Courtesy of lice removal experts, here’s a disconcerting fact you probably didn’t know: Spring break season is prime time for head lice. This means all too many families with kids return from their vacations carrying more than suitcases.
The reason is simple—with millions of people traveling, mingling, and sharing everything from airline seats to hotel rooms, the opportunities for contact with these insect interlopers increase dramatically.
Head lice don’t fly or jump. They can only crawl, so children need direct contact with them to become carriers. That makes hair-to-hair touching and shared items like pillows, headgear, hairbrushes, and, of course, airline seats their main commuter routes.
There are up to 12 million head lice cases in the U.S. every year. Longstanding social stigma aside, lice outbreaks say absolutely nothing about personal hygiene. Lice don’t transmit disease, and they’re equal opportunity parasites with no preference whatsoever for kids with either clean or dirty hair.
To banish lice, most of us typically treat our kids with shampoos containing pesticides like permethrin, pyrethrin, lindane, or malathion. While the amounts of these poisons in the products are small, the potential side effects aren’t. Lindane, for example, has been linked to cancer and nervous system harm while malathion can damage organs and is suspected of mimicking hormones.
Research has linked lice treatment shampoos to an increased risk of childhood leukemia and brain cancer, and the FDA’s Med Watch program has recorded instances of seizures, behavioral changes, neuromuscular issues, skin problems, and other side effects following lice treatments.
The good news is that natural lice treatments are equally effective and safer, too. Anecdotal reports gathered from parents around the country, for example, show that smothering works. Just soak kids’ hair with mayonnaise or olive oil and cover with a shower cap overnight. Others rely on various essential oils to combat lice on their children.
Most find manual extraction of eggs and lice with a fine-toothed comb to be most effective. It’s a bit of an art, which is why there are removal services parents can hire to naturally banish the bugs. Watch and learn as these specialists coat kids’ heads liberally with conditioner and baking soda and finesse the results with a lice comb.
Since lice can only live a day or two without human hosts, combining natural non-toxic treatments like these with laundering and temporary isolation of potentially infested items (like kids’ stuffed animals) will likely take care of any creepy-crawly souvenirs your family brings home from spring break. So don’t scratch your plans. Just keep your head about you on vacation!