Head Lice; Treating Lice and Preventing Reinfestation
Preventing Head Lice
There is nothing that makes my skin crawl more than a letter home from my daughters school announcing the presence of lice in their classrooms. It is almost terrifying to pick up the brush and check around in their hair for fear of discovering those little tiny nits that hide so well in a thick head of hair.
I hate lice. We have dealt with it twice in this family and each time it has been an absolute nightmare. Not only because of the time-consuming ritual of pulling out every egg strand by strand, but also the job of cleaning the entire house to be sure you are rid of them for good. Coupled with the physical symptoms though, is also the mental agony of knowing you have something crawling around in your hair and maybe lurking just beneath the pillow you are laying on. The psychological symptoms can be in fact, almost worse than actually having lice, because an imagination can be quite a horrible thing.
There is also the stigma that attaches itself to lice; dirty people get lice, hygienically challenged people get lice and the ever popular among children, ‘Ewww, don’t come near me, you have cooties.’
I have to seriously say that I would prefer a week of gastric flu or a month of sinusitis rather than lice. It is honestly THAT bad. So because of that I have decided to put together a comprehensive list for those who are dealing with lice or who may be dealing with it in the future on how to treat lice in an effective way so as not to have to go through another infestation.
- Check your children’s hair daily. DAILY! It is much easier to pull out a few nits that have recently made a home in your daughters beautiful mane, than hundreds…or God forbid, the actual little bugs that those eggs turn into in 7-14 days.
- Braid long hair every day in two braids. Make them fairly tight so they don’t slip out during the course of the day. Not too tight so that it hurts, but enough to withstand active play. Ponytails are not good enough. Braid that hair. It doesn’t take long and goes a long way in protecting your child and you.
- Lavender oil. You can get it at any pharmacy and though it is not yet proven to deter lice, my daughters and I have been able to stave it off and we use a drop or two behind ears and on the neck, just below the hairline. What do you have to lose by trying it right? If it works, great, if not, well, at least it smells good.
- Reiterate to young children the reasons why they cannot share brushes and hats and scarves with their friends. Tell them daily before they go to school. This little gesture can go a long way in keeping little creepy crawlies at bay.
Lavender Oil to Deter Head Lice
Treating Head Lice
- First of all, if you’ve made the discovery of lice in your child’s hair, it is important to alert the school. I know it can be embarrassing, but it is necessary so that it can be kept under control and so that your child will not get it again once she returns to school. It will be kept confidential so try not to be too proud.
- Secondly, go to your local pharmacy and ask the pharmacist for the shampoo NIX or KWELLADA. It is kept behind the counter and the pharmacist will be very discreet. You may be interested in looking into some natural products and your pharmacist should eb able to assist you with that as well. There are instructions in the box and also a little comb especially made for taking out lice eggs, but I recommend buying another comb because the combs in the box sometimes get bent out of shape from overuse (such as in a thick head of hair) and become useless. Simply ask your pharmacist where they keep the extra products for lice (usually in an aisle) and buy yourself a good metal lice comb and even a flea comb will do the trick because trust me, you will be combing A LOT!
- You can also buy a magnifying glass especially for that to make it easier to spot the tiny little eggs.
- Depending on the stage of development of the lice, I recommend using a straight iron on the hair as a first step. If there are no bugs, straighten hair, making sure to get close enough to the scalp to reach the nits which are situated about an inch and a half from the scalp. Be careful not to get too close to skin so as not to burn, and do not let the iron stay on hair long. Use it as you would normally use it to straighten your own hair. This will help to kill of some of the nits. Probably not all of them, but at least some. NOTE: if your child does not sit well or is squirmy, this is not recommended because of risk of burning. Skip to number 5.
- Wash hair according to the directions on the box of NIX or KWELLADA and take all steps they recommend.
- Towel dry hair gently.
- Place a large tarp or towel under a chair and also one on the table. Set child in chair at a good level (books are great for boosting). Put a movie on the TV for your child because she may be sitting for quite some time if you do a thorough job (which is imperative).
- Separate hair into sections and then start to make your way through each segment of hair with your comb. It is important to make thin segments so that you can see each nit on the hair. They blend in well so be diligent. It only takes one of those things to go unseen to start the nightmare all over. After combing through one segment of hair, wipe comb on humid paper-towel before continuing to next strand to take off the eggs that you just combed. The wet paper towel is so you can see the fruits of your labor, the tiny little nits.
- Do this until all hair has been combed through. Make sure not to miss any strands and take your time. Doing it once the right way though it may take more time is better than three of four times the wrong way.
- Braid hair for the night.
- In the morning, check hair again before school and then every night until you are sure there are no more lice.
- If there are repeat infestations, chances are the treated shampoo is ineffective and you need a new one. Go see your doctor for a prescription.
- Repeat PREVENTION step number 1.
- And finally, if all else fails, there is always the option of shaving your head. You may be gasping right now, but I have actually done it and my hair was thick and long. It was frightening, but its just hair when you come right down to it, and it grew back. Of course I don't recommend doing this to children who will be singled out and embarrassed, but for yourself, if you want to take one head of hair out of the mess, get out the clippers. I did, and wow, what a relief!
HOW TO DISINFECT THE HOUSE
1. Gather up all pillows and two by two (depending on size) throw them in the dryer on high heat for at least 20 minutes.
2. Wash all bedding and exposed clothing in hot water and laundry soap and dry in dryer on high heat.
3. If you own stuffed animals, do the same with them as with the pillows.
4. Get out the vacuum and vacuum mattresses, couches and floors.
5. Buy a NIX or KWELLADA disinfectant spray for mattresses and couches and use according to directions on the back of the product. NOTE: this has been disputed as ineffective, but it seems to do wonders for my psyche just spraying that stuff around. I recommend it.
6. Do a really good cleanup of the house using bleach and soap. This will not only help to eliminate lice laying around that may or may not be alive, but it will ease your overactive imagination that is flashing images of lice laying in wait just to jump on you.
7. Also make sure to disinfect brushes, combs, hair bands etc. with the NIX or KWELLADA products. Or throw them out and buy new ones. It's up to you.
In the end, lice is really just a part of life. A good number of children will have to endure it throughout their lifetime, so try to think that you are not the only parent going through this. And it isn’t about being dirty or unhygienic, so strike that worry off your mental list as well. And make sure that you ask for help if you need it. Its tough to do all the work that is required to evict lice and especially hard if you have other small children to take care of as well. Find out at your local health clinic if they can help if the case is worse than normal or get some family members to help with the kids. Remember, getting lice is as easy as getting the flu so don't be too proud to talk about it.