You just found out there is a lice outbreak at school. Or maybe you learned that your kid’s friend just got head lice. And now you’re wondering how to prevent lice because you’re worried that your family will get infested too, right?
The obvious answer to that question is to stay away from infested people. However, that’s not so easy to do. Shy of having someone tell you they are infested, or performing a head check on them, it’s hard to know who around you have head lice.
Because head lice can’t jump, swim or fly, you can be in close proximity to a head full of lice without becoming infested yourself. But you’ll want to avoid any head-to-head contact. Head lice are fast little crawlers that, just like kids crossing the monkey bars, can move from the hair on its host to a hair on your head if your hair is close enough for their little claws to reach.
Although scientists don’t agree on how frequently head lice move from non-hair objects such as brushes, pillows or hats, lice can get knocked off their hosts. Without hair to crawl along, they can’t move very easily. But they can survive 24-48 hours off the host. So it is possible for them to move from a non-hair object to your head if your hair comes in contact with the object. So for that reason, you should avoid sharing hats or combs, especially with those you know are infested.
You should also machine wash with hot water, and then dry any clothing, linens or other items used by an infested person within the past two days.
You don’t need to use fumigants or fogs; they are not necessary to control head lice, and may be dangerous.
There are herbal lice remedies on the market that tout themselves as lice repellents. There is not a lot of published data on how well these remedies work. But if you follow the other steps outlined here, you shouldn’t need to purchase any products to prevent lice.
If you suspect you have been in contact with a person infested with lice (see How Can I Get Lice?), you should do a head check to see if you have lice. There may be a professional lice-treatment location near you that could do a check.
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