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Back-to-school hair care: Everything you need to know about surviving head lice

New school bags….check. Neatly covered books….check. Brand new nit comb….eugh. Back to school preparations are in full swing and that means new September resolutions are being made. The children vow to only use their BEST writing in their copy book and you are determined that this year, your child will NOT get head lice (again). Well, good luck with that.

But just in case, videoDoc has you covered with our handy guide to how to keep those pests at bay.


Of course, prevention is the holy grail of nit-free locks. Ideally, your child’s hair should be tied up if it is long and a hairband can help to keep those frizzy bits in place. Better still, you can use a preventative spray. It’s easy to make your own using essential oils (5 drops of lavender, 5 of eucalyptus, 5 of rosemary, 5 drops of tea tree oil and 5 of peppermint oil). Pop them into a spraying bottle with about 8 oz of water and give a quick spritz on your child’s hair each morning. Don’t forget to give the back of their coats a quick spray too as often head lice can be spread from coats hanging next to each other on the communal coat rack.

The first signs

So, first things first, headlice can’t jump or fly. They are spread by head-to-head contact and climb from the hair of someone who has had head lice to the hair of someone else. In a perfect world, we would check our child’s hair every time it’s washed. The aim of this is to find the nits (tiny eggs) before they hatch into lice (the insect).  A handy tip is to set the dryer to cool and blow it through your child’s hair revealing their scalp, so you can monitor any activity a little closer. The most likely areas lice will lay their eggs is where it is warmest, at the nape of the neck and behind the ears. *shiver

Some nits are extremely well-hidden so it is a good idea to use a dedicated lice comb (available from your pharmacy) to comb through their hair, which can reveal where those pesky pests are trespassing.

How do I check for lice?

If you get that dreaded note home saying that lice have been found in your child’s class, wash your child’s hair and then leave in the conditioner. Brush it out while still wet and then switch to the lice comb. Make sure the teeth of the comb touch the top of the hair at the scalp. Sweep it down right to the ends of the hair and check the comb for lice. Section the hair and brush each section around six times. Have a dry tissue at the ready, and wipe the comb after each sweep. Inspect the contents of the tissue to see any nits or lice. Next, rinse out the conditioner and repeat on wet hair. It is a good habit to get into during school term and will ensure that you catch anything early (which is worth the extra time and effort).

mother brushing childs hair

Mother brushing childs hair

Yes, we have it. What now?

Resist the urge to shave your head! This too will pass. Headlice isn’t dangerous for your child, but you do want to get rid of it as soon as possible to avoid spreading it to others. Some parents keep lice treatment shampoo at home in the bathroom press, ready for any rogue activity at all times. Some treatments are now chemical free which is important to many parents. Apply it according to the instructions. It is usually applied to dry hair and left for around 10 minutes before being rinsed out.

Next you use the lice comb to brush out the dead lice/eggs as described. Remember that the life cycle of an egg is 21 days, so make sure you comb and comb and comb again to make sure you get every last one or they will simply come back.  You may need to repeat the treatment after 7 days to ensure no stragglers remain. We suggest that you check the hair under natural light which shows up the eggs a little more clearly. 

Community effort

Being meticulous is really important so prevent spreading headlice to other family members, to the rest of the class and (gasp) ourselves. Inform the school if you do discover headlice or nits on your child. Regular combing in the evenings is a good habit to get into too to ensure you keep headlice at bay this school year.  (You can stop scratching now)

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