I opened my inbox last week and my world lurched to a momentary halt. Staring at me was a note with the header "Primary Grade Lice Warning." I immediately ran through a paranoid series of mental images, detailing every instance my kids had scratched their heads in the past 72 hours.
If you have school-aged children, you can probably relate.
Subscribe to the Queen of Green digest
As a contagious condition among Canadian kids, head lice are second only to the common cold. But having lice is not considered a medical condition by our public health agencies, just a nuisance.
Can head lice be eliminated without chemicals or pesticides?
Yes. You can get rid of them effectively and safely using natural methods.
What's in traditional lice shampoo?
Many over-the-counter lice products in Canada are insecticides that contain neurotoxic pediculicides like pyrethrins or pyrethroids. Their widespread use has led lice to build up resistance to them. It's best to avoid these product entirely. But If you do choose to use them, never abuse them. Don't leave the product on longer or use it more frequently than directed. This puts you and the environment at risk of health concerns caused by pesticide exposure.
What are the alternatives to toxic hair washes?
With or without chemicals, the battle against lice is won by removing them by hand (called "combing reduction" by the pros). You should also:
- Use enzyme shampoos or conditioners
- Coat the hair in oil during combing reduction to smother lice
- Explore Health-Canada-approved heat treatments available from professional lice removal companies
How do I get lice off our stuff?
Lice only live on you, not in your environment. Without you, they die within 48 hours. Avoid spraying pesticide. Instead, apply heat. Put anything that's in regular contact with your body in the dryer on high for 20 minutes. Where that's not possible — like the couch — vacuum. Set aside anything that can't be heat-treated or vacuumed for 48 hours.
Can we prevent getting lice?
Remind kids not to share items that come in contact with their hair — like helmets and hairbrushes. Short of that, there's not much you can do to ward off lice.
And if you do have lice — tell people! Keeping the creepy crawlies your little secret only increases the chances that your friends and neighbours unknowingly pass the fun along!
Be brave. Break the stigma. Share your lice-fighting story here.
Tovah Paglaro, a fellow Queen of Green