5 On Your Side

Lice aren't nice, and neither are some chemical treatments

Posted June 21

Just because school is out for the summer, parents shouldn't let their guard down when it comes to protecting kids from head lice.

Summer camps and many common summertime activities can spread lice, too.

When it comes to fighting off the annoying critters, Consumer Reports says to skip chemical treatments.

"The active ingredients in both Rid and Nix can cause painful side-effects, including itchy and inflamed skin, chemical burns and even difficulty breathing," Consumer Reports' Jeneen Interlandi said. "Research suggest that lice are increasingly resistant to the chemicals in these products."

Instead, experts recommend combing out the bugs and eggs with a metal nit comb. It's safer and can be more effective than chemical treatments.

Start by putting conditioner on the hair, and then pull it into smaller sections and run the comb through each smaller area.

"Lice prefer to live and lay their eggs very close to the scalp, so when you do your comb-out, that's the area you want to focus on," Interlandi said.

Also, be sure to wipe the comb on a paper towel after each pass, then put them in a sealed zip-top bag.

You'll likely have to do daily comb-outs until you don't see any more live lice.

Consumer Reports recommends continuing the comb-out after that every few days for about a month.

"Lice can't live off of your head for too long, so you actually don't have to go crazy with the housecleaning," Interlandi said. "What you want to do is just focus on the items that have come into direct contact with your child's head over just the past few days."

Finally, experts say to check and treat everyone in the family so lice aren't being passed back and forth.

Other tips:

  • Soak your combs and brushes in boiling water for five to 10 minutes
  • Bag up anything that can't be washed, such as stuffed animals and pillows
  • Wash recently worn clothing and bedding and dry it on high heat
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