Head lice is an unwanted condition for anyone from children to adults, parents, and caregivers. One group in particular often has serious concerns about head lice, and that’s pregnant women. From misinformation and myths around head lice to uncertainty about the safety of certain chemical treatments, it’s normal for pregnant women to worry about head lice.
With the right education on head lice and your treatment options, pregnant women can make the right choices about treating their own head lice or lice in their children. When in doubt, your best bet is to always consult with your physician before beginning any treatments on yourself or your other children.
This article will give you a baseline of factual information that you can use to inform your decisions on lice treatments. Educating yourself on what lice is, how its spread, and what to do if you or a family member has head lice is your first line of defense in effectively treating and preventing lice in your household.
Head Lice Basics
Before beginning any head lice treatments, it’s important to know the basics about this uncomfortable condition. The following facts will give you a good understanding of head lice, what it is, and how it’s spread so you can take the proper precautions and begin treatment right away to avoid a widespread problem.
- Head lice are small, wingless insects that live on the scalp. They lay eggs in the hair and feed off of human blood from the scalp area.
- Head lice are most active at night and around the ears and back of the head near the neck. This is where you’re most likely to experience the itching and tingling sensations that are associated with head lice.
- The most common head lice symptoms are itching or a creeping sensation on the scalp and a red, bumpy rash around the neck and ears. Because head lice are active at night, you may notice that you or your child are more tired and irritable than usual, as a result of a poor sleep from scratching and discomfort.
- Contrary to popular belief, head lice can’t jump from one person’s head to another. Head lice are spread through head to head contact or through sharing hats, helmets, clothing, scarves, hair brushes, or hair accessories with someone who has lice.
- Head lice is a highly contagious condition, and if your child or another family member has lice, you should do thorough checks for each person and treat it quickly to prevent a widespread infestation.
- Even if you’ve had head lice once you can still get it again. If you or your family members experience any of the symptoms of head lice, it’s important to check for it.
- While many people believe that head lice carry disease, this is not true. This means that while head lice are a nuisance and can cause a great deal of frustration, they are not a harm to your or your unborn baby.
- Head lice only live for about 24 hours off the human head.
- There are many treatment options available if you or your child or another family member is suffering from a head lice infestation.
Common Head Lice Treatments
Now that you have an understanding of the facts about head lice and the truth behind some common myths, it’s time to discuss the types of lice treatment options. Head lice is easily treatable yourself at home, or you may opt to hire a professional head lice removal expert to do it for you. Either way, the treatment types are the same.
Most people visit their local pharmacy for an over-the-counter chemical head lice treatment kit if they discover lice on themselves or their children. These kits typically contain a fine tooth metal comb and a pediculicide (a chemical solution that kills lice). Some of these solutions may also contain chemicals that kill lice eggs as well. It is important to understand the dangers and impact some of these chemicals have.
If you see live lice that are moving slowly or are dead, the treatment is working and they can be removed. As it often takes time for the medication to work, you don’t need to re-treat unless you notice more live lice activity after several days or weeks.
If your treatment is successful, ensure that you don’t wash the hair for several days following the application of the solution to ensure that it can fully do its job before being washed out.
In addition to chemical lice treatments, some people opt for more natural methods for getting rid of lice like combing the hair with a heavy application of conditioner or coconut oil. There are fewer studies and evidence on the effectiveness of natural lice treatments. Besides direct solution applications, you can take other precautions around the home like washing clothing or bedding that the affected person has used in the last two days. You can also place non-washable items like pillows, stuffed animals, or hats in the dryer on a high heat setting or take them to the dry cleaner. Because lice can only live for about 24 hours off the human head, items that have not been recently used or exposed do not need to be laundered.
Concerns About Head Lice Treatments and Pregnancy
Whether you’re pregnant and need a lice treatment yourself, or you’re treating a family member, it’s important to address some of the common concerns about pregnancy and lice treatments.
Liquid lice treatments should be used under the approval of your doctor, as it’s uncertain on whether they are safe to use during pregnancy or while nursing. If you or a family member have head lice, see your physician for a proper diagnosis and to determine a course of treatment that will be safe for you and your baby.
As there are many different prescription and over-the-counter lice medications available, there are some that have more evidence on their safety during pregnancy than others. Your doctor will have the knowledge of the latest studies and information about which medications are best for you to use. It’s important to note that these chemical treatments may not be safe for infants under two months old, so it’s recommended to see your pediatrician or family doctor before beginning any treatments on young children.
Ultimately the non-toxic and pesticide free methods should be tried first as they represent the lowest risk.
Best Practices for Treating Head Lice During Pregnancy
Natural lice treatments like wet combing with olive oil, conditioner, or coconut oil may be effective in some cases and are completely safe for pregnant women, nursing mothers, and infants. However, if you find that head lice is recurring, these treatments are not working.
The following best practices are recommended for pregnant women who are treating lice with chemical solutions:
- Always seek approval from your doctor before beginning chemical lice treatment on yourself of other family members
- Avoid the chemical treatments in favor of natural non-toxic treatments
- Wear protective gloves, an apron, and a surgical mask to limit exposure to toxins
- Ask another friend or family member to treat your children, if possible
- Thoroughly clean the room or surfaces where you were using the lice medication after treatment
- Take preventative measures like laundering potentially contaminated items or drying them on high heat to kill lice
- Teach your children and other family members about lice and how to prevent it by not sharing personal items like hats, hair brushes, or clothing with others.
To Wrap Up
While no one wants to have a lice outbreak in their family, it does happen. If you are pregnant and have head lice yourself or other members of your family are affected, it’s important to take action right away, beginning with a call or visit to your physician. From there, you can determine the best course of treatment for your head lice infestation and begin it right away.
The faster you act when treating head lice, the better your chances are of effectively killing lice and their eggs as well as preventing recurrences or spreading lice to other friends or family members. Dealing with head lice is unpleasant and inconvenient, but that doesn’t mean that you or your baby need to be at risk for health complications. There are many options available for treating head lice, so speak with your doctor to learn more about safely dealing with head lice during pregnancy.