Children are never completely safe from head lice, even during these strange times of social distancing and reduced social life. In this article, we look at the top 10 tips on how to get rid of them effectively.

The start of autumn has come as a relief for many parents. After months of homeschooling because of the Covid-19 pandemic, we can finally take our children back to school, which means we get a bit more time for ourselves. However, as soon as children are back in school together, an old enemy also returns: the head louse. It might be an uncomfortable situation to deal with, but, as a parent, it is very likely that you will have to do it at some point.

We have spoken with the professional “lice assassins”, who have given us their expert advice for parents on how to deal with head lice and nits:

Comb the nits out

If you find any nits or head lice, the most effective thing you can do is comb them all out. Be thorough and do it more frequently than once a week so you don’t give the lice time to grow up into adults and lay more eggs.

Use a nit comb

A normal comb won’t be enough if you are trying to shut down an infestation. Nit combing is best achieved by using a long-toothed metal nit comb. You can buy these online or at a pharmacy.

Be thorough

Effective checking and clearing are not just down to the comb. You need a system to ensure you comb the whole head thoroughly, so nothing is missed. You also need to ensure you do this regularly, so the head lice can’t reproduce.

Divide the hair into sections

One of the best techniques is to divide the hair into small sections. Then, ponytail each of them to control the task. Depending on how much hair and volume your kid has, you might want to divide it into more or fewer sections. Usually, dividing it into eight sections in total (four on each side) works quite well.

Head lice are movement-sensitive, so as soon as you touch the hair they are running away from you, so dividing the hair into sections helps contain and control that movement.

Use hair conditioner

Once you’ve divided the hair, work through each section by touching the scalp with the nit comb and taking the nit comb all the way through the hair and out.

A very useful trick is to put a bit of conditioner on the nit comb. This will help it glide through the hair and comb thoroughly. Every time you do this, clean the comb with white toilet paper or tissue as you go, which will allow you to inspect anything you extract and then bin it.

When you finish a section, re-bunch and move on to the next until you have checked or combed out every section thoroughly.

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Learn to recognise the nits

Look at the toilet paper to see if there are any brown or black specks. If they are tear-dropped shaped, then they are nits (the eggs).

Some people might even be unsure of whether they have found head lice or other types of parasites, however, head lice are very easy to recognise. They have six legs and can be tiny. They can be pale if they are young or as they grow older, they are dark from old oxidized blood.

Follow a “combing schedule”

Timing is everything with clearing head lice and if you don’t respect that you will probably fail. The eggs take 7 to 11 days to hatch and the lice take 9 to 12 days to mature into adults. When you find them your combing cycle should be as follows:

  • Day 1
  • Day 2
  • Day 6
  • Day 9
  • Day 12

By following this schedule you will be able to get rid of all head lice and nits, old and new.

Do not rely on head lice products

Head lice products such as shampoos, lotions and sprays may seem like the quickest and easiest way to get rid of nits and head lice. Unfortunately, these products have been proven to have very low rates of effectiveness and therefore often operate simply as expensive combing aids.

When they do work, they may kill the head lice. However, they will not affect the eggs, and it is the eggs that often defeat parents. If you do not comb out the eggs (the nits) then they will hatch, grow up, breed, lay eggs and off you go again…

It is important to know that some head lice treatments, besides ineffective, are also harmful and can have long-term effects, so it is best to avoid them altogether.

Plait or braid your child’s hair

Adult lice are always looking for opportunities to crawl across to other hosts. If your child has an infestation, it is very important you protect their siblings’ hair (and your own!) to make sure they can’t craw across.

The best way to do this is with hairstyles, such as braids, that keep the hair back. If you keep it back, you keep them out!

Go to a head lice clinic

Getting rid of nits and head lice is not easy, so if you are unsure, want a professional check, or need it all cleared out, there are professional head lice treatments available that can sort it for you in a couple of appointments.

The article was written by Dee Wright founder of The Hairforce.

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