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Can Head Lice Be Prevented?

I was invited this week to speak to some concerned parents about head lice at a very well-respected Atlanta public school, in tandem with a local pediatrician. The first question asked by the parents was if it was possible to prevent contracting head lice. Of course, I deferred to the learned, experienced medical professional who offered that the best defense was to attempt to “change your children’s behavior.” His guidance was to discourage children from sharing hats and scarves and putting their heads near another child’s head. From a theoretical standpoint, this is an astounding method to prevent head lice. If your children never have sleepovers, never lean over an electronic game, a cell phone or a digital camera with another child, never collaborate in school or read a book with another child, never wrestle or roll around on the floor with another child, never hug another child – that is, if your child’s head NEVER touches another child’s head, the likelihood of getting head lice is minimal. However, I then conveyed to the parents my practical advice to be proactive about head lice prevention by putting girls’ hair up before school or social events, using a preventative spray and/or gel on both boys and girls and combing methodically and weekly (unless notes come home from school or you hear otherwise of a case of head lice among your children’s friends – and then the combing should be more frequent) with a premier lice comb (to minimize the risk of a full blown case of head lice.)