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I’m Sierra. I live in the Boston area with my family.

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Here We Go Again With The Head Lice

by Sierra on October 14, 2012 · 3 comments

in Uncategorized

A friend just let me know that his kids have lice, so I checked and sure enough, they’re crawling all over me. Since we found this out right at bedtime I didn’t thoroughly check the kids but I found what looked like nits on Rio’s head and have to assume both girls have them too.

Meh. I hate dealing with head lice. At this point I kind of have the routine down; we’ve had them a couple of times. But it’s tedious and demoralizing and I feel icky the whole time we have them. Periodic lice infestations is totally one of my least favorite aspects of living with kids.

I’m at least as stressed about possibly giving them to someone else as I am about us having them in the first place. I’m pretty sure my kids picked them up at a slumber party last weekend, but it’s possible they had them before that. I can’t be certain. But if we’ve seen you in the past week or so, especially if we’ve snuggled you, you may want to check your own heads for lice.

Here are some fun facts about lice, gleaned from the CDC and Wikipedia:

  • Head lice can only live on your head; you don’t have to worry about them getting into any other hair on your body.
  • They’re super hard to spot, especially in thick hair.
  • They’re pretty itchy.
  • Women are twice as likely to get them as men.
  • They die within 1-2 days if they’re not on a person.
  • They’re not hardy at all; many common household chemicals will kill them. Hair bleach, for example. :)

To check for & treat lice, you need a good nit comb, which you have to order online or get from a hair salon – the ones at the drug store are pretty useless. Here are two I’ve used: Licemeister, Licefreee. Comb through your hair with one of these and look for a) live lice or b) tiny nits (eggs) which will be silvery and stuck to the shaft of hair. Both the lice and the nits are very small; you may want a magnifying glass to see them. You can tell the difference between nits and bits of dandruff because nits stick to your hair.

If you have lice, the two main treatments are chemical and oil-based treatments. The chemical approach is the one rec’d by the CDC; you can pick up a good pesticidal lice shampoo at any drugstore and they’re easy to use. You want to do two applications of shampoo, about 8-10 days apart.

The other approach is to suffocate lice by drenching your head in something oil-based. People use olive oil or mayonnaise or any number of things. I’ve had the best luck with Cetaphil skin cleanser, which is cheap and available at any drug store. Here are instructions for that method.

I’ve done the chemical treatment and Cetaphil treatment in conjunction with each other and that got rid of them on the kids. Lice are increasingly becoming resistant to the chemicals, and I’ve found that they don’t work great on their own.

There are a lot of other products on the market to get rid of lice; we tried a few of these and found them to be expensive and ineffective.

With my own hair I’ve taken more of a scorched earth approach and either cut it all off or bleached it or both. Bleaching gets rid of all the lice instantly, in my experience. So I’m off to turn my hair blonde & bug-free. Love you, dear readers. May this scourge never grace your houses.

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  • Tamidon

    I follow the same policy:chemical and cetaphil and lots and lots of picking. It’s easer to get little boys to go for the head shaving approach. The long hair kids wore pigtails for the month after when it was repeatedly going thru their class. Mayo and olive oil just don’t work, and too many folks don’t follow up the chem route with daily combing.


  • keyne

    Once was enough for us, and it was murder getting rid of them on me and the older kid (neither of us is into cutting or dyeing).  You have my sympathy.


  • Brigitte Fires

    After my entire house of 10 people had to get treated for lice and *I* was the  mommy figure that had to do all the shampooing and combing and washing and quarantining and furniture spraying and covering in plastic and ended up with pesticide poisoning out of it, I did a lot of research into head lice before I had to do it all again 10 days later.

    The licemeister comb is the #1 thing I recommend, best $10 I ever spent. Also, apparently coconut oil and olive oil are the only oils that work on them, which is a large part of the reason why folks with kinky-hair heritage tend to not get North American head lice–the products for kinky hair most frequently have olive and/or coconut oil in them (the lice also have difficulty connecting to their hair, just like African head lice has difficulty on European-type hair). So anyway, go to the hair care section marketed toward kinky-haired folks and you will find the right shampoos to use. Our house just switched permanently, but dousing the head in olive oil was a nice spa-like hair treatment and made the combing MUCH easier than combing after the pesticide shampoo.

    You apparently don’t have to use the pesticide furniture spray, just wrap the furniture in plastic drop cloths for about 10 days or so and vacuum afterward, everything should have hatched and died of starvation by then.

    Bonus tip: After I got formaldehyde poisoning treating three houses for fleas, I checked up on natural ways to do that the next time someone had them in my home. Salt the carpets and upholstered furniture, it dehydrates the fleas in every stage including eggs. Salt, brush in with a broom, leave for 24-72 hours, vacuum. Empty vacuum bags and canisters outside to be safe, but we never had a problem after one salting. Only when we had a new carpet and new roommate brought home new pet with new fleas did we have to re-salt. I have no idea if salt in the furniture works on lice, and now I’m curious. Not wishing for an infestation to find out though!


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