No parent ever wants to hear the word “lice.”
Lice (or ‘louse’ in singular form) are tiny flightless insects that measure no more than about 1/8 inch long. There are dozens of species known to infest human habitations, perhaps the nastiest of which is “crab lice” that look like small crustaceans. People pick up lice from coming into contact with clothing, combs, or other people who have an infestation; lice can live from 1 to 10 days without food.
The problem with lice is that they’re incredibly resilient. They feed off of animal blood and are most typically found on the scalp and other hairy parts of the body – they lay hundreds of eggs at once that hatch within about a week, continuing the cycle of infestation. While lice don’t usually carry infectious diseases they can irritate the skin and cause vicious, endless itching.
How do you get rid of lice?
The biggest mistake most people make when trying to get rid of lice is the ineffectual removal of eggs and nits. It’s not enough to simply scrub your scalp…louse eggs can be nestled deep into the hair follicle which makes them tough to get rid of without chemical help.
If you or your child have lice:
- Talk to your doctor about over the counter shampoo solutions such as Nix or Rid. They also may provide you with a prescription for a stronger solution or creme that can be applied directly to the scalp in severe cases.
- Some people prefer more natural “smothering” solutions which involve coating the affected area with tea tree oil or even olive oil. Results can be mixed, but if the infestation is mild a dose of oil may be all you need to get rid of lice.
- Before using a lice-killing solution, take a pair of tweezers and a fine-toothed comb to your scalp to manually remove as many of the pests as you can find.
If you suspect you have lice on your clothing or in your home:
- Call a professional exterminator immediately. They’re equipped with totally safe compounds that can kill lice in your home for good, including their eggs. Professional lice treatment is similar in many ways to bed bug treatment.
- Thoroughly clean all the fabric surfaces in your home that may have come into contact with the lice. This includes bedding, car seats, and even clothing in some cases.
- Use a vacuum to rid the entire house of lice eggs that may have fallen from your loved one’s scalp. Although most lice only live a day or two without food, some species can live much longer.
Preventing lice is simple
Keeping your child and your home lice-free is as simple as avoiding contact with those who are infested. Since a lice infestation usually manifests in furious itching quickly, it’s typically pretty easy to spot someone who’s got a problem. If someone in your child’s class has lice and doesn’t stay home from school you should consider keeping yours home until the problem has resolved itself.
Remember, lice won’t go away on their own. Severe infestations take dilligence and patience and often multiple treatments. Never assume you’ve gotten them all! If you’re unsure how to deal with lice in your home or on your child, call a pest professional and your pediatrician immediately.