You’ve opened your child’s bag to find the dreaded letter from school, telling you that there’s been an outbreak of head lice. You obviously want to avoid your child getting infected at all costs but they’re at school all day with lots of other potentially affected children, out of the protection of your watchful gaze. So what can you do? Well, there are plenty of actions you can take in order to try and help prevent the spread of head lice in school.
Educate your child against hair to hair contact
Where you may have heard that head lice like to jump from head to head, this is more of a myth. In fact, head lice move from head to head by swinging to different strands of hair, meaning that the main cause of the spread of head lice is hair to hair contact. With children, this is probably a day to day occurrence with different games taking place in the playground at school, but by educating your child in the subject of head lice, this could be avoided.
You should try and discourage hair to hair contact between your child and any other kids at school.
However, this doesn’t mean that you should expect your child to avoid a suspected infected child at all costs. Explain to your child that having head lice isn’t a very nice experience and explain that if someone they know catches head lice it isn’t the persons fault. Tell them that sometimes you can’t even tell who has head lice and that they need to be careful with everyone but be clear to explain that they’ll be safe to play with who they want, so long as they don’t rub heads. Hopefully, this will help to make your child more conscious of their actions at school, without encouraging them to exclude those children who may have head lice already.
Educate your child against sharing clothes
Although head lice will not survive away from the human head1, it’s still advisable to encourage your child to avoid sharing hats or other items of clothing with other children. If you suspect your child has been playfully stealing the hat off the girl they like or has been busy playing fashion shows in the playground, the best thing to do is wash your child’s clothes at a high heat (50°C/122°F).
Tie their hair back
If you fear any information you tell your child is likely to go in one ear and out of the other, there are other tricks you can use. If your child has long hair, make sure whilst the threat of head lice is still rife at school, that you tie it back in order to try and help avoid hair to hair contact.
Regular detection combing
A female head louse can start laying eggs just seven days after they’ve hatched2. This means that to prevent the spread of head lice, discovering them in the early stages can be vital. If your child starts to itch their head an unusual amount then this could be one of the more obvious signs of infection. However, this is a symptom that does not always occur and the best thing to do is to go through your child’s hair with a detection comb. These combs have tooth spacing of less than 0.3mm, so you’ll be able to spot any lice that may otherwise have gone unnoticed. By catching them early, you’ll stop them from breeding and stop them from circulating to others.
Bug Busting Days
One of the key preventatives to any infection is education. Therefore, it’s a great idea to attend one of the many ‘Bug Busting Days’. These are events run by Community Hygiene Concern (CHC) and aim to provide parents with as much information regarding both the prevention and eradication of head lice as possible. Schools can choose to hold these events at any time across the year. However, they are encouraged to take part during one of the three National Bug Busting Days that take place on 31st January, 15th June and the 31st of October each year. The idea of holding these events on specific days is to help prevent circulation around different schools and stop those nasty bugs from returning back to your child’s head ever again.
Sometimes it’s inevitable that your child will pick up head lice. Just remember that it’s nothing to be ashamed of, for either parent or child. There are many head lice treatments and methods out there to help you get rid of those bugs for good. Taking the time to remove head lice not only means that you’re helping your child, but also that you’re helping to stop head lice from reaching other children as well.
1 NHS Choices – Live Well – How to Treat Nits
2 NHS Choices – Conditions – Head Lice: Introduction