When The Lice Come for YOU

We survived a full eight years of daycare and public school before BOOM! On the last day of school last year, someone came home with an extra special parting gift. Thanks a lot, Arkansas!

I’ve read up on lice before. Every time I color my hair my head itches for days, and the first few times I panicked. I read all the articles that said don’t freak out, don’t be ashamed, that it’s not a sign of uncleanliness, bla, bla, bla…. I’ve heard about friends’ experiences and given silent thanks that it wasn’t us.

I realize that every kid will probably get lice at some point. I’m not at all ashamed that mine did. Heck, I got them too, and I know I shower regularly. However, even having all the good info, I freaked out a little.  

As we begin the back-to-school season, here is some of my new-found lice knowledge, just for you…Just in case you want to arm yourself with information (and if you’re really proactive, a few products) ahead of time.

If you think it might be lice, it probably is.

Don’t kid yourself. If your precious offspring has never had dandruff before and suddenly has an itchy head and some little white “flakes,” it’s probably not dandruff.

Five girls on our street (Plus me, hooray!) shared in the end-of-the-year-lice-extravaganza. Who knows who had it first? Who cares? They all shove their heads together on a daily basis, share and share alike.

I knew that it was around, but when my daughter started saying “My head itches,” I began checking her hair on a daily basis and telling myself that the few little white things I saw were just dandruff.

They weren’t.

You don’t need to kill them, you just need to remove them.

There is no need to douse anyone with chemicals, as temping as that will sound to you. You just need to remove the lice and nits. My sweet neighbor, who was not participating in her first lice-rodeo, calmly handed me a bottle of lice foam (Not totally organic, but think rosemary, tea tree and some other stuff to unstick the nits) and a steel nit comb. You can find both of these items online or at the big makeup/hair supply stores. You also need some of those clips your hairstylist uses. Buy the cheap ones because you are going to want to throw them away when it’s all over!

After that you simply plop the child in front of some sort of electronic device, cover their head in foam, and start combing out the hair in tiny little sections. I won’t bore you with a complete explanation, the products come with instructions. Just know that this will take you 1-3 hours depending on how long of hair you are dealing with.

You need backup!

I remember years ago seeing a friend the maddest she had ever been because her husband was away on a ski trip and all three of her beautiful, long-haired girls got lice. At the time I understood how that would be frustrating, but now I realize that I didn’t get it AT ALL.

Beyond the 1-3 hours of comb outs per person, you also need to wash anything a lice-infested head (or hair) could have touched. Stop and think about that for a moment…hats, scarves, book bag straps, clothing, sheets, pillows, towels, couch cushions, decorative pillows, brushes, combs, hair accessories. You also need to vacuum carpets and floors since stray hairs with nits still attached might have fallen there.

Tell anyone currently in your house to clear their schedule for the next 2 days. If it’s just you, call on anyone who owes you a favor!

Everything I read said not to drive yourself crazy, live lice can only live 24-36 hours without a human host, but I read that nits can take up to 2 weeks to hatch and then re-infect, so I drove myself a little crazy. I don’t want to be overly dramatic here, but after two days I was physically and emotionally exhausted.

Some husbands are not great at combing out hair and you CAN get professional help

As I mentioned before, I was also lucky enough to host some lice. So after I combed out both of my girls’ heads, I sat myself down and put my husband to work. Sadly, his strategy seemed to rely more heavily on pulling out my hair with the steel comb, rather then just removing the nasties.

A week later, when my head was still itchy (Just psychosomatic, it turned out) I decided to seek professional help.

Did you know that people have businesses that specialize in lice removal? Yes, that’s a thing! The only lady anywhere near me was about a 40 minute drive. She charged $15 for a head check and then around $100 to do a comb out if necessary. In my opinion, the money and long drive were worth the piece of mind to know that we were lice-free and much better than going back to my husband, the hair ripper.

The delightful lice-lady was the one who told me that you don’t need to kill, just remove. She also cautioned that lice can hold their breath for 8-12 hours, so to be careful of home remedies like oils or mayonnaise.

You probably can’t do that much to prevent lice

I’ve been following my kids and their friends around all summer saying “Remember, Keep your heads to yourselves.” It doesn’t seem very effective.

If you’ve ever seen how many schools store coats and book bags in classrooms, you will understand how lice spread like wildfire.

And once you’ve had this glorious experience you become hyper sensitive to how often your kids are rubbing their little heads all over you, the furniture and other people.

I did add some rosemary and tea tree oil to everyone’s hair products. Does that work? Who knows! It makes me feel better.

Ultimately, it seems like the best prevention is just to be prepared. You may want to buy some foam and a comb to have on hand, because if your luck is anything like mine, you’ll find the little critters at around 8:45 p.m. on a school night.

Happy hunting!

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