The thought of head lice, or nits, is enough to have us parents squirming, but they're more common than you think and easy to treat. Here's how...
Nits are the scourge of the earth. The mere mention of dreaded head lice is enough to send us screaming and running for the hills. Going back to school is sadly the time these pesky mofos most often hit the heads of the student population (damn those slumber parties). Choke back the expletives, grab a stiff drink and read our guide to eradicating head lice with the least pain possible. Here’s how to nuke nits and keep them away for good…
How to treat head lice in kids
Do they really have nits? The signs to look out for…
The biggest giveaway is (you guessed it) an itchy head. Hold down your kiddo, grab a fine-toothed comb and a bright light and search through their head like a mother gorilla with her baby. Look at the bottom of the hair shaft as lice cling to the hair close to the scalp (so they can feed on blood – ewww!). Nits are teeny, black, flat, wingless insects (roughly 2mm in length). The discarded white eggshells are a dead giveaway that a nit family has taken up residence. Make sure you check behind the ears (where it’s warm and cosy) and look out for small red bites. We’re scratching our heads just writing this…
How to treat nits in children
1. Get the right treatment
We’re all for going natural and herbal whenever possible. But when it comes to nits, we make an exception. We tried the herbal route with no success, and given treatment involves no less than two sittings of over an hour of combing and nit extraction. It just ain’t worth it, people. Learn from our failure: head straight for the strong chemicals and bang this pest on the head – dead.
2. You don’t need a trip to the doctors – just head to the pharmacy
There’s no need for a visit to the doctor when it comes to head lice. Benzoyl benzoate lotion is available over the counter at local pharmacies. (We used the Lice Care lotion from Guardian, which we hear is the very same brand issued by some medical clinics).
3. Tackle the nits just before bed
Pick up a heavy-duty metal-toothed comb while you’re at it (don’t mess about with a useless plastic comb). Just before bedtime, apply the lotion liberally and plaster the hair with nit-stunning conditioner (the chemicals make the hair sticky, like matted Barbie hair). Divide and conquer the hair in small sections with the comb and break the back of the head lice between two fingernails.
Our tip: Dip the comb in vinegar for easier combing.
4. Wash the next day
Bundle your little one off to bed with a CLEAN towel on their pillow, and wash out their hair in the morning.
5. ‘Treat’ the whole family
These little critters are quite the movers, so it’s best to treat everyone to the nit-nuking exercise just to be on the safe side. Yes, Dad too (oh, the joys of parenthood!).
6. And repeat
Repeat the whole soul-destroying process in seven to 10 days’ time (just in case you missed an egg that has since hatched).
Can I send my kid to school with head lice?
School policies vary; some don’t require your child to stay home if they’ve had nits. We’re not talking hand foot and mouth, here. So long as you thoroughly treat your little rascal (and remove every last nit and egg), feel free to pack them off to school. You’ve already been through enough – a full day at home might just tip you over the edge. Or, if you can handle it, keep them home for a day to recover from the ordeal.
The golden rules of nit destruction:
- Be vigilant: check kids’ hair regularly to catch a mild case before it causes an epidemic. Denial is not going to do you any favours and there is no magic nits fairy.
- Tell your nearest and dearest that you’ve been infected, despite fear of social isolation – they can treat their kiddies too and prevent re-contamination.
- Once treated, strip beds and wash all brushes, linens, clothing, towels, soft toys and hair ties in scalding hot water. Dry on high heat.
- Just like us, nits love clean, fluffy hair. Tie back hair and avoid washing it daily (once or twice a week is enough)!
- Use a good preventative spray – you can buy one over the counter or else mix together your own with tea tree oil and water (10 drops per 60ml). Add a nice scent (like lavender) to hide the overpowering smell.
- As nits don’t have wings, they can’t fly or jump from host to host. Encourage your kids to avoid head-to-head contact with others.
- Just like we don’t share lip balm in fear of catching cold sores, teach kids that it’s unhygienic to share brushes, hair accessories or hats.
Good luck out there!