Every year, schools up and down the UK warn children (and parents) of the devastating plague that is head lice - and every year, the number of head lice outbreaks increases when school goes back.
Exact statistics are hard to come by, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the United States (US) alone, around 6 to 12 million infestations occur each year. That’s just in the US… and it’s not even an exact figure.
The report does go on to say that head lice is much less common among African-Americans (possibly due to the fact that lice have adapted to grasp the shape and width of some hair types) but what can you do to ensure your kid’s afro hair is protected from the horror of head lice?
Take a few precautions
As you know, head lice are mainly spread through direct/head-to-head contact with the hair of someone with lice. This can easily happen at school when your kid is playing, during sports activities, or at camps or slumber parties.
Transmission can also occur (though less likely) by wearing the clothing of someone with lice, using infested combs, brushes or towels, or lying on a bed, couch, pillow, carpet (and so on) that has been in contact with someone with lice.
So what can you do if you know there’s a lice outbreak at your kid’s school or club, for example?
- Ask your child not to share items that touch the head, like combs or towels
- Ask your child to avoid activities that lead to head-to-head contact
- Ask your child to keep their belongings away from shared areas (such as coat closets)
Of course, there will be instances where your kid takes part in activities where heads just come together… which leads us to our next point - caring for your little one's afro hair!
Care for your kid’s afro hair
Though you can’t stop your kid from doing any of the above, you can put afro hair care measures in place to protect their hair and prevent lice. Your kid probably won’t like them but if you develop a simple routine that’s quick and easy, they’ll eventually do it themselves.
It’s not as scary or as expensive as you think, you just need to dedicate a little time to it (mostly because your kid won’t to begin with) and use the right afro hair care products.
- Step 1: Make a routine
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you put in place measures that prevent and/or repel lice, you’ll be in a good position to ensure your kid never comes home with any!
However, this does mean spending 10-20 minutes each morning with your kid in the bathroom to check up on and look after their afro hair.
Make sure you comb their hair and add a few drops of natural oil, mixing in a little tea tree oil, and applying to their scalp. Tea tree oil is known to kill and repel lice - but more on that below.
Doing this step every morning before school is essential. They will thank you for it later, promise!
(If you want to find out how to develop a comprehensive afro hair care routine, check out this blog).
- Step 2: Use shampoos with natural, essential oils
Coconut and other oils in shampoos are known to counteract, repel and treat head lice. These shampoos are far less toxic than over the counter (OTC) treatments and are much more viable for children with sensitive scalps.
Coconut oil works against lice due to its thickness - it essentially suffocates lice. It also has the added benefits of the nutrients it provides your hair (unlike OTC shampoos).
Adding drops of tree oil can help. Amongst other things, tea tree kills lice in the nymph and adult stages of life, according to research and can also reduce the number of hatched eggs. A study conducted by the International Journal of Dermatology also revealed that it can help keep lice away. As with coconut oil, it also has a number of hair benefits, namely moisturising and soothing the scalp, and reducing itchiness.
Another natural derivative that’s proven to kill lice is coconut and anise spray. It's cost effective and lice can't develop resistance to it like OTC treatments.
- Step 3: Check your kid’s hair again in the evening
Because our afro hair is thick and dense, there are plenty of places for the lice to hide.
Taking this into account, checking your kid’s afro hair after school is worth considering and you may be able to stop an infestation before it occurs.
Consider using our products
A lot of the research we’ve seen seems to indicate that natural oils - coconut, tea tree, anise - work really well at preventing and killing lice infestations.
Combatting the lice threat and keeping your kid’s afro hair healthy can be a challenge but if you follow the steps outlined in this blog and employ a good afro hair care routine, those pesky bugs will have nowhere to go!
Want to learn more about afro hair care and our products? Check out these articles: