No! Anything but nits…
The return to school brings many joys to parents – joys such as time to think, a tidy house, and consistency and routine. However there are some things that are inherent in large groups of people with only beginner level hygiene skills. The most persistent and frustrating of these is nits. Like wearing a hat of shame, a nit infestation will undermine your confidence faster than a negative parent/teacher interview can.
And while there are numerous chemical nit treatments available that will give fast results, the common consensus is that these results are short lived and, in the long run, expensive.
To better understand the nits on our children’s heads, here is an info graphic showing the life-cycle of the nit:
On the surface, beating nits appears to be a simple task. Nits (or head lice) have a life expectancy of about 30 days. They can only survive for 24 hours away from the head, and they prefer clean damp hair. They are small and can be crushed by a human fingernail, killed by relatively harmless chemicals, suffocated by olive oil or stunned by cheap hair conditioner and combed out.
Given the high level of intelligence and grim determination displayed by mothers of infested children, you would think nit eradication would be a no-brainer. However grim determination and high intelligence are poor weapons against the illogical resilience of the almighty nit. The only way to beat them is to never ever join them – if you can get your child’s head free of them through hard work, liberal dousings of conditioner, olive oil and chemicals along with a 30 day embargo on contact with other children, then you stand a fighting chance of keeping them at bay during the term.
Once your child is nit-free:
Boys – keep hair short and douse DAILY with a solution of water and tea tree or eucalyptus oil (the National Nit Association refuses to divulge which is the more effective, so use both). If your eyes aren’t watering, the solution isn’t strong enough. The shorter the hair the less attractive it is to the average nit.
Girls: the hair should be as short as possible, or tied back and plaited. This is KEY to keeping nits from taking up residence in little girls’ heads. Girls tend to spend more time with their heads touching each others than boys do. Pull the hair back very firmly and braid or plait tightly. Then douse in the tea-tree/eucalyptus oil solution every morning before they walk out of the house.
Do not wash your child’s hair more than once a week. The more oil and grime, the less attractive the head is to nits. Wash once a week on a Friday (so the hair has 2 days to oil up before school on Monday) and comb the head with a metal nit comb. With sustained diligence and no small measure of luck, you could even make it to the end of term nit free!
If you are one of the rare families who have never encountered nits – home schooling is strongly recommend.
Camille Blyth is the author of The Wilderness Years, a parents’ survival guide – the must read parenting book of 2014 – available from Berkelouw Books in Sydney and via Amazon. She is also the creator of The Family Beast where she celebrates the randomness of family life, the dullness of housework, and a particular loathing of the kitchen.