There Could Be Lice Lurking in Your Kid's Halloween Costume

kid in lion costume
iStock.com/RonTech2000

It seems like the kids are back to school for about 15 seconds before the first lice-outbreak note comes home from teacher. But before you start giving your child's classmate the side-eye, trying to figure out which little snot nose is the reason you're spending your nights in the bathroom elbow-deep in Rid, you should know that the lice might not have come from the classroom. It could have come from your kid's Halloween costume.

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Spending a Saturday morning in Target trying on all the masks and costumes is just as much a fall family tradition as pumpkin picking. And with costumes costing $30 (or more!), you bet my kids are going to wear them out of the store, to the bank, to play dress-up -- bascially their costumes are second skins the entire month of October so I feel like I'm getting my money's worth. We've run into enough Elsas and Batmans mid-October at the grocery store that I know I'm not alone on this. But here we are thinking we're being awesome parents, letting our kids make memories and whatnot, when we're actually exposing them to head lice!

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The problem isn't with the costumes or masks themselves. It's because there is usually an uptick in the number of lice cases in schools in October, which means more kids have it. Those same kids are also on the hunt for the perfect Halloween costume. "We have a lot of people going into stores right now, trying on masks, trying on costumes and trying on wigs," pediatric nurse practitioner Cherie Sexton told CBS affiliate WTOL. Kids who have lice are putting on the same masks and costumes your kids come and scare each other with a few minutes later. See the problem?

Moms who sew their own Halloween costumes are probably feeling pretty smug right now. We don't need your "I told you so." (But if you feel like whipping up an extra princess gown or two, that would be amazing. Size 5.) For those of us who don't have that friend that sews or a fairy godmother on call, there are some things we can do to minimize the odds that our kids will get lice from their Halloween ensemble:

1. Seal your mask, wig, or costume in a plastic bag for 48 hours before wearing it. If any lice are on it, they will die off within 24–48 hours. 

2. Throw your costume in the dryer on high heat for 45 minutes before wearing it (check the care tag first to make sure the material can handle this).

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True, the kids won't be able to continue their tradition of finding the creepiest mask and scaring their dad from behind at the costume store, but it's worth it to make it to Thanksgiving lice-free. And you can always get over your disappointment at not trying on costumes in-store with a piece of early Halloween candy.

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