Preventing the spread of head lice is a real challenge and one that stumps parents everywhere. Sudden contractions are not, as many believe, the result of uncleanliness or bad hygiene. Instead, pot luck plays its part and simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time can leave you exposed.
Though preventing infestation is tough, measures can be taken to reduce the risk of lice spreading. They include the following:
Avoiding head-to-head contact
Head lice are small insects sized no greater than 3mm long. They tend to gather around a person’s ears or the back of their neck and rely on human blood to survive. Their presence can prove irritating, with itching the most common side effect. An untreated head lice infestation meanwhile can lead to secondary infection (4), which can of course be serious. For more on head lice symptoms, take a look here.
The spread of head lice is the result of them transferring between heads of hair and hatching eggs (nits), thus multiplying in number. It is therefore, of paramount importance to avoid head-to-head contact, particularly in the classroom.
Granted, instructing children to keep their distance is one thing, expecting them to heed the advice is another altogether. Nevertheless, emphasising the importance of personal space may just reduce the chances of a full-blown outbreak.
Don’t share items
(2) Sharing is caring but certain items should remain off limits to stop lice in their tracks, namely those that come into contact with hair.
Combs, towels, hats, scarves, coats and even earphones fall into the bracket of belongings likely to facilitate the transfer of nits. Where possible seek to avoid communal settings where said items are stored. Cloak rooms for instance see clothing hung side-by-side, presenting a prime opportunity for head lice to move between hoods. So, if at all possible, isolate your possessions from others.
Similar care should be taken when coming into contact with the likes of cinema seating. It pays to drape a temporary cover over the top of such chairs, wherein lice could be lurking. Vigilance is key.
It is a sad reality that head lice plagues children more than adults (1) with the school classroom a cesspit of sorts. Naturally, any child unfortunate enough to be caught in the crossfire may bring some unwelcome friends home and by extension expose parents and siblings to the problem, albeit unwillingly.
Mums and dads should check children’s clothing whenever they return home from the school day and be on the lookout for lice as well as their yellow, brown or white shells.
Contrary to popular belief however it does not pay to throw the likes of clothing, bedding and stuffed animals with which your child has come into contact into a washing machine, no matter the temperature. Both NICE and the NHS* have also dismissed claims those same items need adding into a dryer for 20 minutes on a high heat cycle thereafter. Neither procedure will help prevent lice, sadly.
Soaking brushes or combs handled by those suffering with lice though is sound practice. Do so in hot, soapy water for around ten minutes to completely disinfect.
There are also protective products on the market such as Vamousse’s protective shampoo. This product breaks the cycle of head lice, helping protect against infestation. Indeed Vamousse Shampoo kills lice and can also kill eggs. Nymph lice that hatch from the surviving eggs are killed before they reach maturity and therefore before they can lay eggs. This mechanism helps prevent new generations of lice from maturing and therefore helps stop lice population from growing.
Those with shorter hair have a definite advantage when it comes to lice spreading; the longer your mane the more likely the lice are to spread to other hosts.
Teens and pre-teens modelling longer locks should be encouraged to wear a ponytail or braid during school hours, this to prevent stray hairs (3). Keeping hair together lessens the chance of lice flitting between different scalps and laying eggs.
Vamousse head lice treatment is clinically proven to kill up to 100% of lice and eggs within 15 minutes, due in part to main ingredients geraniol, isopropyl alcohol and isopropyl myristate. The protective shampoo meanwhile helps stamp out undetected infestation before it can take hold, when used regularly as part of a daily bath time routine.
Preventing head lice outright is tough but not impossible. Follow the above guidelines and you stand a far better chance.
*Both the NICE and the NHS are independent and do not endorse any specific product.