Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
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The Quandary - 11 Sep 2008

My child has headlice and his teacher says he is likely to get re-infected. How can I best keep him nit-free?

Hillary's Advice

All my children regularly caught headlice and one, in particular, seemed to have a magnetic attraction for any passing louse. I used pesticide shampoos, gentler herbal remedies, and gallons of conditioner to make their hair too slippery for the lice to hang onto. For years I spent hours combing out their hair with fine-toothed combs, and using an electric nit comb to zap lice eggs dead.

All I can tell you with certainty is that your teacher is right – the start of the autumn term is bad for headlice, and re-infection is likely. It is really tedious, but there is nothing you can do about it beyond keeping his hair short and being vigilant.

In my experience, pesticide shampoos worked fairly effectively but were worrying to use too often, herbal products were less reliable, and hours of regular combing helped keep problems down, but never entirely at bay.

Today there are new products available which smother, rather than poison lice, but beyond that, I would not like to get into the minefield that is modern headlice management – Quandary has been inundated with messages from treatment manufacturers -- and suggest you Google your way around the subject, avoiding the official-looking sites that so often turn out to be sponsored by drug companies, and starting out with netdoctor or nhsdirect. One reader who is “a mum and a health visitor” suggests, and says to remember that headlice are annoying but rarely harmful.