Back-to-School: Head Lice Prevention, Myths & Treatment

With school starting throughout the Treasure Valley, parents everywhere are well aware of the germs being passed around.  That’s why we load our kids up with hand sanitizers and boxed tissues. Despite the fact that we are all susceptible to the common cold or flu, another common classroom epidemic is head lice.

Head lice season peaks when our kids are in school, mainly because they tend to bump heads together or share things that touch their hair. The thought alone is enough to make anybody  itch. While nobody likes to think about buying expensive shampoos, or the time consuming task of combing out nits, head lice is something we all need to be aware of…

Head lice is caused by a nearly invisible insect called Pediculus humanus capitis. Rarely seen this six-legged creature is usually only noticed by finding white eggs (nits) in a child’s hair near the scalp. While head lice can be annoying there is no reason to panic. Despite the stigma that goes along with head lice, personal hygiene or cleanliness in the home or school has nothing to do with getting head lice. In fact, lice are often attracted to clean hair because it is easier to cling to the hair shaft.

Below are some Boise hair salon tips to avoid catching this itchy critter:

  • Avoid head-to-head (hair-to-hair) contact during play and other activities at home, school, and elsewhere.
  • Do not share clothing such as hats, scarves, coats, sports uniforms, women’s hair ribbons, or barrettes.
  • Do not share combs, brushes, or towels. Disinfect combs and brushes used by an infested person by soaking them in hot water (at least 130°F) for 5–10 minutes.
  • Do not lie on beds, couches, pillows, carpets, or stuffed animals that have recently been in contact with an infested person.

If you do happen to deal with an outbreak, don’t panic! Our Boise hair salon stylists recommend using a medicated shampoo to kill the lice. These types of shampoos can be found over-the-counter in your local drug store. While medicated lice treatments usually kill the lice and nits, it may take a few days for the itching to stop. Unlike regular hair shampoo, it’s important to follow the directions exactly as they are listed because these products contain insecticides.

Treatment may be unsuccessful if the medication is not used correctly or if the lice are resistant to it. After treatment, your Boise hair salon stylist  also suggests combing out the nits with a fine-tooth comb and repeating with a follow-up treatment 7 to 10 days to kill any newly hatched nits. Other tips include:

  • Machine wash and dry clothing, bed linens, and other items that an infested person wore or used during the 2 days before treatment using the hot water (130°F) laundry cycle and the high heat drying cycle. Clothing and items that are not washable can be dry-cleaned OR sealed in a plastic bag and stored for 2 weeks.
  • Vacuum the floor and furniture, particularly where the infested person sat or lay. However, spending much time and money on house cleaning activities is not necessary to avoid reinfestation by lice or nits that may have fallen off the head or crawled onto furniture or clothing.
  • Do not use fumigant sprays or fogs; they are not necessary to control head lice and can be toxic if inhaled or absorbed through the skin.


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