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How to Get Rid of Head Lice: Help for Parents
Sure, lice is a lousy thing to have, but it's certainly not a health hazard, nor is it difficult to deal with -- just time-consuming.
It's important to act swiftly as nits reproduce at a rather alarming rate. Once you've established your child actually has lice and not a bad case of dandruff, your first step is to kill the ones that are alive. You can do that with Crisco shortening, says Linda Strand of Lice Be Gone in Short Hills, N.J.
A registered nurse for more than 20 years, Strand opened her business after spending her summers as a camp nurse literally nitpicking the scalps of dozens of kids. Slather your child's head with the shortening and let it sit for approximately six hours (this is one of those times to be lax on the TV rules). This will smother all existing lice.
The next step -- picking out all the nits (lice eggs) -- is tedious, but it has to be done. If you don't kill the eggs, they will go forth and multiply all over your child's head and those his or her head comes into contact with. Strand recommends using hair conditioner and then slowly combing the nits out.
Nits are incredibly small and easy to miss. Look for small yellowish-white oval-shaped eggs about the size of a sesame seed. They are attached to the hair shaft and thus need to be plucked off. They won't come off on your comb. That's just a tool to help you find them.
It's important that you alert everyone your child has come into contact with over the last few weeks to the situation, especially all family members, as well as babysitters or other caregivers. But not Fido. Pets can't get lice.
A few things to keep in mind:
- Be proactive. Check your child's hair once a week. If you catch lice early, that's a lot less work for you.
- Alert others. Be sure to inform the school or camp nurse and anyone else your child has come into contact with over the last few weeks. Because even if you successfully delouse your child, he or she can get it again if someone else has it. Unfortunately, it's common for lice to be passed back and forth among children.
- Don't stress. As for any stigmas attached to having lice, there's really no reason for it, Strand says: "It's not a matter of hygiene, just a nuisance."
Related: It's Lice Season - What You Need to Know
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