How To Prevent and Avoid Head Lice

Head Lice Basics

Mother combs daughter's hair with a lice comb
Ian Hooton / Getty Images

Have your kids ever gotten head lice?

It's okay. You can tell us. There is no shame in having kids with lice. Really...

Lice are everywhere. In every city, community, and school district. From the richest to the poorest.

If you have kids and they are around other kids, they are at risk for getting head lice.

Avoiding Head Lice

Although the focus of parents and pediatricians is usually on treating head lice infestations, in this day of resistant or hard-to-treat head lice, it is probably even more important to teach your kids to avoid head lice.

And since head lice can't jump from child to child or crawl into your home, preventing head lice infestations isn't as hard as it may sound.

Here's How To Avoid Head Lice

You don't have to live in a bubble to avoid head lice, but it can help to:

  1. Encourage your kids to avoid sharing things that have been on or near another child's head, including hairbrushes, combs, hats, scarves, towels, helmets, pillows, sleeping bags, etc.
  2. Teach your kids to hang up their coat and hat on an individual hook, or some other separate area, when they get to school, instead of just throwing them in a pile with other classmates' clothing.
  3. Regularly clean things that your child's head has direct contact with, such as car seats, pillows, head phones, etc., if you are sharing these items with other children.
  4. Review some head lice pictures to help you understand what you are looking for in your child's hair, including live lice and nits (lice eggs).
  1. Check your child for nits and live head lice at least once a week, keeping in mind that although you may find head lice anywhere, they are often found at the back of your child's head, near his neck and behind his ears.
  2. Recognize the symptoms of head lice, which includes an itchy scalp and small red bumps or sores on the back of your child's neck and scalp. Don't panic, though, if your child must be treated for head lice.

    More Tips On Preventing Head Lice

    Ponytails, hairspray, and special shampoos and conditioners probably aren't going to keep your kids from getting lice, but these other tips might, including that you:

    1. Be extra vigilant for head lice if there have been frequent reports of head lice at your child's school or in your child's classroom.
    2. Review all of these head lice prevention steps before and after sleepovers, school field trips, or when your child goes to camp.
    3. Wash your child's hair with a regular shampoo and hair conditioner and then check your child's hair after you rinse and dry it, but while it is still damp. The hair conditioner can make it easier to comb through your child's hair.
    4. Remove all of the nits on your child's head when your child has lice, since missing some nits (lice eggs) is a common way for kids to have a persistent infection, as lice keep hatching and keep the infestation going.
    5. Don't hesitate to tell other people, especially the parents of kids with which your child has close contact, that they should likely check their own kids for lice. Your child might get lice again, even after being properly treated, if the kids around her aren't treated too.

    What To Know About Avoiding Head Lice

    Most importantly, remember that kids most commonly get head lice through direct head-to-head contact with other children.

    Watching school-age kids play and interact with each other, you know that can't be eliminated, so concentrate on catching lice infestations early and do what you can to encourage your kids to not share objects that touch their heads.

    Devore, Cynthia D. Head Lice. Pediatrics, May 2015, 135 (5) e1355-e1365

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