Back to School: How to Keep Head Lice at Bay
Head lice are an extremely common malady for school aged children and their families. The CDC estimates 6-12 million American children will get head lice this year. Head lice are second only to the common cold as a cause for missed days of school.
Head lice are not a vector for disease. They are more of a nuisance, but they sure wreak havoc on a family’s life. What can you do you protect yourself from lice?
According to Sarah Casello-Rees, head lice expert and owner of Rapunzel’s Lice Boutique, your best defense is to contain your child’s hair, use essential oils and, because lice like clean hair, put some gel or other things in it to “muck” it up.
“People with long hair should wear their hair up in a bun or in braids and those with short hair, including many boys, should consider using gel or another styling product”, she says. Additionally, children should be taught not to share personal item such as hats, brushes, helmets, etc.
Casello-Rees adds, “You do not need to worry very much about your environment, because lice only live on the human head. A louse will never voluntarily leave your head unless it is moving on to someone new. If one was accidentally dislodged from your head it would only live for a short period of time. Lice need blood to survive and they are very susceptible to dehydration.”
So, how concerned should you be that your child will encounter lice this fall? Casello-Rees says,
“We have seen a dramatic increase in head lice cases over this past summer. We treated 388 clients in July alone. In addition to the number we treated, there were quite a few cases where the family chose our self-treatment option. Thus the number of active cases we encountered that month was close to 500. We realize we are seeing only a sliver of the number of actual cases out there. Most families are self-treating at home with over the counter (OTC) products.”
According to Casello-Rees, the families who are treating with the common OTC products such as RID and NIX may well be returning this school year with lice because “over the past 20 years head lice have become increasingly resistant to the pyrethroids in these products. We see clients everyday who have used these products and still have live, happy, robust adult lice crawling around.”
Rapunzel’s uses the AirAllé™, formerly called the LouseBuster™. The AirAllé is an FDA cleared medical device which uses only heated air to desiccate the lice and nits. Casello-Rees says, “Heat is the only thing that has been clinically proven to kill the nits (eggs). If you can kill the eggs, you can eliminate the infestation. Killing the eggs is the ‘Holy Grail’ of head lice treatment because with self-treatments, if you miss a few eggs, they will likely hatch and the infestation will continue.”
Casello-Rees cautions against misusing any product. “I can’t tell you how many times parents have told me that they found live bugs after treating with the OTC preparations.” Many times they will repeat the treatment immediately even when the instructions say not to do this. These are neurotoxic pesticides. “You do not want to over expose your child to these chemicals.”
There have been reported cases of children being physically harmed by alternative treatments. Children have been horribly burned when desperate parents have used flammable liquids such as kerosene or gasoline to kill head lice.
There have also been reported cases where parents have used DNA altering flea medication on their children. “It is truly frightening what some poor parents resort to when treating lice. These ‘cures’ are much worse than actually having lice.
“If you have lice or if you aren’t sure if you have lice, give us a call and we will happily discuss non-toxic alternatives with you.”
The facts of Lice
- Head lice will not infest your home the way fleas or bed bugs can. They can only survive for a short period of time without a host; at the most from 24 to 48 hours.
- Itching is an allergic reaction to the louse’s saliva. Most people, around 60%, are not allergic and do not get the itching that is usually associated with having head lice.
- Pets cannot contract or carry head lice. They are human parasites and can only survive on human blood.
- A female louse can lay around 6 to 10 eggs (nits) per day. The nits will hatch in about 7 to 10 days. It takes the newly hatched louse another 7 to 10 days to mature and reproduce its own eggs.
- Head lice usually live up to 30 days when on a host.
- Head lice do not carry or transmit diseases. The only medical concern is the possibility of a secondary infection due to scratching the bites.
- They can not jump or fly.
- Head lice are most commonly spread through direct hair to hair contact, but they can also be transmitted through items such as contaminated clothing and hair accessories.
- Head lice do no just appear out of thin air; they are transmitted through humans and human contact. They have been around since before recorded history. Dried up lice and their nits have even been found on the hair and scalps of Egyptian mummies.
- A female louse only needs to mate once and can continue to lay viable nits for the duration of her lifespan.
- Recent studies are showing that lice are becoming increasingly resistant to the chemicals and pesticides commonly found in over the counter, as well as prescription, shampoos. These treatments are not only working less effectively, but they also do not kill the lice eggs.
- The nits (eggs) must be laid by live lice. You cannot “catch nits.
- Nits are small yellowish-white to dark brown, oval-shaped eggs that are “to the side” of a hair shaft and glued “at an angle.”
- Head lice are clear in color when hatched. They quickly develop a reddish-brown color after feeding.
- Head lice can infest anyone, regardless of personal hygiene. They prefer clean living environments just like we do.
- A louse can hold its breath for up to 8 hours.
Rapunzel’s Lice Boutique:
Head Lice Hotline: 734-629-4932
27620 Farmington Rd.
Farmington Hills, MI 48334
4147 Metro Parkway
Sterling Heights, MI 48310
3001 Plymouth Rd.
Ann Arbor, MI 48103