Warm weather breeds all sorts of insects, and we are trained to protect against most. But what happens when you get the call from the nurse to pick your child up because they are infested with lice?
It is one of the most humiliating experiences ever. But that fades faster than the constant urge to scratch your own head.
Being faced with lice for the second time I am much more calm and collected.
As a lice survivor, here is my best advice:
Cover yourself FIRST
As much as you want to get rid of the bugs, you don’t want them yourself. Bandannas to cover hair, old towels to cover your child, and a file to clean out under your nails when you’re done are crucial to not getting contaminated.
Don’t buy chemical shampoo.
Lice have been treated by the same chemicals since the 1950s and are mostly immune to it. Use a rosemary or tea tree oil shampoo instead.
STOP washing hair
While lice seem like the dirtiest creatures ever, they actually thrive in clean environments. Your clean, shiny hair is a playground for them. You have to wash it, I know, but make sure you clip it up and use plenty of gel and hairspray to block the critters from getting to your scalp. Buns and braids are the best, but pony tails and pig tails work well too. Leaving hair down offers the most exposure to lice.
Buy a Flea and Tick comb from the pet store
Most lice kits come with a nit comb, with special prongs to pull out the eggs, which actually stick to hair strands. But the live bugs get stuck in them so you have to touch them to get them out. The flea comb pulls out all the live bugs with ease. You do have to use the nit comb or pull out the nits by hand to get them all out. I used the comb below with much success.
Grease is the word
The most disgusting fact I came across was that lice can hold their breath under water for 30 minutes. However, home remedies of mayonnaise and olive oil are a better bet than chemicals since the eggs cannot stick to the grease, nor can the bugs breathe in it. I happened to have a bottle of Moroccan Oil in the house, but there are plenty of hair oils that are less edible you can get at the drugstore.
Wash as much as you can, but don’t go crazy
Instructions say wash this, boil that, bag this up and it’s terrifying. DO wash sheets, pillow cases and any other plush toys that could touch hair. DO NOT wash every piece of clothing in the room, or in the house. Unlike fleas, lice do not jump. They must be transferred by contact – hence no hat or brush sharing. Lice cannot live without blood, so once you wash and vacuum surface areas they will die off.
Notify the nurse
Even more embarrassing than being called to collect your kid is the call telling the nurse there is an issue. I think I did that like a pro. Other parents do need to know to look out for signs. In my daughter’s case, she was in a photo booth filled with props for a western-themed dance – lots of hats.
Be that parent
When I saw my daughter trading hats the lice survivor in me cringed and screamed. But it was her moving up dance, and I didn’t want to be that mom. Never again will I hesitate. And she’s totally on board.
NEVER stop checking
Paranoia is the best practice for lice. People can live years without ever knowing they have them. The itch is actually an allergic reaction to the bite. I check hair constantly, and starting my second venture with lice, my scrutiny is what led my daughter to notice right away there was an issue.
Lice are a royal pain to handle, and there is no shame in getting professional help ridding your head of these creatures. But with some time and patience it’s not hard to do it yourself.