This is NOT a post that I would ever want to write, or talk about when it comes to the excitement (or lack there of) of going back to school. However these are some things that have proven to be major issues in the school systems today, and I wanted to give some tips on preventing bringing home icky things from school. The lice and bedbug epidemic seems to be getting worse instead of better (especially since these things are no longer considered a ‘health hazard’ and children are still encouraged to attend school if they are dealing with a ‘bug’ issue), and I have dealt with my fair share of lice with 2 girls in our school district. So I wanted to give some tips on preventing lice and bedbugs from making an appearance in your home this school year.
Preventing Head Lice.
I don’t care how clean your child’s hair is – how often they wash it, they can get lice! My children shower every single night, no matter what and shampoo and condition their hair. They have still managed to get lice from classmates, and this year I have determined that it will not happen. I have searched high and low for the best tips, and what has worked for our family thus far and here’s what I’ve come up with:
- Don’t Share. We spend the majority of our children’s young lives teaching them to share their toys and their snacks, but as they get older and head off to school we need to teach them what not to share. Combs and brushes seem to be the one thing that everyone agrees on that shouldn’t be shared, but hats ,coats, hair clips, bike helmets, towels, even headsets and earbuds! All it takes is one small egg, that you can hardly see even when you’re looking for it – to have dropped on one of these items to cause an infestation in your home. Tell them it’s OK not to share – and explain why.
- No Close Quarters. Children sometimes don’t know personal space – they grab, hug, lean on, and sit closely with their friends and classmates. Explain how important it is to learn personal space (not only for the sake of staying lice free). You’d be amazed how easily a quick hug can turn into a giant headache.
- Keep Your Hair on Guard. It may sound funny, but being on ‘hair alert’ is definitely one of the best ways to prevent a lice infestation. Keep all hair pulled up in a braid, ponytail, or bun daily. Also use hairspray! Believe it or not, the hair spray makes it hard for the lice bug to ‘get in’ to your head, and usually will find another host instead of fighting! Also, use tea tree oil, or tea tree oil shampoo or shampoos with an apple scent – all of these are not attractive to the lice bugs.
- Weekly Check-In. Usually the itching and digging doesn’t start until it’s too late – there’s an infestation. So making sure to check their heads each week – keep an eye out for live bugs, and nits (the eggs). Always use a flashlight, the nits will ‘shine’ in the light. Check behind ears, back of head, and if they wear a ponytail, right at the spot where the ponytail is held.
- If you do notice a bug or nit – take immediate action to prevent further infestation! I personally do not like the chemicals they use in standard lice shampoos; I always use tea tree oil, and pick thru the hair to remove all bugs/nits. Then cover their entire head with Vaseline, and leave in overnight (I cover with a hair cap, (which you can pick up at your local Dollar Store) and put an old towel on their pillow)! This will suffocate the bugs and nits. Wash all blankets, pillows, sheets, stuffed animals and clothing that came in contact with the child within the past 2 weeks. Once you believe that the bugs are gone – do it all again! I usually will use the Vaseline treatment once a week for 4 weeks. Yes, it will leave their hair looking a bit greasy (it’s hard to wash out) but nothing a headband and bun won’t take care of!
When I was a kid we’d yell an innocent ” Good night, don’t let the bed bugs bite” to my parents in the other room. To be honest I didn’t even know bed bugs were a real thing when I was a kid! But over the past few years bedbugs have made their existence known..in a brutal way. Once they’ve taken over your home, it’s an uphill battle to try to get them out, not to mention expensive. They have companies who exterminate bedbugs, but will tell you it’s not a guarantee to remove them, since they can hide almost anywhere. The best way to deal with this epidemic is to prevent them even getting inside!
Last year there were kids at my children’s school who had obviously bed bug infestations at home – and on themselves. Teachers would notice the bites first (usually 3 small bites in the same area) and then notice the bugs crawling on backpacks, shoulders, etc. Since bedbugs aren’t considered a health hazard, but just a nuisance (which is ridiculous) they can’t send the children home. So taking the steps as soon as your child steps foot in the door in the way to start.
Changing Station. This may seem extreme, but to prevent any of these critters getting inside of our home, we leave shoes, and backpacks out in the garage. The kids then immediately change into another set of clothes, and those clothes go directly to the basement to be washed. I then inspect the backpacks and shoes for any signs of the bugs before allowing them inside. Also be sure to daily check your child for bite – bedbug bites are different than other bug bites, you will see a cluster of bites (usually 3) on the arms, neck, face or shoulders. Also, you will not feel a bed bug biting because they inject their saliva first which contains an anesthetic – which is a numbing chemical and an anti-clotting agent so your blood flows freely.
Weekly Bed Check. Bed bugs are attracted to human blood, not to dirt or grime. Since we are ‘sitting ducks’ while sleeping, this is usually when bed bugs will make their attack (thus the term ‘bed bug’). Each week use a flashlight to check for any bugs that could be on the mattress, box springs, or bed frame. Small reddish spots on the mattress could be a sign that a bed bug has made it in your home, so be on the look out. Always be pro-active. If you find a spot, continue to do the bed check daily instead of weekly. If you do find a bug, call an exterminator immediately.
Travel with Caution. I am not saying don’t travel – but don’t think that bedbugs take a vacation when you do. Check hotel beds and mattresses just like you would at home – the same with your luggage if you are taking a plane.
Obviously you can’t completely prevent any of these things happening to you – but being pro-active will definitely lower your chances of having to deal with it! Not only will these simple steps save you the headache, but time and money as well.