Certain words send a shudder of terror through the spines of parents. The most feared word? “Lice.” As in: “We’re sending your child home from school with lice.”


But how do kids get lice in the first place? Perhaps if parents could sniff out the source or cause of lice, they could help their children avoid it.

With that in mind, here’s everything you need to know about preventing and treating lice, as well as a comprehensive answer to the pointed question of: How do kids get lice?

Let’s get this myth out of the way first: Getting lice is not a sign that you or your child has poor hygiene habits or skills. As you’ll read below, anyone can get lice under the right conditions. So don’t feel embarrassed if you or your child gets lice, and don’t cast aspersions on others who get lice.


The Answer: How Kids Get Lice

Head lice are tiny parasites that must feed off another body to survive. More specifically, they need human blood to survive, and they get it from the scalps of unsuspecting people. They desperately need these scalps to survive, as they cannot fly and cannot survive in water. They only crawl, and they only live on humans.

How are lice transmitted from one person to another? Through a single method: personal contact. Lice can only transmit when the head of a person who’s infested with lice touches the head of a person who is not. In extremely rare cases, lice move onto someone’s clothing before finding their way to the scalp — but that almost never happens.

Kids get lice more often than adults for a scientific reason: the pH level of their scalps.

Humans are typically born with a neutral pH level of about 7. As humans age, their pH levels becomes more acidic, dropping to between 4.5 and 5.5. This acid isn’t a bad thing — it provides protection for our skin and keeps us from harm.

Like lice. Lice much prefer the neutral pH levels to the more acidic ones. Children under 12 have not developed their acidic layers yet, which is why they are much more likely to contract lice.


How to Get Rid of Lice on Kids

There’s little we as parents can do to prevent our kids from getting head lice. It’s just one of those rites of passage that many parents have to traverse before their children become safely acidic preteens.

While you may have no desire to treat lice, you’ll want to zap them effectively if they turn up in your children’s scalps. Here’s a 5-step process for how to get rid of lice on kids:

1. Use an Effective Treatment

You’ll find lots of different lice treatments, but focus on the two most popular:

  1. Piperonyl Butoxide With Pyrethrins (For Kids 2 and Older): This treatment is made from chrysanthemum flowers. It kills only living lice; not nits (lice eggs). Because it doesn’t kill nits, a second treatment will be needed if eggs hatch.
  2. Permethrin Lotion (For Kids Younger Than 2): This is a lice shampoo that is approved for use in babies and toddlers — anyone younger than 2. This treatment takes care of both lice and nits.

2. Remove Dead or Live Lice

Once your treatment of choice has killed the lice and/or nits, you’ll want to remove them. Removing lice and nits is best completed with a comb or brush, and you can find combs and brushes that are specially designed to capture as many lice and nits as possible.

3. Avoid Regular Shampoos

Traditional shampoos can interfere with the impact of some lice treatments, so avoid using them for 2 or 3 days after initial treatment. This will provide plenty of time for the treatment to take effect without interference.

4. Boil Combs and Brushes

Once you’re done with the combs and/or brushes, you’ll want to cleanse them. Soak them in boiling hot water for 10 minutes or longer to ensure that all lice and nits are completely gone.

5. Keep Checking

Keep an eye on the infected scalp for 2 or 3 weeks after the initial treatment is completed. You’ll want to make sure that nits don’t hatch and that nothing interfered with your treatment’s effectiveness. If you’re clear after 3 weeks, you have successfully treated the lice infestation. Congratulations!


My Kid Has Lice. Will I Get It?

Can adults get lice from kids? As noted above, lice prefer kids’ scalps to adults’ scalps, so parents are less likely to experience lice infestations. Still, it’s completely possible for adults to get lice from their children.

The best thing you can do is effectively treat lice infestations when they appear. Start treatment immediately, and always avoid head-to-head contact with anyone infested — as that’s the only way lice move from person to person.


Why Does My Kid Keep Getting Lice?

It can be really frustrating when your child seems to get lice over and over again. If you’re treating lice month after month, there are three possible explanations:

  1. Poor Treatment: It’s possible the last lice treatment didn’t work. Perhaps you thought you treated the lice effectively, but then nits hatched.
  2. Attractive pH Levels: Your child’s scalp may just have a pH level that lice love. That’s unfortunate, but it’s a reality for some kids.
  3. Bad Luck: When your child is in a preschool or school setting, surrounded by kids each and every day, lice happen. If they are happening to your child over and over, it may just be bad luck.

None of the explanations above are likely to make you feel better if you’re dealing with lice over and over again. But, if nothing else, they confirm that it’s not your fault and not your child’s fault. Again, lice just happen sometimes.


Why Do Some Kids Get Lice More Than Others?

This comes back to the science of lice: the more neutral the pH levels, the more likely a child is to attract a lice infestation. Some children have more acidic scalps, while others have more neutral scalps. If your child’s scalp is more neutral, he or she is more likely to contract lice.


Final Thoughts on How Kids Get Lice

Is there anything more frustrating than lice? It’s hard to think of what that something might be. Still, if you can pause to take a deep breath, be patient during a lice infestation.

You’ll be dealing with your child and your child’s teacher and school most likely. There may be other kids you know who are dealing with the same lice outbreak. All you can do is follow the steps for effectively treating lice — and be as patient as possible with everyone involved.

Do you have something to add about kids and lice? Let us know in the comments section, or send a message via our contact form.

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