Hearing about a lice outbreak from your kid’s school might instill some panic, but don’t bother sending them to the bathtub to scrub for days. In fact, cleaning your kid’s hair won’t actually keep lice off their scalp at all. Researchers have found no correlation between hygiene and getting lice, according to the CDC.
Lice can’t fly or jump, so the primary culprit for transmission is hair-on-hair contact. That’s why lice outbreaks are common among preschool and elementary students, since they are more likely to hug and play in close quarters.
If you know someone in your child’s home or school has lice, here’s how to make sure your child doesn’t bring home the pests.
Don’t share hairbrushes with someone who has lice. Lice can live up to two days away from a scalp, so a louse could survive on the brush and be transferred to your child’s hair.
Don’t share clothing, either. That obviously includes close-to-hair items like hats and hair accessories like barrettes and ribbons, but coats, scarves, and t-shirts could also transmit lice.
Avoid head-to-head contact during an outbreak. Common ways kids are exposed to lice are hugging, dancing, sharing headphones, or playing with each other’s hair.
Don’t use furniture, pillows, or bedding of someone with lice. There’s no need to fumigate your home, according to the FDA. These aren’t bed bugs, and they won’t survive unless they can feed off the scalp, so they will die within a couple days if they end up on the carpet. However, while the person has lice, keep exposure to a minimum by not sharing furniture, bedding, and towels.
The good news: Even if your child ends up with lice, these pests aren’t dangerous and won’t transmit more serious diseases.