thing that you can and should do in order to avoid lice is actually super easy: just be aware. Once you know what you’re dealing with and the signs to look out for, it becomes a lot easier to keep these little pests out of your life. Check out pictures of lice online and even go to YouTube to see videos of what they look like in people’s hair. This will give you a visual to always have handy in your head whenever you happen to take a look at your kids’ or anyone else’s head. Speaking of looking at heads, this brings us to our next piece of advice.

If you have kids, particularly those around elementary school age, then it’s a very good idea to remain fairly vigilant when it comes to their hair. Check their heads often and pay attention to any out of the ordinary scratching. Excessive head itching is going to be a big red flag.

Catching lice early on makes getting rid of them a whole lot easier, especially in regards to preventing them from spreading through the household.

Most schools will also do frequent lice checks and will let parents know if there have been any cases of lice in the school. Systems like these help to ensure that parents as well as teachers stay on their toes. It’s not just adults that can work to prevent lice, either.

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Talking to your kids about lice is extremely important. First of all, it’s good to let them know that anyone can get lice, and it’s not a negative reflection on anyone. Children can sometimes be unkind in situations like this, so it’s a good idea to remind them that if any of their classmates or friends happens to catch lice, they shouldn’t tease or taunt them. After all, they could very well end up with the bugs themselves.

Secondly, children need to understand that lice are easily spread through the wearing of other people’s clothing or the shared use of things like brushes or hair ties. Making sure they know not to wear other people’s hats and not to share brushes will go a long way in helping to prevent them from getting infected with lice.

This next step for preventing lice is also very easy – just clean! Cleaning should be a regular routine with all of us, so it’s not like you have to go out of your way. Washing sheets and pillow cases, vacuuming regularly, etc. are all great ways of ensuring that lice don’t have an easy time of settling in.

If your kids have slept over at someone else’s house or have gone on a camping trip or some kind of overnight school trip, then the first thing to do when they get back is to immediately put their clothes in the wash. Also, be sure to check their bags and belongings thoroughly in order to spot any lice crawling around. Quick action like this puts forth a decisive block to any pests trying to make their way into your home.

Now, you probably use all types of disinfectants all throughout the house and are wondering if something like this can also come in handy when trying to prevent head lice. Luckily for you, the answer is yes. There are all types of products out there that can be used in order to prevent lice.

One smart – and safe – bet would be to purchase some prevention shampoos and conditioners that utilize all-natural products in order to repel lice. These products can be safely used on a continual basis and can be used as a replacement to regular shampoo and conditioner, so no worries about having to use additional products.

You can also find spray products that feature all-natural products, which are effective in keeping away lice from clothing, sports bags, backpacks, and other accoutrements.

Kicking Lice to the Curb:

If they’ve somehow managed to get past your defenses, don’t worry; you can still ensure that you’re the winner in the end, and the lice are the definite losers. You can find a variety of head lice treatment products on the market, but a lot of these aren’t as effective as they used to be. Many treatment products use chemicals that lice are pretty much building up a tolerance to, which is kind of a bummer, but also a bit of a silver lining.

Exposing your kids to different types of chemicals isn’t exactly something you’re probably going to be thrilled about, and you’re likely not going to be thrilled about having to use them on yourself, either, if you end up with lice as well. The good news is that there is a wide range of all-natural products that you can buy in order to kill lice without having to worry about harmful chemicals. There are also a lot of different home remedies you can rely on that are just as effective.

Everyone seems to have their own secret recipe for getting rid of lice and, of course, they always swear by it. The thing with home remedies is that you sometimes have to take them with a grain of salt and just hope they’ll work out. However, there are some remedies out there that truly are effective, and you can be a little more assured of it based on the ingredients and tools being used.

The first thing you’re going to want to do is get some lice picking combs and remove as many of the pests and their eggs as you can. If you can get the infestation down to as minimal a level as possible, then you’re going to increase your chances for success and minimize the likelihood that they’ll spread.

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Once you’ve picked out as much as you can, it’s now time to apply some treatment products. Two things you could use would be olive oil or almond oil. The amount you use will obviously depend on how bad the infestation is, but the effect will end up being the same. These products will, in effect, smother the lice, either killing them or making it a lot easier to pick them out.

You probably shouldn’t soak the hair in oil, just for the sake of avoiding a mess and making it a little easier to work with. Instead, start out with a modest amount and apply more, depending on how many lice are present and how much hair you’re working with. While the main infestation is going to be at the scalp – the source of their food – be sure to work your way through the entire length of hair in order to catch any that may be scurrying around.

After you’ve completed the treatment with the oil, then it’s time to wash and rinse the hair. You can use the shampoo you and your child typically use, or you can use some natural shampoo specifically designed to treat lice. You’ll want to wash and rinse several times in order to do a thorough job.

Once you’ve washed their hair, apply vinegar, and then keep it in for 20 to 30 minutes, covering their head with a shower cap. If you don’t have a shower cap, then you can always improvise with a plastic bag and something to tie it in place, like twine, a large rubber-band, etc. Rinse their hair out again and dry. Make sure you get all of the towels and anything else immediately into the washing machine (it wouldn’t hurt to wash twice).

While it may be easier to use olive oil or almond oil – considering they’re more likely to be in your kitchen or at a local grocery store – there are a variety of oils that have been noted for their effectiveness in treating lice. Such oils include tea tree oil, eucalyptus oil, peppermint oil, and lavender oil, among others.

Before using, test a drop or two on the person’s skin to make sure they’re not allergic to the oil being used. You can use about 15 drops or so of these oils mixed in with 2 ounces of the olive oil and use it as an overnight soak. You can also apply the same amount of drops to rubbing alcohol (about 4 ounces) and use it as a spray, also leaving it in overnight.

You’ll likely have to repeat these treatments for a little while, so stay patient and keep a cool head. If you’re finding that the lice are just a little more persistent than you’d anticipated, then you can always contact a doctor in order to hear their particular recommendation. You may in fact need a prescription.

Things Not to Do:

Lice aren’t like the sort of pests that homeowners typically battle against, like roaches, fleas, termites, and other pests. Some people get so worried by the presence of lice in their home that they immediately want to call an exterminator, which is understandable but not advisable.

Lice are a true host parasite, meaning that their lives are immediately linked with their ability to find and secure a host. If they don’t have a host to feed off of, then they die off pretty quickly.

Bringing in someone to spray your home is just going to expose your family and pets – which are more susceptible – to harsh chemicals and toxins, not to mention cost you money.

If lice have spread from one person to another and become a much larger household problem, just maintain treatments for everyone. It would also be a good idea to look into the prevention products mentioned earlier that you can spray on various surfaces where lice may be hiding.

Lastly, don’t get overzealous in trying to kill the lice. If you’ve been following a particular treatment method for a while and nothing seems to be working, then it’s time to stop the treatments and seek medical advice. Repeatedly using products, whether they are home remedies or not, can lead to additional problems or may complicate the matter of removing the lice.

The basic principle to work with is that if you haven’t seen any results after about 3 treatments, then it’s time to consider other options.

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