Strategies for Avoiding & Managing Head Lice

Yes, the mere thought of them makes your skin crawl and experiencing an infestation of head lice can be mortifying, itchy and uncomfortable. But rest easy in the fact that head lice themselves cannot actually cause disease or illness and most childcare centres are now very aware, often performing their own checks as required.

For want of a better description head lice are just blood-sucking insects that live and breed on the human scalp. The head lice and their eggs (informally referred to as nits) do not live or breed on animals, bedding, furniture, carpets, clothes or soft toys and contrary to popular belief they cannot spread by sharing hats. Head lice do not jump or fly and are actually only spread by head-to-head contact, and for this reason, the children and staff at early learning centres are simply advised to tie back long hair.

The female lice lay white to beige coloured eggs that are attached to the base of the hair shaft and hatch in around 10 days. Then within another 10 days, these have matured and the cycle begins again. Any living lice on a person’s scalp can then spread via direct contact only. In the past humiliating exclusion methods have been put into practice, but these days by adhering to useful guides – such as those in the Australian government publication Staying Healthy in Childcare – early learning centres can manage nuisance nits without overreacting or panicking the children.

Don’t be a Nit About it!

Educators and staff are advised not to isolate any child that may have the lice, but instead to take extra care in preventing any head to head contact. The families should then be informed so that a successful treatment can begin, and a good childcare centre will offer all the support and useful information they can. As a parent, you should check your child’s scalp weekly and begin an effective treatment straight away if you find any – not forgetting to check the rest of the household too.

Many home remedies are suggested, the conditioner treatment being a particularly popular one, but there are also plenty of trusted and popular products on the market. Some of these offer everything from app treatment reminders to a full money back guarantee, and your pharmacist will always help you with any questions about products and options. With all this fantastic support available, perhaps we can break the cycle and prevents the nuisance of nits from disrupting the educational flow in our childcare centres and make sure our little ones are only itching to learn new things!