"There has been a case of head lice in your child's school and your child may have been exposed" - the letter we all dread but the fact is, lice outbreaks are a common issue amongst school-going children.
If your child has arrived home with the painful letter, worry not, today we are sharing the only proven way to really prevent an infestation of head lice in your home.
Live louse and eggs can be very hard to see at times as they tend to hang around very close to the scalp and they don't usually wander down the hair shaft for too long. Head lice are tiny insects with moving legs and in most cases, they are not much bigger than a pinhead but fully grown adults can be as big as a sesame seed.
Anyone can catch head lice and if you or your child catches them it does not reflect your families standard of hygiene, they don't care if the hair is clean or dirty. Lice can only live on humans, you cannot catch them from animals.
The number one way to prevent head lice is regular detection combing, it doesn't sound very complicated, does it? You see the main symptom of headlice is itching but according to the HSE, only 1 in 3 children with lice actually have an itch so it can be hard to detect in some people.
Check your child's hair at least once a week. Using a fine comb made for the purpose, comb through the wet hair, preferably with good lighting. Check close to the scalp, around the nape of the neck, under the fringe, behind the ears and the top of the head. Use small sections until the whole head is complete.
As children often put their heads together during playtime it makes it easier for them to transfer from one person to another. Teaching your child to avoid head-to-head contact with classmates is a good way of helping to prevent an infestation of head lice. Lice cannot fly, jump or swim they simply walk from one head to the next.
It is also important to keep long hair braided or tied back in a tight ponytail with plaits especially during school. Unfortunately, long hair is more susceptible to lice.
Firstly, if you discover you're the child has head lice, don't panic and there is no need to decontaminate your home. However, there are a number of steps you will need to take to get rid of them.
Treatments for lice are available over the counter at most pharmacies and supermarkets and come in a variety of formulas including shampoos, lotions and cream rinses. Choose one that kills both lice and their eggs (nits) and follow the exact instructions with your preferred treatment.
To remove the head lice from the scalp and hair you will need to invest in a specially designed comb and fine comb the hair using small sections in all directions. Some caregivers opt to apply conditioner in the hair prior to combing to make it easier.
The combing process will need to be repeated every other day for up to two weeks post-treatment until you are completely satisfied there are no lice or eggs in the hair.
It is unnecessary to wash your entire wardrobe after a head lice infestation. Simple wash all bedding, coats, hats, towels on a hot setting and soak all hair care items such as combs, brushes and hair accessories in hot water. Lice generally cannot live without a host for longer than 24 hours.
And remember if you find lice on your child notify your school or creche, friends and family immediately so other parents can take preventative measures.