A mom asked me the other day about whether you could get lice by trying on Halloween costumes. Her kids had tried on various witch hats, helmets, and wigs at a store, and she was concerned that they might be at risk. Unfortunately, the answer is yes.
I admit that, even as a pediatrician, it has been hard to say no to my own son as he begs to try on the latest and greatest Spider-Man costume or my daughter, who is obsessed with Harry Potter, who wants to see herself with Hermione hair. We all get caught up in Halloween excitement, but the problem is that, just as lice can live in baseball hats, football helmets, they can certainly live in costumes and wigs.
And unfortunately, lice are not only a nuisance, but many lice are now resistant to treatments. These “super lice” have mutations that can prevent them against pyrethrin-based pesticides – the active ingredient in most over-the-counter treatments – in up to 25 states according to recent research. Fortunately, there are prescription treatments such as benzyl alcohol lotion, ivermectin lotion, spinosad suspension and malathion lotion (for kids older than 6) that still work if there is resistance. Equally important in the treatment of lice is cleaning sheets, hats, clothes, and stuffed animals – and, of course, checking your child’s hair to make sure the lice are gone and there is no second treatment needed.
The good news in all this? Lice are preventable. So, my advice about the Halloween costumes is to say “no” to trying those wigs and hats. If you do allow your child to try on a head piece, you may want to put a shower cap on your child. This is by no means 100% effective, but may help with prevention. And lastly, during the fun of Halloween night, make sure you remind your kids not to try on other kids’ headpieces. Just like any other hat, or helmet, you never know when lice are being spread.
Here’s hoping that your Halloween is full only of treats – not any of those ‘tricky’ lice!