'Tis the Season for Itchy Heads

Fourteen years of teaching elementary school and every single year, sometimes multiple times a year, I had to pass out the dreaded letter. The "A child in your child's classroom has been found with head lice" letter. Just the thought of it sent me into a panic every year. In fact, typing out this blog post is causing me to scratch my head at a pretty rapid rate.

I remember getting lice in third grade. One girl on my softball team had it. It was standard protocol to share helmets. Apparently, she wanted to share the love so myself and rest of the team got it too. I remember sitting for HOURS as my mom combed through my extremely thick, permed hair with a tiny comb as I sat there and cried. Eventually, she took me to my hairdresser who performed the treatment to kill them and cut my hair. 

Lice is something I never wanted to experience again. Yet, I decided to enter a profession where I was exposed to it often. I was lucky enough never to have it again, even when most of my classroom was inflicted with it. Why? I had been using tea tree shampoo for years and years and years. Some may dispute its efficiency but after being exposed to lice as often as I was, as long as my hair was, and how close I stood within every students' proximity, it was a lifesaver for me.

Now, while in the planning stages for this article, I stumbled across a few websites that stated, "There is no scientific evidence that essential oils help with the prevention or treatment of lice."

Excuse me while I bust out a few pubmed.gov studies up in here.

1. Activity of tea tree oil and nerolidol alone or in combination against Pediculus capitis (head lice) and its eggs

2. The efficacy of Australian essential oils for the treatment of head lice infestation in children: A randomised controlled trial.

3. The potential application of plant essential oils to control Pediculus humanus capitis (Anoplura: Pediculidae).

4. A randomised, assessor blind, parallel group comparative efficacy trial of three products for the treatment of head lice in children--melaleuca oil and lavender oil, pyrethrins and piperonyl butoxide, and a "suffocation" product.

These are just a few of many. But not all of the research articles necessarily give the best choices when it comes to children. Remember, we always want to choose the most gentle yet effective choices possible for children.

So my suggestion would be the essential oils of Tea Tree, Lavender, and Nerolina when trying to assist with these creepy crawlies and children. If you plan on adding anything to a shampoo, please use an unscented base shampoo that is formulated to allow essential oils. Otherwise, you might disrupt the balance of a "regular" shampoo. I have used 2 drops per ounce of shampoo for myself but up to a 1% dilution is suffice for prevention.

Whatever method you choose, please make sure the essential oils are properly diluted before applying them to your child's scalp. Neat use (the use of an essential oil directly to the skin without a carrier) can cause irritation or sensitization. If you plan on mixing essential oils in water as a spray, please note that it will only last a few days and will not disperse the essential oils properly.  If you want to buy a pre-made product, I trust Marge and her products over at Nature's Gift.  

Some other suggestions that I find useful:

1. Blow dry your child's hair when possible.
2. Do not let your child share any personal clothing or grooming items.
3. Check your child's hair weekly. The sooner you catch it, the easier it is to deal with!
4. If your child has long hair and there is an outbreak, try keeping it pulled back in a bun or tight braid.
5. Launder soft items that are brought to school often in hot water and dry them on a high heat cycle. Teachers, this also applies to any soft items (pillows, stuffed animals, etc.)  you may have in your classroom. 

Prevention is key here. Talk to your children about good habits to avoid infestation. If excessive itching causes sores on the scalp, please discontinue use of essential oils to avoid sensitization. Fingers crossed for all of you that you never receive that dreaded school letter. 

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to try to sleep tonight without scratching my head every five seconds.