Wet-combing your child's hair is better than a visual inspection for detecting active head lice infestation, according to recent study in the Archives of Dermatology. German researchers compared the two methods on 304 students, ages 6 to 12, reports U.S. News & World Report. The researchers found that wet-combing identified active infestations in 90 percent of the cases, compared with about 29 percent for visual inspections. However, visual inspection was more accurate in identifying previous infestations—86 percent vs. 68 percent. "Wet combing is the only useful method if active infestation has to be ruled out," said researchers.
To wet comb, we recommend first coating your child's hair and scalp with any regular hair conditioner, then combing it out with a nit comb, available in most drug stores. Repeat this four times, with a three-day break in between each session. If you find that your child has head lice, here are some steps you can take:
- Don't be alarmed. Head lice are very common.
- Tell people you or your child has close contact with. They can then check and, if necessary, treat their hair or their children's hair. Head lice spread easily in families and schools.
- Tell your child's teacher. The teacher can then advise other parents to check their children's hair and treat them if necessary. Many schools have a no-nits policy.
- Check your child's hair regularly for head lice, using a special fine-toothed comb. It's much easier to get rid of head lice before they've had a chance to multiply.
- Use a fine-toothed comb for everyday purposes rather than a brush on your child's hair. Combs are better at pulling out head lice, so you will be able to detect them more quickly.
It's important to note, head lice will not clear up on their own, so you shouldn't ignore them. You should make sure they are treated right away. See our Treatment Ratings (subscribers only) for more on wet-combing and other treatments for lice.