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Scratching the surface of lice treatments

The kids are going back to school, so you know what that means: it’s head lice season once again. Time to start tying your daughter’s hair into a bun tighter than a Russian gymnast’s.

But this time around, you’re not going to freak out when that little flyer comes home saying someone in your child’s class has been spotted with the little buggers because you’re going to be prepared to deal with the problem.

Lice spreads by head-to-head contact, when a bug crawls from one child’s hair to another’s. It doesn’t get around as easily as you’re probably imagining it does. The thought of little bugs walking around on your scalp, laying eggs and feasting on your blood is undeniably icky. But lice are not as intimidating once you know how to prevent and treat them. I’m going to teach you how, and for less.

Are you itchy yet? Me too. Let’s do this.

• The best way to save money on lice-repelling shampoos may be to not buy them at all. The Federal Trade Commission has sued products like Lice Shield for false advertising because there’s no evidence they work. If it makes you feel better to use a product like Fairy Tales that claims to repel lice, use the cheaper versions at Sally Beauty Supply, which contain the same ingredients.

• If you do end up with the creepy crawlies, you’re going to feel an urge to go through your house and either A) throw everything out or B) give yourself an aneurysm scrubbing and disinfecting everything. Don’t. Lice depend on nice sumptuous scalps for food and warmth and can only survive for a week (or likely much less) without them. I talked to a girl who threw out hundreds of dollars of hair bows, stuffed animals, pillows and linens, shaved her sons’ heads and chopped her daughter’s hair, then found out later it was all unnecessary. Oops.

Don’t spray your home with expensive chemicals, either. They don’t work and they’re more harmful than any lice that might (improbably) be hanging around.

Just do your normal housekeeping routine. Wash and dry linens on high heat. Hats and pillows can be thrown in the dryer for an hour on high heat. Toys or other things that can’t be laundered can be bagged and stored someplace cooler than 74 degrees for a week or two.

• Prescription chemical pesticides like Nix and Rid don’t kill eggs and only kill a portion of live bugs – those superlice you incessantly hear about. That’s OK, because those products are expensive and, according to Consumers Union, can be neurotoxic carcinogens. Instead, kill the lice by soaking the hair in amber Listerine, then covering it in a shower cap for an hour. Wash it out and rinse with vinegar.

• Combing is absolutely key. Go ahead and splurge on a good, metal lice comb, like the Fairy Tales Terminator ($11.89 on Amazon). Comb the hair in sections, making good contact with every part of the scalp and hair. This is where the battle is won.

• If you want, load the kids’ hair with conditioner, then send them to bed with a shower cap. The thick, sticky conditioner won’t smother any leftover bugs, but it will keep them from traveling and mating overnight. Do a bonus, quick rinse and comb in the morning.

• Don’t ever feel embarrassed about getting lice. It has nothing to do with hygiene or household income. If it did, Western New York’s first professional lice treatment facility wouldn’t have opened in the fancy schmancy Williamsville-Clarence area.

Got consumer tips or questions? email, tweet @discountdivasam.

Don’t ever feel embarrassed about getting lice. It has nothing to do with hygiene.

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