Body & Fitness

The facts about lice

Get the facts straight about this common kids’ problem.
Head lice facts and fictions

Even the mere mention of them can make your head start itching. Head lice are nasty little creatures that can be tricky to get rid of. It doesn’t help that there is a lot of misinformation about what works and what doesn’t. Test yourself to see how much you know about head lice.

True or false?

Head lice only like dirty hair

False: Clean, dirty – they’re not fussy. Personal hygiene has nothing to do with getting lice.

Pets spread lice

False: As far as we know, pets are not known to carry lice.

Lice can’t jump from head to head

True: They don’t have wings or powerful back legs like kangaroos. They move by crawling, which is why direct head-to-head contact, such as kids putting their heads together while playing or reading, is the most common way for head lice to spread.

Lice prefer long hair

False: Lice don’t care how long your hair is – hair is hair to them. However, your child may have a greater risk of getting head lice if they have long hair that brushes up against the hair of other kids who have lice, otherwise known as nits. If nits are doing the rounds, it can help to tie their hair back.

Lice don’t transmit diseases

True: They’re irritating creatures, and it’s horrible to have them, but they won’t give you any diseases. In rare cases, kids can scratch their heads so much that they end up with a rash that can become infected.

Heavy-duty chemical treatments are the only way to get rid of lice

False: There are a variety of ways of getting rid of lice and some natural treatments can be just as effective as chemical ones. In fact, some treatments that use very harsh chemicals are not recommended for young children because they may be toxic.

“Condition and comb” is one of the best ways of getting rid of lice

True: This involves massaging conditioner into your child’s hair, which stuns the nits, then carefully combing through it section by section with a fine-tooth comb. Wipe the comb clean with a paper towel each time you drag it through to remove the eggs and nits. Do this every couple of days for up to three weeks to make sure you’ve got all the lice at their various stages.

You have to freeze everything your child’s head has come into contact with

False: It used to be recommended that hats, pillow cases, towels and anything else their hair might have touched be put in plastic bags and stored in the freezer to kill any lice. Lice don’t normally survive for long when they are away from hair, so this is unnecessary. The best way to ensure you’re rid of them once you’ve treated your child’s hair is to vacuum any items and areas your child may have rested their head on. Wash their bedclothes and towels in hot water, then put them in a dryer.

Treating your child’s hair with kerosene is the dumbest thing you can do

True: It’s not just dumb, it’s dangerous. This has been a popular treatment for years, but there can be serious consequences from inhaling the fumes. As it’s highly flammable, there’s also a risk of getting badly burnt if it ignites.

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