One of the more challenging moments in parenthood is realizing that your child has head lice. Immediately your own scalp begins to mysteriously itch as you race to a mirror to inspect your hair. Then comes the rush to the pharmacy for lice-killing insecticide and tiny combs to remove the nits (lice eggs). You may worry that lice are jumping around your house, carrying diseases, or are brought in by the dog.
Stop and take a breath.
While lice are indeed bothersome and annoying, they are not life threatening, do not mean you are a bad parent, and are not the dog’s fault.
Here are the top 10 myths about head lice from the website www.verywell.com:
- Lice can jump: Nope. They move by crawling and require direct head-to-head contact to spread from one person to another.
- An untidy home or poor hygiene cause head lice: Any family, neat or not, can get head lice.
- An itchy head means head lice: While an itchy scalp is a common symptom of head lice, there can be other causes of itching, such as dandruff or dry skin. Additionally, some children who have lice don’t experience itching.
- Head lice prefer long hair: Lice don’t care whether hair is short or long, clean or dirty. They live on the blood they get through the scalp.
- You can get head lice from pets: Lice cannot be transmitted from pets and pets can’t get them from people.
- Head lice carry disease: Lice are annoying, but do not carry any diseases.
- Your child’s belongings must be put in a sealed plastic bag for several weeks: This used to be the recommendation, but we have since learned that lice do not survive long away from a host. The best way to kill lice or nits in the environment is to vacuum areas where your child has rested her head, and wash her linens and towels in hot water and put them in a hot dryer.
- Kids get head lice at school: Kids get head lice from places where they have head-to-head contact or share personal belongings—especially hats, combs, bedding, towels, and hair accessories. The most common sources, in addition to school, are camp, daycare, slumber parties and sports activities.
- Head lice are extremely contagious and children who have lice should be isolated until all the nits are gone: Since lice only spread from head-to-head contact, transmission can be prevented by taking such precautions as not sharing personal items and avoiding close contact. Isolation, including keeping a child out of school once he has begun treatment, is not necessary.
- Natural treatments for head lice are always safe and effective: parents must be cautious when using products touted as being “natural.” Many products are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and may contain ingredients such as certain essential oils that are not recommended for use on young children. Always check with your doctor before using any products on your child’s scalp. And keep in mind that no product, natural or not, is 100 percent effective in killing lice and nits.