Lice In Kids – Effective Lice Treatment and Back to School

After a long summer break, two emails seem to populate parent’s email boxes;

1. A child in your class has been diagnosed with strep OR

2. A child in your class has head lice.

I don’t know about you, but I much prefer email 1.

Head lice in kids is very common, more likely to affect children and in particular girls (possibly because of the long hair).

Contrary to popular belief, you cannot spread lice through poor hygiene or dirty hair. Spread most often occurs by direct contact and is more common in overcrowded environments. They are NOT spread by pets, sharing hats, or bedding.

Lice Basics

1. Adult lice are small – about 1-2mm in length and are white to grey in color. They live close to the scalp and are usually behind the ears and the back of the scalp near the neck.

2. They live for about 30 days and lay about 10 eggs per day. The eggs develop into nymphs which are coated in a casing and become nits.

Diagnosing lice

1. Head lice can be confused for other conditions like eczema or other types of dermatitis. The right way to diagnose lice is by wet combing.

2. Wet the hair and then apply conditioner to the hair.

3. Comb through the hair starting at the crown or top of the head at the scalp with a nit comb, dividing the hair into sections.

4. Rinse the comb each time in hot water.

5. Examine at least twice. Nits are seen within ¼ inch from the scalp.

Effective Lice Treatment

Lice removal can be divided into methods-with chemicals and without.

1. Chemical free methods include wet-combing. This method is good for babies under 6 months of age who cannot use chemical treatments for lice. Wet combing is done in the same way as described above for identifying lice. Combing should be done over 2 weeks on days 1, 5, 9, and 13. Combing should be done until you can show that you have no lice after 3 sessions.

2. Insecticides.

Chemical agents are more effective than wet combing and achieve faster results. Remember not to use conditioner in the hair. Rinse hair over the sink not the shower to avoid getting any product in the eyes. Also use warm and not hot water.

Lice treatment myths

Home remedies like olive oil, butter and Vaseline do not work. Do not use gasoline or kerosene! Do not waste your money on electric combs. They don’t work.

Back to School

Children with head lice can go back to school as soon as treatment is initiated. They do not need to be sent home early from school after they are diagnosed. The CDC has a great summary on school guidelines and lice.

House cleaning

The CDC recommends that all clothes worn 2 days before starting treatment be washed in hot water and then placed in the high heat drying cycle. Dry clean clothes that cannot be washed this way. Buy new combs and brushes or soak the existing ones in hot water (130 degrees or more) for 10 minutes. You do NOT need to fumigate your house. Lice do not survive for very long if they are unattached.

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Looking for something specific? Write to Dr. Audrey Paul and let her know what topic you're interested in learning more about.


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