So Your Kids Brought Home Some Unwanted Friends…

No, we don’t mean the friend who taught your kids some new vocabulary you hoped he/she wouldn’t learn until high school, or joining the Navy, or ever. We don’t even mean the kind or friend who will point out to you (and then later report back to his/her parents) every speck of dust or smudged window in your house. We mean the kind that is creepy, crawly, likes to hang out on scalps and lay eggs in hair. Please, don’t stop reading, don’t be repulsed or ashamed, and don’t be foolish enough to think that it can’t happen to you.

It’s an absolute MYTH that head lice has anything to do with personal hygiene or how clean someone’s residence is. The truth is lice are common parasitic insects that can be found on people’s heads and bodies, and survive by feeding on human blood. There are three types of lice that live on humans: Pediculus humanus capitis (head louse), Pediculus humanus corporis (body louse, clothes louse), and, Pthirus pubi  (“crab” louse, pubic louse). It is head lice that is most commonly brought home by our little darlings.

Kids (or anyone really) can get head lice if they come into close contact with a person who has lice; touch the clothing or bedding of someone who has lice; or share hats, towels, brushes, or combs of someone who has had lice. Again having head lice does NOT mean the person has poor hygiene or low social status; kids touch, share, poke, grab, lick, punch, share, etc, all the time, especially in crowded public settings like camp, day care, and school. And the best prevention is to keep kids from doing these things, but that is probably not going to happen.

So what should we be on the look out for in our little critters to see if they’ve picked up any of these other critters? Intense itching is the main sign, but there is also sometimes a tickling feeling from movement of hair. These signs may not necessarily mean your child has head lice, but they may mean you’ll have to (cringe) take a closer look. Adult lice may be about the size of a sesame seed or slightly larger., and lice eggs or nits, which resemble tiny pussy willow buds and can be mistaken for dandruff, may appear on hair shafts. Unlike dandruff, they can’t be easily brushed out of hair. You may also notice small, red bumps on the scalp, neck and shoulders.

According to the Mayo Clinic often you can get rid of lice by taking self-care steps that include using nonprescription shampoo that’s specifically formulated, if you or your little one has any infected hives or skin abrasions from scratching. You’ll also want to take steps to thoroughly clean house, such as properly laundering bedding and cleaning household combs and brushes, to prevent another head lice outbreak.

As KidsHealth so succinctly puts it Lice aren’t dangerous and they don’t spread disease, but they are contagious and can just be downright annoying.” There’s lots of resources and products to help combat this annoying little bugger. Places like The National Pediculosis Association or Lice Happens are just 2 of many that can provide info and help. The most helpful thing is to battle the stigma associated with head lice, to feel okay to talk about it, to let schools and parents know what’s going on so everyone can be on the look out and do what they need to get the lice out.