To Cut Or Not To Cut...

Does having long hair increase your chances of getting head lice and more difficult to get rid of it? Increase your chances? Maybe, as longer hair has a longer reach and can brush the hair of others more easily. More difficult to detect and get rid of? Another maybe, but don't reach for the scissors. You just need to take more time to deal with the problem. There are things you can do to reduce your chance of infestation and increase your chances of removal.

First, putting the hair up in a braid, a bun, or a ponytail is a good idea. This will help to keep the hair from going all over the place and brushing against others who have head lice. If the hair already has little "guests" crawling around it, putting the hair up will help keep the lice from travelling.

Second, if the person with long hair already has head lice, the purchase of a good lice comb is a worthwhile investment (and the combs that come with the lice treatments don't count!). Read about my favourite comb, the LiceMeister, here. With lice combs, you have to comb from root to tip in one continuous motion. If you stop, you give the bugs that you have scooped up a chance to crawl off of the comb. So separate the long hair into small, manageable sections, remove all the tangles with a normal brush or comb, and then use the lice comb on wet hair one small section at a time. Wet hair helps immobilize the bugs; you can add a bit of hair conditioner throughout the hair to prevent it from drying while you are combing.

After you have combed through every strand of hair, you NEED to go through the hair again, strand by strand and manually pick out any bugs or eggs that the comb has missed. Read my blog post about nit picking right here. If you are still not sure what you are looking for, look at some pictures here.

Something you should know. It is unlikely that any nit (egg) that is more than a few inches from the scalp will hatch as newly laid eggs are right near the scalp. You may want to remove them all for cosmetic reasons, but you really just need to direct your energies to activity near the scalp.

With long hair, this whole process can take hours, so take lots of breaks, and don't be afraid to do it over a couple of days. Lice can only lay up to 10 eggs a day, and even with multiple bugs, you can pick faster than they can lay. Just keep combing/picking everyday until you get to the point where you see no bugs or nits. Then, keep checking thoroughly for another 7 days, just in case you missed something.

Once the person with long hair is lice free, make sure you do regular lice checks. These checks can be done quickly, but you must be sure to really lift up all the hair and peek in all different areas of the scalp. Do the quick check every day and a thorough check once a week. If you see new lice activity, do thorough combing, picking, and checking everyday until you have removed the problem.

So think twice before you cut the long hair - you may be in for a longer battle but it still takes longer to grow out the hair again than it does to just deal with your lice problem.

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