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Back to school = back to lice? TIPS TO PREVENT LICE BEFORE THEY INFEST!

As we gear up to trade in our sunny beach days for the excitement of classrooms and textbooks, there's a tiny, not-so-welcome friend waiting to make its appearance: lice.

Yes, those little critters are gearing up for their own back-to-school rendezvous – but fear not! We've got the ultimate guide to help you keep those pesky pests at bay and rock your school year itch-free.

kids in front of school bus
Kids don't have the same 'space boundaries' than adults, which lice love!

Picture this: a joyful classroom reunion, giggles all around, and then, the sudden urge to scratch your head like crazy. Ah, yes, it's the lice's version of a welcome party. Lice, those teeny-tiny insects that set up camp on our scalps, can cause quite a stir – and an itch – in schools.

Did you know these facts about lice?

  • Lice have been companions to humans for a very long time. They have been found on ancient mummies and have been referenced in historical texts. There are three main types of lice that infest humans: head lice (Pediculus humanus capitis), body lice (Pediculus humanus corporis), and pubic lice (Pthirus pubis). Each type is adapted to live in different areas of the body. While their exact origins are not definitively known (that’s right – there’s nobody in particular to blame!), it's believed that as humans started living in close communities and developed clothing, lice found a perfectly warm and cozy environment in which to thrive.

lice nits attached to hair strand
Head lice nits eggs) attach to the hair strand and can take 10 days to hatch.

  • Lice are small, wingless insects with flattened bodies. They have six legs equipped with claws for grasping onto hair shafts and can vary in size depending on the species and type, as previously mentioned.

  • Lice are blood-feeding parasites. They bite into the skin and feed on blood several times a day. Their bites can cause itching and irritation due to the allergic reaction to their saliva.

  • Lice undergo incomplete metamorphosis, consisting of three stages: egg (nit), nymph, and adult. Nits are laid by adult females and are attached to hair or clothing. Once they hatch, nymphs resemble smaller versions of adults and mature into adults.

  • While lice themselves do not transmit diseases, their bites can lead to secondary bacterial infections due to scratching. They can also carry other microorganisms, but the transmission of these pathogens is less common.

  • How long do lice live? The egg, or nit, takes about 7 to 10 days to hatch into a nymph. The nymph then goes through three molts over the course of about 9 to 12 days. After the final molt, the nymph becomes an adult. The adult head louse can live for about 30 days on a human host. During its lifespan, a female head louse can lay around 6 to 10 eggs per day. This is why it’s so important to get rid of them as soon as you can – and skipping school may just be necessary in order to isolate a child from other children who may possibly be infected!

head with lice
If the scalp is itchy and you see this, you've got lice.

Why do lice seem to infect children more than adults?

Children often engage in close physical contact with each other while playing, hugging, or sitting closely together. This proximity provides lice with ample opportunities to move from one child's head to another. If one child has lice, it can quickly spread to others.

In addition, it's thought that adults might have a degree of immunity due to prior exposures, which could make them less susceptible to lice infestations. Additionally, hormonal changes during puberty might affect lice infestation rates. Studies on these differentiating factors are still ongoing...

Lice-Proof Your Hair: Tips and Tricks

  • Know Thy Enemy: The first step in preventing a lice infestation is understanding how they spread. Lice crawl, they don't fly or jump. They move from head to head through direct hair-to-hair contact. So, while that friendly hug is heartwarming, remember that a bit of space can keep the lice at bay. Children naturally disregard personal space and so will more easily spread lice to one another, then spreading it to other children or parents in the household.

  • Avoid Sharing... Everything: Sharing is caring, but not when it comes to personal items like combs, brushes, hair accessories, and hats. Lice don't discriminate; they'll hitch a ride on any opportunity they get.

  • Hats Off to Lice Prevention: Speaking of hats, while they might be the perfect accessory to complete your outfit, they can also be a cozy hiding spot for lice. Give your hats a quick shake and some sunlight before donning them.