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Tips on preventing and treating lice this school year

Lice is transferable via hats, scarfs, brushes, combs and even headphones.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — With school back in session, it's a heavy season for head lice. While anyone can get lice at any time, health officials say the risk for kids is heightened as they return to school and are around other children.

Dr. Lisa Lowery, an adolescent health expert with Spectrum Health, said the parasite infestation is communicable and can be spread through things like sharing hats, scarfs, brushes, combs and more.

"You’re not just going to be sitting in class and the lice is going to jump on you; that’s a myth," Lowery explained.

She continued to debunk the common misconceptions surrounding lice, saying that getting an infestation doesn't make you dirty and anyone can get lice.

"It really is not related to clean or dirty. You get these little critters from somewhere or someone and then you can bring them into your home," she said.

Lowery said while anyone can get lice, African American people are less likely to, due to the characteristics of their hair.

She said the best thing people can do to avoid getting lice is to be educated around the way that it's spread. The bugs cannot hop or fly; they can only crawl, which is why they are most commonly spread through direct contact with the hair of an infested person. 

If you do come into contact with lice, Lowery said it's important to use prescription or over-the-counter treatments like Nix on your head and comb out your hair using a nit comb.

Your house can also be deloused by vacuuming and washing materials you or others come in contact with.

"You’re gonna treat your head, the source, and then you can make sure you vacuum. Make sure it’s not in the carpet. Any clothes they’ve been exposed to you want to wash in water that’s hot enough. If you can’t wash it, then you can at least seal it in a bag, and keep it sealed for at least 24 hours," Lowery advised.

One of the most important details is making sure to check everyone in your inner circle for lice. Mother of two Rebekah Burge said she was fighting lice in her family for three months. She tried everything from oils to over-the-counter hair treatments, but nothing was working. She was shocked to find that her grandmother had an infestation that re-infected her children after their treatments.

"I forgot about Grammy. I was treating my kids and me, but Grammy wasn’t being treated....So at 85 years old here’s my Grammy and I check her for head lice and she’s full of it," Burge explained.

Once Burge treated everyone in her family, things started to improve. However, her advice mimics health officials, when she pushes people to repeat their treatments.

"You can’t just treat it and let it go, you have to make sure everything is gone...They stick to your hair you don’t see them, but one is left and the cycle will start over again," she said.


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