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11 Ways to Prevent Head Lice

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School is back in session, and it’s got me scratching my head. Head lice infestations are most common among in preschool- or elementary school-age children and their caretakers. According to the CDC, an estimated 6-12 million children age 3 through 11 get lice each year. Contrary to popular opinion, contracting lice has nothing to do with cleanliness. Anyone can be infested by these little bloodsucking pests! Usually this occurs through direct head-to-head contact, but the little buggers have been known to jump ship onto clothing, toys, and upholstery. Don’t panic, though; while head lice are pretty yucky, they do not cause problems beyond itching. If it happens, it happens but you can lessen your risk with these 11 very simple tricks and tips to prevent head lice.

  • 11 Ways to Prevent Head Lice 1 of 12
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  • Familiarize Yourself With the Enemy 2 of 12
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    I have to admit that before I saw pictures in my cosmetology textbook back in beauty school, I had no idea what head lice looks like. I know, it gives me the heebie jeebies too, but it's a good idea to know what you're looking for. Google "head lice" for more images.
    Photo Credit: Gilles San Martin/Flickr

  • Do Routine Head Checks 3 of 12
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    Because lice are tiny and fast, infestations are usually identified by the presence of nits. These lice eggs are attached to strands of hair and are easier to spot. If they are easily removed, it's probably just dandruff or lint. Check your child once a week and look closely at the back hairline and behind the ears, where lice tend to populate. It can take up to 6 weeks to experience itching!
    Photo Credit: Gilles San Martin/Flickr

  • Advise Your Children to Not Share Hats 4 of 12
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    Lice can live for 1-2 days without a host and can be transferred through hats, helmets, headbands, headphones, costumes, hoodies, coats, and scarves.
    Photo credit: Kazza, Mizzo, Lilly, and Daniel/Flickr

  • Keep Hairbrushes Separate 5 of 12
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    My mother-in-law had the ingenious idea to get all of her grandchildren their own brushes and keep them in labeled Ziploc bags. Try this trick if you have more than one child in the house, and be sure to separate hair accessories as well.

  • Practice Safer Sleepovers 6 of 12
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    Hosting a sleepover at your house? One clever idea to avoid spreading lice is to arrange the kids in a flower or star pattern with their feet together in the center.
    Photo Credit: Jeff Turner/Flickr

  • Use Shampoo and Conditioner for Lice Prevention 7 of 12
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    Lice are repelled by certain smells, like tea tree oil, menthol, eucalyptus oil, lavender oil, rosemary oil, lemongrass, and citronella. Choose a shampoo for your child with any of these scents for added protection.
    Fairy Tales Rosemary Repel Shampoo is available at Fairy Tales. $11.95

  • Use Essential Oils to Deter Lice 8 of 12
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    Essential oils can be used in place of or in addition to shampoos and conditioners for added protection. Mix a few drops with water in a spray bottle and spritz hats, jackets, or even your child's head to ward off lice. Multipurpose tea tree, eucalyptus, lavender, rosemary, and lemongrass oils will all do the trick and smell good as an added bonus.
    Pick up Sundown Naturals Tea Tree Oil at Walgreens. $7.99

  • Spritz Clothing with Lice Protection Spray 9 of 12
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    This peppermint-scented spray will actually kill lice and nits. Spray it on clothing, hair accessories, pillows, or other household items that come in contact with your child if you suspect they may have been exposed to lice.
    LiceLogic Household Lice Protection Spray can be purchased at LiceLogic. $32.50

  • Put a Scarf Over Movie Theater or Airplane Seats 10 of 12
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    Now that I've thoroughly freaked you out and have your scratching your head, you may be thinking about the lovely fabric on movie, theater, and airplane seats. Since lice can live up to 1-2 days without a host, you can bring a scarf to throw over the top of the seat for a little added protection.
    Photo credit: Alex/Flickr

  • Keep Hair Tied Up 11 of 12
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    Some evidence suggests that girls are slightly more likely to get lice than boys. Keeping hair tied up in braids or buns may lower chances of an infestation.
    Learn how to do this fun 4-strand braid at The Story of a Princess and Her Hair.

  • Use Your Clothes Dryer 12 of 12
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    If your child has been exposed to lice or has had lice and you want prevent re-infestation, be sure to throw bedding, pillows, and the furry friends your child sleeps with in your dryer for at least 15 minutes to effectively kill lice and nits.
    Photo credit: spablab/Flickr

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