The phone rings, and it’s the school nurse. You get the news: your child has head lice. Oh no! This is never something fun to deal with, but the best thing to do is stay calm. Head lice is very treatable, and thankfully is not a danger to your child’s health. Treatment does need to occur right away, however. There is a growing debate these days as to which treatment option is better: natural treatments or chemical treatments. To help you decide which is best for your child, we are going to break down just what this problem is, as well as available treatment options, and the pros and cons of them.
What is Head Lice and its Symptoms?
Head lice, or Pediculus humanus capitis, are tiny parasitic insects. These insects infest human heads of hair and feed off of tiny amounts of blood from your scalp. These blood sucking insects are not known to spread disease, so there is not a health risk associated with getting these insects. Symptoms of head lice are most commonly, an incredibly itchy scalp and possible irritation of the scalp.
This problem can impact anyone and is not a sign of poor hygiene. Head lice do not infest dirty or unclean heads of hair, rather they infest any head of hair, so you do not have to feel guilty if your child gets head lice. This is not a sign that they are dirty or that you keep an unclean home.
Is it Contagious?
Unfortunately, yes. Head lice are incredibly contagious and primarily spread by direct head to head contact. Elementary aged children are most susceptible to head lice, as they engage in numerous activities where heads are touching, such as recess, naptime, and sleepovers. It is estimated that between 6 and 12 million infestations occur each year among children aged between 3 and 11 years old.
If one child gets head lice, they need to be treated immediately. If not, they run the risk of infecting their schoolmates as well as anyone who lives at home with them. If your child does get these insects, you need to act quickly and cautiously to avoid anyone else in the home getting it as well.
Treatment for Head Lice
Head lice treatment involves killing all of the living head lice, as well as any viable eggs, which are called nits. Head lice and nits are hard to spot, as they are only about the size of a sesame seed. Lice combs were created for this reason in order to make finding lice a little bit easier.
A successful treatment means that all living head lice and nits have been removed from hair, and that an infested person’s clothing, bedding, towels, and hair accessories have also been cleaned and disinfected. It is also in your best interest to clean things around the house including couches, pillows, and rugs.
While these insects cannot live for long when detached from human hair, they can survive for several days. During this time, they can potentially attach to someone else who comes into contact with them, which is why it is so important to clean articles of clothing, bedding, towels, etc.
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There are numerous types of treatment available, but they are broken into two main categories: natural vs. chemical. Let’s discuss each type so that you can make a well informed decision.
Chemical Treatment Options
Chemical treatment options are more popular options that are readily available at almost all grocery stores and drugstores. They tend to be affordable as well. It is for these reasons that they are the more popular courses of treatment for head lice, and have been for years. They use chemicals like permethrin, pyrethrum and lindane to kill the head lice. However, there is a lot of evidence that these treatments are actually losing their effectiveness and more importantly, may not be safe.
Because people use these chemicals so frequently to treat head lice, the head lice are actually building up a resistance. Therefore, you may find that you use these types of treatment and end up still finding living head lice and nits afterwards. Because these products are filled with chemicals and pesticides, it is increasingly being seen as dangerous to use these products on your children, especially if they get head lice frequently.
In any other situation would you willingly expose your child to chemicals? Likely your answer is no, and for good reason. Even though you use this treatment to help your child, the fact remains that you are exposing them to potentially dangerous chemicals that can easily absorb into their bloodstream. While these treatments are easy to get a hold of and are affordable, they are not the best option anymore.
Natural Treatment Options
Instead, natural treatment options are emerging as the safer, more effective form of treatment of head lice. Natural treatments still work to kill head lice and nits, but do so without the use of harmful chemicals and pesticides. Because these products are all natural, there is also no risk of the insects developing a resistance, something that is increasingly becoming majorly important as the chemical effectiveness continues to decrease.
From a safety aspect as well, natural treatments are much safer and do not run the risk of impacting your child in any way. Again, this is especially important for children who tend to get these insects a lot (say young girls with long hair).
Natural treatments may not be as easy to find as chemical options, but that is about their only negative. However, it is worth it to take a little bit of extra time to find a good
natural option. These treatments are more effective and safer. Chemical treatments may be more convenient, but they are certainly not the best option. In the long run, you will likely spend more time and more money purchasing chemical treatments numerous times as a result of having to re-treat your child. Instead, take care of their head lice once and for all with a natural treatment that will keep them safe as well.
*This article has been provided by the ClearLice team, a brand specialised in treating head lice with natural products.
(Image Sources: Which.uk and Licefreee)