Common Sense Ways to Prevent Lice

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It’s sad, but true. Head lice outbreaks can pop up in school. Life as MOM contributor JessieLeigh Smith has some great tips on how to prevent lice from hitting your household.

Ways to Prevent Lice - It's sad, but true. Head lice outbreaks can pop up in school. These are great tips on how to prevent lice from hitting your household.

A new school year has begun! This means we will all soon be getting lots of things from the school– homework papers, permission slips, report cards and, oh yeah, notifications that lice has been found in the classroom.

Even though I know, logically, that lice is treatable and in no way the end of the world, I must admit I still feel all itchy and creepy and crawly when I see one of those notices. I breathe a small sigh of relief when I determine it was found somewhere other than my kids’ classrooms, though I certainly know there are no guarantees where those pesky buggers will show up next.

The fact is, despite many preconceptions, lice are more attracted to clean, smooth hair than dirty, oily hair. The cleanest, most immaculately kept child could be the one targeted by the little pests. No one is immune or exempt– lice infestations can truly show up at any time in any community.

That being said, there are steps you can take to try be less of a target. Here are some options to try if your child will be off at school or in another environment where the spread of lice is common or prevalent:

Use products containing tea tree oil.

Numerous studies have shown that tea tree oil is very unattractive to lice. As a result, there are many products on the market containing this essential oil, sold for the express purpose of repelling lice. It’s easy enough to find shampoos and sprays with tea tree oil– both Walmart and Amazon carry numerous products to this end.

Already have a favorite shampoo? No problem. Tea tree oil is readily available and affordable and is considered a very “kid-safe” treatment option. Simply add 10-15 drops of tea tree oil to 8 oz. of your favorite shampoo and mix well. The oil can also be added to a leave-in conditioning spray for added protection.

Ways to Prevent Lice - It's sad, but true. Head lice outbreaks can pop up in school. These are great tips on how to prevent lice from hitting your household.

Pull it back.

Long, flowing hair provides too much access opportunity. The longer and fuller the hair is, the more places the lice have to climb on. Especially during times when you learn of outbreaks, it’s best to keep hair pulled back securely. Braids, French braids, buns, and twists are all great ways to keep those locks back and under wraps. The less left hanging down? The better.

Spray it down.

Remember how we talked about lice liking clean, smooth hair? It’s true. They’re actually not attracted to greasy, dirty, or sticky hair. Because of this, styling products can be helpful in keeping them away.

While my children really do not need or use hair spray on a regular basis, I do give them a quick spritz of the stuff when I learn that lice is going around the school. That simple coating provides one extra layer of protection and it’s something many people already have in their homes.

Don’t share hats/helmets/hair accessories.

A list of prevention tips would be remiss without this one– remind your children that, while sharing is great, they shouldn’t share hat, helmets, or hair accessories. This can be easier said than done when your little ones are on sports teams or in classrooms with dress-up stations.

Still, it’s a best practice that will help minimize exposure since lice are transmitted through head-to-head contact or the sharing of items worn on the head. Spraying helmets or shared accessories with a solution of tea tree oil, witch hazel, and water may help with prevention, but the best way to prevent spreading is simply not to have multiple children wearing the same item.

Bag it up.

If children keep their hats on side-by-side hooks at your school– a rather common practice– the lice can transfer from one to the next. The best way to keep that from happening is to provide each child with a sealable plastic bag in which to store any hats, ear muffs, scarves, etc. that are worn on the head.

Keeping it sealed will prevent the lice from being able to climb on to another child’s gear. Barring that, teaching the children to store all accessories by stuffing them into a sleeve of their jackets can help minimize spreading and doesn’t require any extra materials.

As I said at the beginning of this piece– lice is truly NOT the end of the world and it is absolutely treatable. Following good prevention protocol can help keep your household lice-free, but it’s no guarantee.

If, despite your best efforts, someone in your home still winds up with these little pests, don’t panic. There are numerous over-the-counter products, prescription treatments, and at-home treatments to help rid your child and your home of the unwelcome guests.

A woman looking at the camera.– A mother of three, including a 24 week preemie, JessieLeigh is a determined advocate for even the tiniest of babies.

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  1. My advice don’t have your husband check your hair, if your head itches and feels like it is crawling despite your own examining, treat yourself at the same time. My daughter must have got it at camp (even though my friend who owns the camp says no way) She has been itching for a while. I never even thought lice, it did not cross my mind for one second. So after finding her just infested we treated her and I notified friends, family and school. We were relieved to find that no one had it and I began cleaning and washing and doing as much as I could on my own. Now a week after treating my daughter I have found that I have them too. Now I have to do it all over again. I had my husband check my head daily even went on the internet and showed him what to look for, nope nothing to see here. So if one person has it treat the entire house.

  2. Thanks so much for your timely post!!! We have just started treating my 7 y/o daughter again!!! (I think back to school bash was more than just a meet and greet!!!) One thing I was told a long time ago when my 14 y/o was little – the most important thing is to comb, comb, comb!!! Aside from washing everything in the house (yeah more laundry!!!) and spraying and bagging up stuffed animals (double bag, no air – date and hold for at least a month), the combing of hair after washing and treating is soooo important!!!! It takes a long time (my little missy refuses to cut her hair short!!!) But using the finest wire lice comb and lice comb out gel is a big defense against those disgusting little bugs!!! (ewww I can’t stand them – I never had them as kids in Illinois – one good thing about cold weather!!!) And please if anyone is in a school district like ours — they don’t send notices home – it’s very frustrating, so be vigilant — if they are itching – start treating whether you see the little buggers or not!!!!! I just stocked up on Tea Tree Essential oils so I could add them to all our hair care products!!!! Thanks again for your timely post — I know I’m not alone, but it helps to be reminded!!! God bless!

  3. btdt – the tea tree oil is the best deterrent I think though it doesn’t smell very nice

    A couple more notes from our unpleasant experience

    1. We didn’t get it in school despite many, many outbreaks over the years . . . we got it in a movie theatre! I know it’s true because it was the end of a VERY long Christmas break – there had been no lice in school before and we were so sick that year that we never left the house! On the last day, after two weeks at home, we went to a movie. That night my son found a bug on his hand after scratching his head – we treated forever, all together I think there were 7-8 nits among the five of us – thank goodness we found them fast! So it’s just good to be wary . . .

    2. During elementary school I sent my children in with plastic trash bags in their pockets once lice season began – they would put their coats in them – the coats are all touching in the classroom – and they move from coat to coat – you can also remove the furry rim on some coats [very attractive]

    3. When it was bad – ie there was an outbreak in their classroom etc – I would have everyone put their coats directly into the dryer when they got home – the heat kills the lice [washing won’t] and I at least felt that we weren’t bringing them in unless they were on a child!

  4. This is great! This isn’t something we’ve dealt with yet (knock on LOTS of wood!), but knowing a few simple ways to prevent it is ok by me! I think the tee tree oil in the shampoo and leave in conditioner is a great idea!