Can You Prevent Head Lice? 4 Things You Can Do to Keep Nits Away From Your Child

Because I got lice as a child and know what a painstaking removal process it can be, I'm terrified of my son bringing home some nits. Doing things like spending hours combing through my tender hair and having to meticulously clean everything in the house are burned into my brain, just like the smell of the product used to kill the bugs is burned into my nose. It may be a common part of childhood, but I want to do anything I can to prevent my son from having to deal with dreaded head lice. While it will require some serious work, there are things you can do to prevent your child from getting lice.

Teach Them About Space

The first line of defense might be some good, old-fashioned boundary lessons. "Lice spread through head-to-head contact, so without physical boundaries, lice can easily crawl from one child to another," Jackie O'Connell, owner and operator of Disentangle Lice Removal, explained to POPSUGAR. "Hugging, wrestling, and watching tablets together are just a few of the ways it can spread from one child to another." The main thing kids should avoid is directly touching heads with another individual. "Although many people believe that lice transmit through helmets, hats, sharing lockers, etc., this has been debunked in recent years," she said. "Research shows that almost every case is contracted through direct head contact." However, abstaining from those actions entirely is unlikely, and there are products that can help.

Use Preventative Products

"There are a multitude of products available to prevent contracting lice," O'Connell explained. "At Disentangle, we carry shampoos, conditioners, detangling sprays, gels, and mousses that prevent transmission. Most lice prevention products contain a scent that lice find offensive. These scents can range from rosemary, peppermint, citronella, and tea tree oil." And while these kind of products are helpful, they're not perfect. "Although we highly recommend using a preventative product on your child, we also warn that these products are not 100 percent guaranteed. They're extremely effective at masking the natural scent of the scalp, but a bug will transfer to any environment if their survival is threatened."

Consider How They Wear Their Hair

Additionally, a different hairstyle might make a world of difference to whether or not a child contracts lice. "We recommend tying your child's hair up whenever they're at school or in a social setting," O'Connell advised. "Ponytails are great, but braids or buns are even better. Loose or swinging hair offers lice the opportunity to crawl from one person to another, so tying the hair up is the most effective way to avoid transmission."

Education Is Key

"At Disentangle, our top priority is educating our clients about lice while receiving treatment," O'Connell continued. "With all the myths and misconceptions out there, obtaining factual information can be difficult. We recommend that parents educate themselves so they can pass on proper information to their children. It's extremely rare that someone would contract lice from an inanimate object, so simply explain to your kids how important it is to avoid any head-to-head contact. Lastly, we encourage the use of preventative products anytime they interact with other children."