It's lice season - What you need to know

Filed under: Health & Safety: Babies, Medical Conditions, Home Remedies

lice combIt's the note that fills parents with dread: A student in your child's school (or worse, classroom) has lice. If lice have a season, this is it. Kids congregating and co-mingling, working and playing with their heads close together, and letting their coats and hats share the same space ... well ... it's a lice paradise.

Itching is the number one clue that your child might have lice, but because the itching is caused by an allergic reaction to the bites, a child may itch little, if at all. Lice and their eggs (nits) can also be spotted at the nape of the neck or behind the ears. Nits are round and "stick" to the hair.

Keep in mind that while lice are a major headache, they aren't a health threat, so don't panic. Lice shampoos (which are actually pesticides, so read directions carefully, do not overuse, and keep out of reach of children) are a common form of treatment. But while a shampoo will kill the live lice, it won't destroy the nits. It's important that a child with lice is checked every single day for nits, and that the nits removed by hand. I know. A major headache, remember?

Many parents are concerned about the safety of lice shampoos and want to try a non-toxic home remedy. Dr. Greene has some suggestions for parents, but it's important to note that these remedies may not actually kill the lice, but instead force them into a dormant state. So if you do try one of these methods, be sure to use a lice comb every day to rid your child's hair of dead or dormant lice and nits. The lice comb is now your best friend until this ordeal is over.

As HeadLice.org points out, any home remedy used after a pesticide treatment may alter how the chemical treatment works and should be avoided. Basically, do your research well before you choose your lice removal method.

Read more about lice prevention and tips for treating an infestation, including the mountains of laundry you'll now be doing. And take a deep breath ... soon, this will all be over.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.