Prevention and treatment for those nasty little nits
By Elisabeth Frankel Reed
Bugs crawling through a child's hair-the thought alone is enough to make any parent wince. While exposure is inevitable for young kids, especially as school swings back in session and campers return from destinations both near and far, lice evoke more fear than necessary. According to experts, there are plenty of convenient and effective measures for prevention and, if need be, a foolproof treatment plan.
Many of the common nit-driven misconceptions encompass the who and the how. To set the record straight: kids can't get lice from playing with animals, nor can the tiny bugs fly (phew!) or even live for very long on furniture-they can only be transmitted by close contact with other people. Dalya Harel, CEO of LiceBustersNYC, a lice removal service, can certainly attest to this-she has frequently seen heightened demand for her services after sleepover parties-"the more, the merrier," she jokes.
Contrary to popular opinion, lice don't like dirty hair-they prefer clean coifs where they can easily hold onto the hair follicles and their eggs will stick to the scalp. "Lice are very hygienic, they only come to clean people," Harel says. Letting children's hair stay a bit oily will help prevent lice from setting up residence, but there are also shampoos, conditioners and sprays that contain repellant to keep the bugs at bay. Harel even recommends using a drop of garlic extract on the hair.
Risa Barash, founder of Fairy Tales Hair Care, emphasizes that "it's really head-to-head contact" that causes lice. She suggests keeping kids' coats, hats and scarves away from others to prevent the bugs from crawling over, as well as conducting biweekly head checks. "Just give a look, check behind the ears, check the back of the neck, look at the part lines."
For a more comprehensive description of what to look for, the "Is it Lice?" App, now available in the iTunes App Store from Hair Whisperers and the Kazu Agency, provides step-by-step instructions and video demonstrations. It also shows what to do if lice are found and provides links to local services that will assist with treatment.
Got lice at home? Don't panic. The standard remedy remains washing with a special shampoo to kill the bugs and thoroughly combing the hair with an extremely fine-toothed comb to ensure the removal of every egg.
To help loosen eggs and get them to stick to the comb, Adie Horowitz, the owner of Licenders, a NYC-based head lice treatment studio, recommends using a thick hair conditioner mixed with baking soda and combing small sections at a time. There are also products that contain enzymes to break down the glue that attaches the eggs to hair. If it all seems a little overwhelming, her company is there to help. "Our goal is to take the horror away from parents and give them their lives back quickly."
September is National Head Lice Prevention Month. For more information, visit headlice.org.
- Babo Botanicals Rosemary Tea Tree Lice Repel Conditioning Spray
Clinically proven to be 95% effective at repelling lice, especially when used in combination with the companion shampoo, this conditioner is certified organic. Rosemary, mint and tea tree oils combine to keep lice at bay. 8 oz. bottle, $18, babobotanicals.com
- Fairy Tales Rosemary Repel Leave-In Conditioning Spray
The so-good-smelling blend of rosemary, citronella, tea tree, lemongrass, peppermint and sage in this repellent conditioner has proven to be 92% effective at preventing lice. 8 oz. bottle, $10.95, fairytaleshaircare.com
- Licenders Lice Shampoo
An all-natural shampoo (containing zero pesticides) that relies on enzymes to kill lice by dissolving their shells. And unlike pesticides, insects won't develop a resistance because they use the same enzymes themselves. 8 oz. bottle, $34, licenders.com
- So Cozy Boo! Shampoo and Conditioner
These all-natural hair care products will not only clean, strengthen and detangle your kiddo's strands, they also contain tea tree, rosemary and lavender oils to spook the nits away-for good. 8 oz. bottle, $14.50, socozy.com
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