If you have school age children then, as night follows day, you will get head lice. These disgusting little parasites have been drinking the blood from our scalps since time began, so they deserve some respect. But you still have to kill them as they won't go away on their own.
✤ Lice are transmitted when your little darling puts his or her head next to someone else's little darling. Girls are more likely to get head lice because they snuggle up to each other more. The cleanliness of hair is irrelevant and lice can't infect you from pillows or towels.
✤ Don't treat the lice unless you see a live one. Eggs do not count because you can't kill them. But always treat the lice unless you want to become the most hated parent in the playground.
✤ You can remove lice by wet combing using a fine-toothed comb but it takes dedication. You must spend half an hour doing it every third or fourth day for two weeks. The BMJ's clinical evidence says that one study found that six in 10 people who did this got rid of all their lice after 15 days.
✤ My family favourite is a treatment called dimeticone (trade name Hedrin), which is not an insecticide, although we have nothing against them. Made from silicone, it coats and drowns the pesky lice so they can't become resistant to it – as they can with insecticides. You need to carry out two treatments (to kill the second batch of lice that hatch after a week) but it doesn't smell too bad and leaves your hair lovely and glossy.
✤ Insecticides (such as malathion, permethrin and phenothrin) do smell and you need to make sure you use enough (one whole small bottle per person – you mustn't skimp). Keep it on overnight – don't use the ones that you rinse off after 10 minutes because they are not as effective. Apply it generously from the scalp and roots of the hair down to the tips. Don't light up a cigarette as not only is smoking bad for you but it can set the lotion alight. Again you need to repeat an application after seven to 10 days to kill off any newly hatched lice. There is some resistance to these insecticides.
✤ Some parents like to smother their children's heads with tea tree oil or citronella to prevent lice from settling but there is no evidence they work and they can irritate the scalp.