There’s a first time for many unexpected things, when you’re a parent: a first tsunami poo. A first project vomit. A first cold.
And of course, the first time your child gets head lice.
No child gets away with a lice-free childhood, just as no parent escapes a moment when they realise, “Well, yes, that is a lice egg, not dandruff, and yes, that needs to be addressed – immediately.”
Head lice – those little insects that work their way into hair, feeding off the blood under a scalp and breeding voraciously – are almost a rite of passage for every child, and every parent. Any child who’s interacted with other kids at kinder, childcare, or school, risks exposure to catching head lice. And often, they bring it home and it spreads to the entire family.
In fact, according to MOOV, an Australian market leader in head lice treatment, 50 percent of Aussies are affected by head lice over their lifetime.
Head lice can’t fly, can’t jump, and rely solely on a live human scalp for survival – which is why, for example, they can’t be transferred in swimming pools. So how exactly are they spread? Here are four of the most common ways, which can sometimes be quite unexpected…
An Aussie outdoor staple – the humble hat.
It’s a scenario that happens in childcare centres and schools daily – the kids rush to go outside, and accidentally grab a hat that’s not theirs. Sometimes, it will be the hat of a child who doesn’t know they have head lice, and just like that, the next child does too.
When I take my son out to buy a hat, I’m conscious that 20 kids could’ve tried that hat on too. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
Direct head-to-head contact (selfies included).
Being with children means close contact – and direct head-to-head contact, even if you don’t realise it’s happening.
Kids may put their heads together to look at a book. They may rest their heads right next to each other on a cushion to watch TV, pose for a photo with heads touching, or even bang heads whilst they wrestle.
These are all potential ways to transfer lice from one scalp to another – and why putting longer hair in ponytails and braids can help avoid it.