Because lice can travel from one head to another, getting rid of the bugs and nits right away can keep them from spreading to other children and family members. But eliminating lice isn't always easy.
Lice-killing shampoos, called pediculicides, might sound convenient, but they're not safe for babies or toddlers and probably not very effective, either. Even on older children the use of these shampoos is controversial.
Many parents and experts say lice have become resistant to the products. And some parents are uncomfortable with the idea of putting pesticides on their child's scalp and hair.
• Use your fingers, or a nit comb if your baby has enough hair to warrant it. The NPA sells a comb called the LiceMeister, designed according to the latest research. With rounded teeth nearly twice as long as other lice combs, it gets all the way through thick hair without painful tugging. You can order one from the NPA's website or by calling (888) 542-3634 in the United States.
• Work in a well-lighted area to make the nits and lice easier to spot. Some parents say the best place is outdoors in the sunlight, weather permitting. A strong pair of nonprescription reading glasses, available at most drugstores, can be an invaluable tool.
• Nits more than half an inch from the scalp are usually empty shells that don't need to be removed — but you'll probably want to get rid of them anyway.
• Check all other family members (adults and kids) for lice and nits as well, and follow the same removal procedure as soon as you spot trouble. There's no need to treat pets, because human lice don't live on animals.
Parents have tried various other remedies with mixed success. Some say they've gotten rid of the pests by covering their child's hair with vegetable oil or mayonnaise for several hours, then washing it out thoroughly. This seems to suffocate the lice, preventing them from laying more eggs.
Be very cautious about using any home remedies on your baby. If you're in doubt, ask your baby's doctor what she thinks.