The Buggy Halloween

By Pam Henderson

As a child, I always preferred to go trick-or-treating on a full stomach. That is, a full stomach of Reese’s Peanut butter Cups, Sweetarts and Milk Duds.

While parents and researchers may be at odds over whether candy makes a child hyper, sugar bugs are not the only monsters invading our children during the  Halloween season. There is another bug that is just as creepy, just as set on raising havoc. You know it – head lice.

Just hearing the words, head lice, makes my skin crawl. I’m sure that I’m not alone in that feeling. Just about every parent has had a child, child’s classmate, child’s friend or relative who has had head lice, and it sends families into sheer panic. Fear of head lice spreading like wild fire through the student population often caused schools to send an “infested” child home. The American Academy of Pediatrics reminds us, though, that they as nasty as they are, head lice are just a nuisance and not a sign of a serious disease or poor hygiene. More recently, the AAP has urged schools to abandon their lice policies because healthy children  should be in school. Yes, a child can have lice and still be healthy.

We might be good as parents and caregivers about teaching head lice prevention to our children by warning them not to share hair brushes and hats. Unfortunately, we may not be thinking of Halloween costumes as a breeding ground for head lice. WBZ-TV News in Boston said that physicians see more cases of head lice at this time of year than at any other – because of Halloween.

When you think of the hundreds of boys and girls who cannot resist trying on the wolf faces, witch hats, princess wigs and Jason masks, how can there not be head lice and a host of other germs swarming about looking for the next victim? Head lice don’t take a holiday from being a nuisance just because it’s Halloween. And, boys and girls typically don’t give much thought to the fact that possibly hundreds of children before them have tried on the same mask and wig in the costume aisle.

With that being said, you may want to take some preventive measures to minimize the risk of head lice being the unwelcome guest at your trick-or-treating this year. Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Cherie Sexton from Oregon, Ohio told CBS affiliate WTOL that the risk of infestation can last for up to seven days after coming into contact with someone or something carrying lice.

Health officials have a few tips to make sure the Halloween horror doesn’t include head lice. Before wearing your costume or wig, putting it into a sealed plastic bag for 48 hours will kill any lice, which die within 24-48 hours. Putting any dryer-friendly costumes in the dryer on high heat for 45 minutes will also get rid of the critters.

If your child is scratching his head as Halloween draws near, and it’s not because he or she hasn’t found the perfect Halloween costume yet, it may be head lice. Lice are typically visible with the naked eye. Check with your pharmacist or physician for the best treatment for your child. It’s not horrifying or harrowing. It’s just a nuisance – kind of like getting raisins in your trick-or-treat bag.