While simply a nuisance to many parents, for others, they can be quite distressing.
Head lice can be especially upsetting to parents when it seems like their child is getting head lice over and over or if they simply can't get rid of the head lice in their hair.
If you are anxious because your child has head lice or head lice is going around at school, first remember that the American Academy of Pediatrics states that 'Head lice are not a health hazard or a sign of uncleanliness and are not responsible for the spread of any disease.'
Treating Head Lice
If your child has live head lice, you should treat him with a head lice shampoo. Currently, the AAP recommends that parents use Nix (Permethrin 1%) one time and then retreat their child if they see live head lice again in 7 to 10 days. The retreatment is necessary because most head lice shampoos do not kill nits (head lice eggs) and so this second treatment will kill the live lice that have hatched since the first treatment.
Using a head lice shampoo is not the only thing you have to do though. Although most parents stop at that step, you should now manually remove all of the nits you see with a head lice comb, especially those that are close to your child's scalp. This will prevent the nits from later hatching and reinfesting the child. Since removing nits can be hard to do, you might wash your child's hair with regular shampoo and comb out the nits while your child's hair is wet each night for a week or two, or until you don't see anymore nits.
If after these steps you still think your child has lice, especially if you have already treated your child with a head lice shampoo, then see your pediatrician. In addition to recommending a prescription strength head lice shampoo, like Ovide or Lindane, your pediatrician may find that your child doesn't even have lice at all. Children with dandruff, hair casts, or dead nits (most nits that are more than 1cm away from the scalp) are sometimes confused with having active head lice.
Preventing Head Lice
How do you prevent head lice in the first place?
Since lice don't jump, you can best prevent lice by encouraging your kids to not share combs, brushes, hats, helmets, and jackets with hoods, etc. It can also help if kids don't pile their clothes on top of each other in a pile at school, since head lice on one child's clothes could possibly crawl on anothers.
Also check to make sure your child isn't getting lice from a sibling or other family member, by checking their scalps regularly for live lice and nits. You should also wash your child's comb, brush, and bedding, etc., but remember that 'Herculean cleaning measures are not beneficial.'
Nits or No Nits
What about 'no nit' policies?
The AAP and the National Association of School Nurses strongly discourage 'no nit' policies, in which children can not return to school after they have been treated, but still have nits. The reason is that nits aren't contagious.