Head Lice Prevention: Is There Such a Thing?

When I talk with families that have gone through a cycle of head lice in the home, they always want to know what they can do to keep it from happening again.  Questions like, "Should I shampoo with tea-tree oil?"  "Should I spray my furniture?" "Should I ban my child from having sleepovers?"

I think people should forget about "treatments" for head lice prevention.  Claims about various natural repellents have not been sufficiently proven as effective or even safe and they are certainly not regulated. In my travels, I have seen many a case of head lice where the family used rinses and sprays as prevention but still found themselves with active cases of head lice. These so-called preventative treatments are costly.  Spending tons of money, changing our household routines in significant ways, or limiting the activities of our children only gives more power to the head lice paranoia and does little or nothing to actually protect us.

What do I do with my own family to keep head lice at bay?  Once a week, my kids and I
 get a quick lice check.  For us, it's during the Saturday night bath night.  I check while doing quick wet combing (around 50 strokes) with a good metal lice comb on the already conditioned hair.  I do this every week, so if I find something, the problem will be small and I will be able to deal with it that evening.  Of course, any head scratching during the week gets an immediate check. 

Spending time on "quick fixes" to the problem of head lice actually end up taking more time and costing us money.  There are so many people that don't want to believe that a simple measure such as wet combing with a good lice comb over time would be enough.  Our western culture has caused us to believe we need chemicals, tricks, complicated procedures, programs, systems, and gimmicks to deal with our issues.  I believe this has actually increased the cases of head lice in our community as we are not dealing with the problem effectively.

Forgo the chemicals, natural or otherwise, and trust what you find (or don't find) on a good comb with regular family lice checks.     In this way, you can stop a little head lice from becoming a big problem.


Lisa Anderson said...

Thank you for your blog. You make me think I can handle this. I am recently divorced and received the call from the ex on Friday after going for haircuts. (It was his weekend) Both boys ages 5 and 9 had some nits and one live louse. They come home tomorrow and I am freaked about getting it because my lice buddy would have to be my sister who does not live very close. Do you have any suggestions for wet checking very long, thick and wavy hair. I tried tonight a few times and if the angle is right it is doable but difficult and I pulled a whole lock out--kinda shocked me. So far, clear. Also, do you sterilize your knit comb with boiling water between people. I don't want to give it to myself.

Cathy, the Nice Lice Lady. said...

As for very long, thick wavy hair, I simply use a lot more conditioner on the wet hair and really make sure the hair is completely detangled before combing with a lice comb. Reapply the conditioner as many times as you need to - remember you are combing with the conditioner still in.

As for sterilizing the nit comb, lice are not a microscopic virus - you can see them in the comb and remove them by wiping the comb with toilet paper or if something is stuck in between the comb's teeth, you can remove it with dental floss. In my own family, I make sure the comb is lice/nit free and just give it a rinse (to remove the conditioner) before combing another head. When I was combing in other people's homes, I sterilized my combs by putting them in a tall cup and filling it with boiling water from my kettle. Again, this wasn't needed to kill head lice (because I had already removed the nits and lice - though it would kill them if I had left them on the comb). I did it to kill any possible germs that might be on it before using it on the head of another client.