Ask the Expert: How Can I Prevent Getting and Spreading Lice?


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When your child's friend has lice, it's possible your child will get it too. Local experts share tips to prevent your child from getting lice, ways to prevent spreading lice if your child already has it, and the responsibility of schools, camps, and you in terms of informing others about your child's lice.

children laying on grass

If head lice are found in my child’s school or camp, do the school and camp need to notify all parents?

The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t believe in the no nit policy any more. They believe if a child has nits they should be allowed back in school. And the school will send around a letter anonymously that there’s been nits found in your child’s class, so check your child.
—Adie Horowitz, owner of Licenders, which has locations in Manhattan and Long Island, NY, and Stamford, CT

Well, that’s up to the individual school and camp. I know that the American Academy of Pediatrics sent out new guidelines that children who have nits in their hair are allowed to remain in school. So, I know that it’s up to each individual school.
—Anna Albano-Krosche, The Lice Lady of Westchester, whose salon is located in Elmsford, NY

It is certainly up to each school and camp. Everyone has their own protocol as to how they approach it, but like I say, being proactive is really what I encourage. I’m into head lice management and being proactive and nipping things in the bud early. The advantage, of course, is that you’re going to see lighter cases, you’re going to see minimal cases, you’re going to go through the summer at camp and have very few, if any outbreaks, and that's what preventative screenings do.
—Debra Rosen, owner and operator of LiceXchange, whose staff makes house calls to families in the New York metro area

What is my responsibility when my child has lice in terms of informing camps, schools, and my child’s friend’s parents?

We always say, “Be a friend, tell a friend.” I know it sounds corny, but it’s so important that you tell people. —AAK

The parent, I believe, should be responsible in contacting the school if they discover their child does have head lice. So contact the school, the camp, other parents, and other relatives—as many people as their child has been in contact with in a 14-day span. I think it’s really extremely important to do that. Lice are a two-week cycle. So you really want to be proactive in letting people know so that it doesn’t circulate continuously every 14 days. What happens when parents don’t contact the schools, the camps, etc., is you find it circulating over and over again.
— Dale Longworth, The Lice Expert of Dobbs Ferry/Westchester, whose salon is located in Dobbs Ferry, NY, and serves clients throughout the New York metro area

I always encourage parents that they really, really should tell the school and the camp. Give everybody else the chance to catch it. The truth is, if a mother tells the kids parents, the school, the camp, and gives everyone else the chance to find it, it’s really the responsible thing to do. —AH

What are some ways to prevent getting lice when someone in my child’s class or in my household has it?

Girls should wear their hair up, preferably in a bun. If not in a bun, in ponies or braids, and a good deterrent for girls is either hair spray or gel that they should put on their hair to make the hair stiff, or deterrent sprays that have some rosemary, lavender, tee tree, coconut, or peppermint oil in them. With boys who have very short hair, they should wear gel in their hair to make it stiff or hairspray. And no children should share any hats or hairbrushes. We do also recommend blow-drying the hair as often as possible. Lice don’t like high heat.  —DL

There are many things you can use like rosemary oil or lavender oil. Tea tree oil is okay, but it dries out the scalp. A lot of things work very well. Simply speaking, go to the drug store, look in the aisle of the ethnic hair care products, and you will see product after product, inexpensive ones as well as the expensive ones. You need something with oils or gels that are going to make it so that the bug is not happy in that environment. So it could smell a certain way or it could be the gels that the bugs want to stay away from. Lice want a natural head of hair that smells great. If you don’t want head lice, you want to keep things on your hair, like gels or oils, and not keep the hair totally clean. —DR


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