14 Tips Professional “Lice Ladies” Wish You Knew
Every parent can learn from the wizards of lice elimination: These lice experts know all the myths—and facts—about these dreaded parasites.
Lice don't discriminate
Most people feel shame upon learning that they or their children have lice, and that it somehow means that they lack proper hygiene. Not so, says Lauren Salzberg, who owns and operates Potomac Lice Lady in Potomac, Maryland. "Whether you're clean, dirty, rich, poor—people of all socioeconomic classes get lice. Head lice don't discriminate, and we need to erase the negative stigma attached to them," she says. Watch for the 7 clear signs that your child has head lice.
Head lice aren't dangerous
While the idea of active lice and their eggs lurking in your hair can make your skin crawl, the idea that the bugs spread disease is a myth, says Salzberg. "They're not dangerous; they're really just more of a nuisance." Check out more myths about lice that just won't go away.
They can't infest your house
"They're a true human parasite and only feed on human blood," explains Dana Mead-Campion of Simply Nitty in Minneapolis, Minnesota. "Our body temperature incubates the lice eggs (nits), our moisture keeps their exoskeletons in good working order, and they transfer primarily from hair to hair. Our environments don't provide life-sustaining resources, so it's not necessary to go crazy cleaning." Read about these 10 disgusting house bugs and how to get rid of them.
Seriously, lice can't survive without blood
Mead-Campion understands that many people will feel compelled to clean, clean, clean to fight the parasites. She suggests this: You can throw the infected person's bedding into the dryer on high heat for 30 minutes—that will take care of any loose bugs. Likewise, you can place hairbrushes in the freezer for 11 hours—or boil them for five minutes (take care that the material can handle the heat).
Lice can't fly
They also can't jump, hop, or swim. "A person becomes infested through direct head-to-head contact with another person with head lice," says Krista Lauer, MD, medical director of Lice Clinics of America. "It would be extremely rare to get head lice any other way. This is because head lice have special claws adapted to hang on to and crawl along a human hair. They cannot crawl on other things, and they cannot live for long periods of time off the human head."
Your child may not itch despite having lice
The lice-infestation notice comes home from school, but you're not concerned because your little one hasn't been showing any signs of itching. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean lice aren't there. "Fifty percent of kids with head lice do not display any symptoms," says Salzberg. "You can have massive infestations and some kids will never, ever scratch their head. It really just depends on how your body reacts to head lice to determine whether or not you're going to itch."
Practical prevention is key
The best way to prevent a head lice infestation is to avoid direct head-to-head contact with others, says Dr. Lauer. For those with longer hair, she recommends wearing it pulled back or tied up in braids or a bun. "It can reduce the risk of head-to-head exposure," she says. "But remember, head lice are common. There are at least 12 million new infestations in the Unied States every year, and this number is probably underreported." Check out these 11 ways you think you can get lice but won't.
Perform weekly checks
It might seem obsessive, but professional lice ladies agree that weekly lice checks on your child are important. Catching lice within a couple of weeks of infestation will reduce the risk that they'll spread, says Mead-Campion. "We recommend only one lice comb—the Nit Free Terminator Comb—because its performance is exceptional compared to other over-the-counter combs. Weekly comb checks are superior to just visual screenings."
Those preventive sprays can help
A brief search under "lice prevention" will turn up products that feature the scents of rosemary and tea tree—such as Fairy Tales Rosemary Repel Conditioning Spray. Salzberg says that the sprays can be helpful—just don't mistake them for treatment of existing lice. "The sprays and conditioners are disguising the human hair scent, which is what the head lice are attracted to." Here's why tea tree oil is often included in lice prevention.
Avoid chemical-laden home treatments
If you spot a chemical home treatment that promises to get rid of the problem, it's likely too good to be true, says Salzberg. "The ultimate determination that someone is no longer infested can only be accomplished when there's a thorough screening done with quality lice combs and there's a complete absence of lice and eggs," she says. "The lice are very resistant to those pesticide treatments. Parents are very focused on killing the lice when their focus should really be on complete removal."
There's a new device that could make life easier
Dr. Lauer explains that heat dehydrates lice, super lice, and their eggs, and her clinics use precision-controlled, heated air as an effective treatment. Recently, Larada Sciences began manufacturing a handheld device called OneCure for home use. "It's providing access to a cure for head lice infestations to families who cannot get to a clinic," she says. "This technology is so effective, it ends an infestation with a single treatment.'"
Taking selfies really can give you lice
"When you're taking selfies, people's heads are close to each other, so there can be that direct contact with the hair required for lice to transfer," says Salzberg. "That allows the lice to go from one strand of hair to another." Read more about the selfie-lice connection.
Don't forget to follow up
Just because you received a professional initial treatment doesn't mean you're completely in the clear. Salzberg directs her clients to conduct nightly combings with a lice comb for seven to ten days following treatment. She then recommends that they return to her for another check afterward. Your hairdresser could notice you have lice and not mention it; here are 38 secrets your hairstylist won't tell you.
One last friendly reminder from a lice lady
"I would love it if parents looked at lice as a very common childhood ailment," says Mead-Campion. "Two out of three children will get lice in their childhood. Every child is at risk if they have hair. It's nothing to be ashamed about. We need to start talking about lice openly and nonjudgmentally. If your child has lice, they got it from someone and possibly gave it to others. It's the unwanted gift that keeps on giving. There is a saying, 'Be a friend, tell a friend,' as it can happen to anyone." Next, don't miss these 21 explanations for why your scalp itches other than lice.