The best way to prevent head lice is to avoid contact with hair, clothing items, combs, and soft furniture or toys that may be infected with lice, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Direct contact with infested hair is the most common way the parasite spreads.
Children often play in close proximity to one another and share items such as hats, helmets or hair accessories. This increases the spread of lice at schools, sleepovers, camps, playgrounds and sporting events. Storing personal items separately can reduce the spread of lice, explains the CDC. Children should be reminded frequently not to share items.
Lice can fall out of the hair and land on furniture, carpet or stuffed animals. The chance of getting lice this way is small because the lice can only survive a day or two off the body. However, the CDC still recommends avoiding contact with furniture, carpet or pillows if someone in the family has lice. Washing bed linens, clothes and other washable items in water at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit kills any lice on the items. Non-washable items should be sealed in a bag for two weeks, per the CDC.
Some products containing natural oils, such as tea tree, lemongrass, rosemary and eucalyptus, claim to prevent lice infestations. These products usually aren't regulated or tested by the Food and Drug Administration, so their effectiveness is unknown. They may even irritate the skin or lungs and be toxic, according to Mayo Clinic.