Head lice isn't a part of parenting that anyone wants a part of, but it's so common that most end up dealing with it at some point.
"Lice are so prevalent, I've had to deal with it as a parent, too," says Boston-based pediatrician Dr. Nancy Kahn, MD, FAAP, a clinical instructor of pediatric medicine at Harvard Medical School. "One study found that one in four elementary school kids gets them. They're so contagious, but they have to be transported by another vehicle. You get them from sharing scrunchies, a comb, brush or hat with someone who has them."
The big problem isn't killing the adult lice; it's detecting the eggs, which are called nits, and removing them to prevent further infection. Nits stick like glue to the hair shaft. "The eggs are grayish-white," Dr. Kahn says. "If you see a white spot on the hair that can be flicked off, it isn't nits, it's dandruff or [lint]. If it's stuck on the hair, it's nits."
Treatment varies from over-the-counter shampoos and topical solutions, but "these contain pesticides, so there is the worry that you're putting pesticides on your child's head for several hours," Dr. Kahn says. For a home remedy, try olive oil: "This basically suffocates them," she says.
Ladibugs: This chemical-free line includes shampoo, conditioner, leave-in mint spray, serum and mousse. The company also offers a 24-hour hotline if you find yourself in need of help at any hour. www.ladibugshaircare.com
Fairy Tales Hair Care: Its Rosemary Repel line of hair care utilizes organic ingredients such as rosemary, tea tree, citronella, peppermint and lavender oils to combat the pesky bugs. You can also download its free iPhone app, The Facts of Lice, to learn about outbreaks in your area or report one of your own. www.fairytaleshaircare.com
LiceGuard: In addition to pesticide-free shampoo, LiceGuard also makes the Robi Comb, an electronic comb that kills lice on contact. www.liceguard.com
LiceEnders: This makers of this nontoxic line host free, ongoing lice screenings at 939 8th Ave., Suite 302. Call 212-759-5200 for an appointment. www.licenders.com