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.
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 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!
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.
Girls (and Boys), Tie Your Hair Up: Long hair can be an open invitation for lice. Keep your hair tied up in a neat bun, ponytail, or braid. Not only will you look stylish, but you'll also make it harder for lice to move from one head to another. There are so many funky and gorgeous hair styles to choose from! Pick one, and go to school wearing it.
Educate and Elevate: Teach your friends about lice prevention. The more everyone knows, the less chance those sneaky insects have to spread. Knowledge is power, and in this case, it's also itch relief!
Regular Lice Checks: Set up a routine for checking your scalp and hair for lice. Early detection can prevent a minor itch from turning into a major ordeal.
Laundry Day, Every Day: If you suspect a lice encounter, wash your clothes, bedding, and stuffed animals in hot water and throw them in the dryer for at least 15 minutes. The Canadian Paediatric Society also recommends storing those items in a plastic bag for up to 2 weeks to make sure all nits and lice have stopped reproducing.
Hair oil: Lice cannot grab on to hair as easily if they’re slipping and sliding around. Don’t be afraid to slip on some light oils to your hair lengths! There are many types of oils that can be excellent to prevent flyaways, which lice love to jump on. Some oils are heavier than others and can make the hair look greasy, while others can coat the hair and make it look shiny without the oiliness. This is one of the reasons why we created our Hair Elixir: a combination of light oils that protect your hair without oiliness, while nourishing it – all in one! You can use one pump of it between your hands, heat it up by rubbing (friction) between your hands and slip it on the hair. Voila! Anything to help those nasty lice slip and slide right off, right? Preventing them from coming on board is key!
Check out the BEST lice comb in the market [HERE]. It has been designed for easier removal of adult lice as well as nits (eggs) without damaging the hair.
Do lice prefer CLEAN OR DIRTY hair?
Lice enjoy hangin' around hair. And as long as they are close to their feeding ground – the scalp – they're happy and will continue to feed, hang around, and reproduce quickly. So whether hair is clean or dirty, it won't make a real difference to them. This is a big misconception! Some people will think that clean hair is best against lice, while others suggest that having hair lice happens when your hair is dirty.
Honestly, lice can pop-up on anyone's hair – whether super clean or oily, but on cleaner hair they just have an easier time crawling on, because clean hair usually has more flyaways that will drift toward another person's head or face, giving them a chance to hop on.
The most important thing with lice, is grooming. At certain times of year – such as September through November, and again in January here in Canada, lice make their most populated comeback. This is why "back to school often means back to lice", because kids are so happy to see each other after the summer break that they will openly hug one another, giving lice a chance to jump on board and reproduce to their heart's content. Grooming means tying the hair back and keeping a watchful eye out for those pesky critters. Grooming means being cautious, looking after one's cleanliness, and it does not necessarily mean showering every day either (which is best for scalp health anyway).
Lice don't care whether you have clean or dirty hair. Lice just love access to your scalp: their food source.
You may find this resource by the Canadian Paediatric Society helpful [HERE].
As your kids embark on their new school year, remember that the only creepy crawlers you want in your life are the fascinating ones you study in biology class. Wishing you a lice-free school year filled with laughter, learning, and lots of good hair days.