Each year, six to 12 million American kids between the ages of three and 11 experience a lice infestation, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Is your kid one of them? Congratulations on achieving a new level in the parental experience…and no worries, it has nothing to do with hygiene or household cleanliness. Head lice are transmitted primarily by head-to-head contact, from sharing headwear and brushes and—rarely—from furniture.
Once you’ve ensured your child is free of head lice and you’ve had the rest of your family checked for infestation, you’ll want to address the clothing, bedding, and toys that may still harbor lice and eggs. Put away the flamethrower, and resist the temptation to appeal to social media for answers. Save yourself the hassle and confusion because head lice elimination requires little more than a minor adjustment to your normal household chores.
You don’t have to tent your home, sprinkle toxic dust in your carpets or clean every single nook and cranny. Head lice need to feed, and don’t survive more than two days away from their hosts. They can’t fly or jump. Head lice nits and eggs need the warmth of human scalp to survive, so time is on your side.
Go through your home and identify items your child has been in contact with the 2-3 days before treatment, and follow these tips for making your home louse-free. Don’t forget any items kept in school lockers and book bags, and be sure to check athletic clothing, coats, and jackets often kept separately from your regular laundry.
Use hot water (approximately 130°F) to kill lice and eggs. Use the soak and extra rinse cycles, and machine dry for at least 30 minutes on the highest setting. There’s no need for special insecticides, though you’ll want to use the maximum amount of soap you can safely use without damaging your washing machine and your textiles.
Place any items bound for professional dry cleaning in a plastic bag, and be sure to knot the bag closed. When you deliver the infested items, be sure to tell the clerk that they require delousing treatment and handling.
Any items not suitable for machine washing or dry cleaning, including hats, scarves and delicate plush or cloth toys, should be placed in a plastic bag (knotted closed) for 7-10 days. At the end of this isolation period, take the items outside and shake them out, or vacuum them to remove any dead head lice.
Furniture, carpets, and toys
It’s rare for head lice infestations to spread through the common use of furniture or carpets, but it’s a good idea to do some post-infestation housework.
Toss pillows and mattress pads in the washing machine, and use the hand tools on your vacuum cleaner to thoroughly clean mattresses, furniture, and car seats. Take special care to vacuum carpets in play areas and around beds.
Be sure to change out vacuum bags and empty vacuum canisters after cleaning up. Discard trapped debris in an outside garbage receptacle. If your vacuum cleaner has a filter, clean it or replace it according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Avoid using insecticidal fumigants, which are toxic to humans and pose a higher risk than is necessary given the low risk of re-infestation from furniture or carpets.
Hair care products
Don’t forget to round up your hair care products! Carefully remove any hair from your child’s combs, brushes and hair accessories, and soak them in hot water for at least 30 minutes. Rinse well with cold water, and allow to air dry.
Double down your efforts for peace of mind
Head lice infestations cause stress in the home. Sometimes, taking extra steps in eliminating head lice infestations eases the psychological effects of an infestation as much as they ensure you’re solving the problem. For extra reassurance, prior to washing or dry-cleaning your items, place them in a sealed bag. Store them in a cool spot for 7-10 days, as mentioned above, or in a freezer for 72 hours.
Get the best start in the fight against head lice.
Household head lice removal hasn’t changed, but techniques for removing head lice, their eggs and nits have…and for the better. Lice Clinics of America offers screening and treatment options that take the guesswork and discomfort out of head lice treatments, ensuring the job is done right the first time. Contact us for information or for an appointment, and we’ll help get you and your family through the first and most important step in eliminating head lice.