Here's hoping these prevention tips can help your kids stay bug-free, too.
To avoid completely ljinxing myself, let me reiterate the "so far" in my headline.
Between summer day camp, sleepaway camp, and both of my daughter's classrooms, we've been warned about lice outbreaks four times since August. Now, I've been down this road a time or two, which makes me even more terrified for another encounter. The news that in 25 states, including the one in which I live, lice have become resistant to OTC treatment, didn't help matters. But the time I was most petrified to find live and dead bugs in my children's hair was the week before my then 9-year-old, Julia, was heading to a week of sleepaway camp. See, when her session was over, we'd be picking her up and pretty much going directly on vacation. My fear was that she'd bring the critters with her and I'd spend every waking moment of our time away combing out hair and doing laundry.
So I drilled these time-tested lice-prevention tips into her:
- First, the obvious: No sharing brushes or scrunchies or any hair-related items, ever.
- Second: Keep your hair in braids as much as possible. It's hard for bugs to weave their way through tightly braided hair. (Moms of boys, your equivalent is keeping hair as short as possible.)
- Third, and this is a biggie: Make sure your head doesn't touch anyone else's. Think about how many times a day, especially in places like school and camp, a kid has the opportunity to sit closely with a friend and look at a book, or a screen. Or how easy it is for kids to huddle close together while playing video games. Or how frequently they all cram together and pose for pictures. All of these are perfect opportunities for critters to crawl from one head to the next.
But in order for me to breathe easier, I needed a little more. Enter Fairy Tales.
You may know about this brand of lice-repelling hair products, because parents who use it swear by it. It was time for me to find out what the fuss was about, especially since Fairy Tales has some newer products that can be combined with the lice-prevention line to solve other hair problems. (More on that in a second.) The Rosemary Repel line contains organic herbs that bugs don't like—rosemary, citronella, tea tree, and lavender—and consists of shampoo, conditioner, and conditioning spray. When packing for camp, I loaded Julia up with a full-size bottle of each and deadly serious instructions to use the shampoo and conditioner every night and the spray every morning.
I basically held my breath the first night she was at camp because there was always the chance that during the mandatory lice (and athlete's foot) check, we'd learn that Julia had arrived infested. But there was no phone call. Then we all headed to the condo we were staying in for our family vacation. I was beyond relieved, but determined to stay vigilant. So this is where I started combining the newer products with the older.
First up was the Sun & Swim line: Lifeguard Clarifying Shampoo, Lemon-Aid Silky Soft Conditioner, and CoCo-Cabana Sun Spray. My kids spent the entire summer in a pool or ocean, and their hair was majorly discolored and straw-like. These products contain banana leaf extract and coconut oil, and combining them with the Rosemary Repel shampoo and conditioner meant I could tackle the dual issues of needing to keep bugs away while restoring some of their hair's shine and removing some of its yellowish-green tint.
I had one more issue to tackle, especially during our beach vacation: sandy, salty, knot-filled hair. And this included me. So this is where the new line of Tangle Tamer shampoo, conditioner, and spray came in. We all used this (again, mixing it with Rosemary Repel) to make it easier to get a brush through our hair without needing to spend a lot of time on it. It's got keratin, jojoba, and aloe, and works nicely on curly hair—which is yet another need in our family, as Julia has a gorgeous yet massive head of curls.
So here we are, well into October. Once more, let me state that I in no way want to jeopardize our good fortune thus far, but...well, you get it. Should you find yourself doing battle with bugs, I suggest two sources of info: everything you need to do to get rid of 'em, and seven things you don't need to do.
Kara Corridan is the health director at Parents and the proud owner of a giant bag of lice-related supplies.