If it’s September, it’s National Head Lice Prevention Month.
Yes, along with never-ending homework assignments and the endless stream of school flyers, your child might soon be coming home with some unwanted visitors.
But there are ways to prevent head lice, which are tiny insects that make their home on the scalp. Kathy Zappulla, president of DeLiceful, a company that treats head lice with locations in Hauppauge and Great Neck, offers the following tips:
1. Do weekly head checks. Use a metal comb with grooves in the teeth to look for evidence. “Check the five hot spots on the head: crown, forehead, behind both ears, and nape of the neck,” she says. The fact that only 40 percent of those with lice get itchy is even more of reason why it’s important to look.
2. Tell everyone if lice is found. That includes not only the school nurse but friends, family and neighbors. “That way, everyone you have been in contact with can check their heads and can prevent the infestation from continuing,” Zappulla says.
3. Clean only the essentials. “When head lice strikes, think of your life in a 24-hour window,” Zappulla says. “Because head lice cannot live off the head for more than 24 hours, wash your sheets, pillow cases, towels and pajamas. Vacuum the couches, chairs and car seats. Do not drive yourself crazy cleaning the whole house — not necessary.”
4. Comb, comb and comb some more. “Using an over-the-counter pesticide product for head lice will not get rid of the infestation entirely,” Zappulla says. “You must use a fine tooth, metal-grooved lice comb and comb … for hours, removing all nits and bugs.”
5. Practice prevention. Lice do not like the scent of mint. Use a preventative spray in your child’s hair daily, and do it, she says, “until your child goes to college.” Girls with long hair should wear it in a bun. “Head lice is spread from head to head contact,” she says. So tell your child to avoid leaning on others. During an outbreak, remind them to not share hats, helmets and brushes.