Head lice is a fairly common problem among school-aged children. Outbreaks tend to occur in groups of kids that are in close physical contact. It has little to do with hygiene or social class as anyone can get head lice, all it takes is head-to-head contact with an infected person. If you or your kids are infected, the first thing you want to know is how to get rid of head lice and nits.
Children under the age of two and those who do not want to be exposed to chemical insecticides can be treated for lice by using a nit comb on damp hair.
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A nit comb is a comb that has tiny teeth very close together. Its purpose is to physically remove lice and nits from the hair. It is easier to use a nit comb on damp hair than on hair that is dry.
To get rid of head lice and nits in your very young child, wet her hair and then comb through it thoroughly and visually remove nits. Lice deposit the nits near the scalp where they can stay warm, so you should focus on that area.
Nits are easier to see than lice, but you should repeat using the nit comb every three to four days for at least two weeks until you cannot see any more nits.
If you have heard there is a head lice outbreak in your child’s school but you don’t yet see any nits in her hair, you should thoroughly brush or comb her hair every day in an effort to keep the lice from becoming settled and laying nits. Instruct your child not to share brushes or hats and to not make bodily contact with her friends until the outbreak is over.
If your child has a confirmed case of head lice, you can use an over-the-counter lice treatment. Be sure to follow the instructions on the label closely to keep your child safe and to make sure you kill all of the lice and nits.
Over-the-counter products to help you get rid of head lice and nits are shampoos like Rid which contains pyrethrin, and shampoos like Nix which contain permethrin. Nix is usually used once and has a residual effect that lasts up to two weeks. Products with pyrethrin do not have a residual effect and need to be repeated a second time.
If over-the-counter head lice products do not work, your doctor may prescribe stronger insecticides. In some areas of the country, lice have become resistant to store-bought treatments and in this case, prescription treatments may be the only thing that works.
Prescription drugs include malathion-based shampoos like Ovide and Kwell which contains lindane. After using the head lice shampoos, you still need to remove the nits with a comb as they are glued tightly to the hair shaft and do not fall off even after they are killed.
Lice do not live for long once they are removed from the warmth of the scalp which is also their food supply. Therefore the risk is low for spreading head lice any other way than physical contact.
To take extra precautions, you may want to treat your home and personal effects in order to kill any lice that have fallen from the scalp. To do this, you can soak combs and brushes in Lysol or place them in hot water for at least ten minutes. The water should be a minimum of 150 degrees.
You can also wash clothing and bed linen in hot water and dry it in a hot dryer. Vacuum your furniture and carpets thoroughly. Items that cannot be washed in hot water can be sealed in an airtight plastic bag and left for four days. This kills lice since they won’t have access to a food supply.