Kids & Head Lice: Preventing & Treating the Nit Nightmare

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It’s back to school, which is exciting for both kids and adults alike, but back to school means it’s also back to something we’re not quite as excited about in this house… Head lice commonly known as nits!

I remember the afternoon clearly when, at school pickup, my sweet-faced kindergartner came skipping excitedly out of her classroom, pigtails swinging, waving a note and announcing (in her not-so-inside voice) ‘Mum! A nit note! A nit note! Someone has nits!’

The parents and carers all shot each other nervous looks, horrified at the thought of the creatures possibly invading our kid’s hair or, worse, the judgment that might come with being the ‘initiator’.  

Incredibly, for six years, we’d managed to avoid the rampant little beasts but, having heard the horror stories, I was ready! Long before the first day of school, I’d been to the chemist and armed myself with an arsenal of products guaranteed to ‘kill them fast’ and with ‘one treatment only’. Oh, I was prepared and quietly confident that the stealthy little vermin were going to be no match for a mum on a mission to keep her household head lice-free.

We were barely through the front door when I started barking orders – ‘Sit!’, ‘stay still!’, ‘STOP SCRATCHING!’ I opened my ridiculously overpriced plastic nit comb and began the search, as determined as a kid searching the fridge for sweets. I was still breathing relief as I smugly replied on the school mums Messenger chat: ‘None here. Phew!’

Fast forward 12 months and I’m not so smug these days, having experienced the eradication process twice (and I consider that lucky given the number of nit notes we’ve had home!). The plastic combs have long been replaced with more expensive effective metal ones and my approach to nits is ‘proactive in prevention’ in the hopes that I won’t have to be ‘reactive in annihilation’ too often.

I also noticed, pleasantly, that rather than foster judgment, the topic of nits amongst the school parents created somewhat of a camaraderie and, as a result, I’ve picked up some great hints and tips to share with Newy with Kids readers – just in case you happen to notice your little darling scratching their head on their way out of class (hopefully not on their first day back!).

Tips for head lice prevention:

  • The first tip is quite obvious but, if your child has longer hair, do it up. When I receive a nit note home I usually do my daughter’s hair up in a bun for school, with a hairnet covering it, for about a week or two afterwards. Yes, I’m hardcore diligent. Set their hairstyle with copious amounts of hairspray (apparently nits don’t like it).
  • Make a spray of water, cheap conditioner and tea-tree oil mixed together in a spray bottle and spray and comb it through your kid’s hair every morning before school. It probably won’t hurt to comb it through your own as well (just in case).
  • Coconut oil run through the hair is also said to be effective (the lice can’t stick to the hair), although I’m not sure how their teacher will feel about having the smell of coconut in the classroom all day. 
  • Be hardcore diligent and check your child’s hair every day, even if you don’t suspect they have headlice. It could mean the difference between having to treat for just a few lice or a full-blown colony.
  • Buy a good quality metal head lice comb, like the Lice Breaker comb which has unique, grooved teeth, and stock up on cheap conditioner (refer to next tip).

Tips for head lice treatment:

  • The unanimous concurrence is that the best treatment for eradicating head lice is wet-combing. This means sitting your child down, preferably with an Ipad or tablet, covering their hair in the cheapest conditioner you can find and combing the lice out of their hair piece by painstaking piece (wiping the comb on a paper towel with each stroke). Then, go grab a glass of wine and prepare to do it all again every 2-3 days for the next 2 weeks.
  • If you have a hair straightener, it’s worth a try. The heat may not kill all the lice and eggs, but it might fry any fortunate enough to have survived the wet-combing.
  • To wash or not to wash linen? – the jury’s out on this one. Apparently head lice can’t survive long off a human head, so washing bed linen and towels may not be necessary. Personally, I like to err on the side of caution and wash everything just in case there’s any tenacious lice lurking and waiting to reinfest. I think this one comes down to personal choice. If it makes you feel better to wash, wash.

If all else fails and the lice stick around, you can always book an appointment at a Ziggety Snippets Nitpro Salon (there’s one located at Charlestown). The staff are friendly and super helpful. Ziggety Snippets Nitpro Salons have a specialised clinical treatment area and use their own chemical-free products to treat your whole family. Their products are also available to purchase.

If you’re located in the Maitland/Cessnock area you might want to try The Ark Hair & Beauty Salon. They offer headlice treatment and sell their own specially formulated, non-toxic treatment and preventative products.

Have any other tips? Please let us know so that we can share them with other readers and all win the battle of the nits 2022.  

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