No matter how sweet your daughter's Elsa costume might look or how silly your run-of-the-mill pumpkin digs might seem, kids' Halloween costumes are honestly extra horrifying this time of year. Given that lice might be lurking in your kid's Halloween costume, it's safe to say that the spookiness knows no bounds. What's more terrifying than scrubbing bugs from a screaming child's scalp? Pennywise and the Demogorgon can take a back seat for this one.
WTOL in Ohio first reported that Halloween costume shopping gives the lice an opportunity to spread from kid to kid. When families try on wigs, hats, and masks... well, you see what I'm getting at here. Bugs crawl in and out, laying eggs, and infesting any and everyone. For any parent, it's probably the scariest outcome imaginable. Apparently, doctors see an uptick of lice cases around this time of year, all thanks to unknowingly shared costumes.
But, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Cherie Sexton told WTOL, there's no real disease risk with lice; it's just downright annoying. "It's really not a health hazard," she explained to the news outlet. "It's not a sign of poor hygiene. And it's not really spreading disease. It's really just more of a nuisance.” So whereas your kids might not fall ill due to costume-spread lice, anyone who's had lice in their home knows: it's a total pain to get lice out of hair, bedding, blankets, coats, and yes — Halloween costumes.
Lice can survive on non-living hosts for a short period of time, so needless to say, they're down to hang out in store masks, waiting for the perfect scalp to latch onto. Thankfully, Sexton has a solution to help ensure that your costumes aren't actively tainted. For one, as she told WTOL, you definitely shouldn't try masks, wigs, and costumes on in the store. Admittedly, this is a difficult ask, seeing as you want your kids to have the best fit possible. But, if you want to be safe, wait until you get home, then place the costume, wig, mask, and/or hat in a plastic bag for at least 48 hours before seeing if it makes the cut. Alternatively, you could also throw your new purchase in a hot dryer for about 45 minutes. For a real, physical barrier, you might want to put your kid in a swim cap underneath the wig, mask, or hat, so that their actual scalp doesn't touch their headgear; you can also consider bringing a swim cap to the store for try-on purposes.
But the lice nightmare isn't over on Nov. 1. "It can go up for seven days," Sexton stressed to WTOL, "so if your child has been to a Halloween costume party, or they've been to a sleepover and somebody called and said there was somebody with lice there, make sure you check your child for the next [week]," she urges. But by Nov. 8, if none of your kids have gotten lice, you're probably in the clear.
If you find that your kid has contracted lice this Halloween, over-the-counter lice shampoos are your new BFF, along with a comb to pick all of the the lice and nits out. In addition to the scrubbing, bedding and clothing should be taken care of, too, either with a thorough wash or by being kept in a trash bag for a couple of weeks.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "all household members and other close contacts should be checked" if one member turns out to have lice. Prescription lice medications should be applied to the hair and head, and the scalp should be continuously checked for about two to three weeks, with treatments should reinfestation occur.
Yes, lice are creepy, but as with any horror movie: the only way to win is to fight back (with well-researched safety tips, of course).
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