I remember being sent home with head lice in the first grade. My mother bent me backward, across her legs, so my head could hang over the bathtub as she poured giant cups of vinegar on to my hair. If I thought the stench was bad... it was because I had yet to meet the nit comb. 

Fast forward 30 years to the day my first grader was sent home with lice. The curse was being repeated. As my family and I gathered 'round the tub to wash, rinse, comb, repeat, I knew we would never be the same. When you spend 48 hours locked in your house with the louse(s), you become a quick study on the little buggers. What they look like, which type of hair conditions they prefer, and how to make sure you never see one again.

A few times a year, head lice makes its rounds through the school and community and it's wise to be prepared. Here is what you can do to prevent and treat head lice. 

Prevention:

As many of us have learned by now, we can't control everything. But there is no harm in trying these methods to prevent your family from aquiring lice

  • Remind your child not to share hats, brushes, helmets, headphones, or anything that comes in contact with another person's head/hair.
     
  • If your child has long hair, pull it back in buns, braids, or ponytails to minimize surface area.
     
  • Use a storebought or homemade spray containing tea tree and/or rosemary oil. 
     
  • Check for nits: this can prevent them from hatching into lice and infesting the home. (Tip: On hair, they look like a dew drop on a blade of grass. In a nit comb, they look like a spec of dirt.)
     
  • If an outbreak is happening at your school: wash hair brushes and hair accessories, then place them in the freezer inside a plastic bag. Then toss pillows, sheets, and any clothes worn in the past dew days in the dryer on high. Both will kill any lice that may have snuck in!
     
  • If your child does contract lice, inform the school and any friends they have been in contact with. This will help everyone to be proactive and lessen the spreading. 

Treatment: 

  • Buy a metal nit comb. No matter which treatment you choose, a strong nit comb is the key to thorough removal. Every treatment listed below requires combing through the hair to remove nits and live lice as the final step.
     
  • Lice can survive for hours without breathing, but applying olive oil (or coconut oil) to the hair will eventually suffocate them. Using this method requires you cover the oiled hair with a shower cap or plastic wrap overnight. (Don't skip this step, it is a MUST.)
     
  • You may have to try multiple over the counter treatments before finding one that works. Over time, some species of lice have become immune to the chemicals used in these treatments. Make sure to check the ingredients on the box if it doesn't work the first time, to make sure you are not purchasing another OTC treatement with the same active chemical. 
     
  • Doctors can prescribe a 5% benzyl alcohol lotion to knock out lice. 
     
  • Try the Shrink Wrap Method. This is a non-toxic way to rid your child of lice. Apply a gentle skin cleanser or lotion to the hair, comb through and then blow dry the hair on high heat. Research has found that heat is a very effective way to kill nits. 
     
  • Call a professional. Many cities now have people who offer lice removal services – some with store fronts, some who make house calls. Check online to see what is available in your area.

The most important thing to remember in any head lice scenario is: don't panic! You can handle this. Live bugs don't jump or fly, they crawl – so your job is to beat them to the finish line! Keep your ears open for lice cases in your area and take as many precautions as possible.