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School's in session -- and so are lice!

Brandie Valenzuela


It seems like school and lice go hand in hand. My own children have been back at school for only a very short time, and there has already been a couple outbreaks of lice. I am thankful that my children have never had lice, but I also believe that us parents can do quite a bit to prevent lice coming into our home.

What are head lice?
Well, they are not fun, and they aren't cute. Head lice are tiny insects that lay eggs in the human scalp and live on blood. Itching goes hand in hand with head lice because the they put their saliva into the scalp. They live for no longer than 1 to 2 days off of people and contrary to what some people believe, they cannot fly or jump.

Lice or Dandruff?
If you notice that your child is scratching his or her head more than usual, you will want to check for head lice. It may seem hard to tell the difference between dandruff, styling product buildup, and head lice, but it really isn't. Dandruff and flakes from styling products will fall easily from the scalp and hair, while lice eggs (also white spots) must be pulled off the stands of hair, almost as if they are glued onto the strands.

Why are children and lice so common?
It is very common for children to get head lice if they are attending school, child care, or playgroups with other children. For the most part, children get lice from sharing other children's brushes, combs, hats, and jackets. It doesn't have anything to do with cleanliness or economic status. Children which are not bathed properly have just as much of a chance of getting head lice as a child who is bathed each and everyday. Be sure to teach your child these facts, so that they never tease a child who may get head lice.

We have what?
First of all, don't panic. Yes, having lice is a big inconvenience, but if you are diligent, you will rid your home and child of the lice in no time. Follow these tips:

1) Go to the pharmacy or drug store and get an over the counter pediculicides, which kills the lice. Usually these are in the form of a shampoo. Following the package directions exactly, wash your child's hair and scalp. Your usual shampoo will not help!

2) If the pediculicides you purchase doesn't not come with a very fine metal comb, purchase one. The closer the teeth are together, the better. When the comb is ran down stands of hair, it removes the lice eggs from the hair.

3) Keep your child out of school, child care, or playgroups for at least 1-2 days. It is also a good idea to notice the administrators of the situation, so that they can alert other parents. Remember, there is nothing to be embarrassed about. Your child got the lice from another child and if you don't mention the situation to the school, the lice are bound to keep going and going.

4) Wash all clothes, jackets, hats, linens in hot water for 20 minutes kill leftover lice and eggs. If possible, dry in a hot dryer.

5) Does your child sleep with stuffed animals? If so, place these inside of a pillow case, close securely, and wash just as you would the clothes and linens.

6) Using your household iron on a high heat setting, iron your childs mattress (without the sheets on it). This will help to kill any leftover lice and eggs.

7) Clean house! Be sure to vacuum all furniture, rugs and floors in your home.

How can I prevent head lice?
1) Constantly remind your children to never share hats, jackets, combs, or brushes with anyone.

2) Don't allow your child to hang their jacket or hats on the same hanger or hook as another child's belongings.

3) If you child attend preschool or child care, ask their policies on children and lice. Do they do periodic checks for head lice? Do they discourage the sharing of personal items? Is there "dress-up" clothes used over and over again without laundering?

Overall, if you are still confused, the best advice I have is to contact your family doctor. Your doctor can tell you if your child does have head lice and can also explain which insecticides are best.

Parenting in the Middle Years - ages 5 - 1210 Tips for School Success

Kim Brandie Valenzuela is married and a mother of two children. She is currently expecting their third child in December of 2000. If you like this article, then be sure to check out Brandie's FREE ezines dedicated to the family: The Family First Newsletter and the Daily Holiday Recipe at:

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