No Need To Panic! Here’s What To Do If A Child Has Head Lice

There’s such a negative stigma associated with head lice that an infestation can be oh-so embarrassing…but it happens.

It doesn’t mean a kiddo is unkempt or uncared for and it certainly doesn’t mean you have a dirty home.

One of the reasons an infestation is so dreaded is because they’re so tricky to get rid of. The critters are tiny and easily missed with an untrained eye. If a single egg is left behind, a fresh new crop will hatch.

What causes this? Do the little critters jump or fly around from one person to the next? No, they don’t have wings and only crawl so there must be direct contact to spread. Kids share hats, bump heads at school and have sleepovers at camp, it’s innocent behavior that transfers a thriving infestation from one noggin to the next.

Specially designed shampoos and products will help get the job done, but there are also effective home treatments that are gentler to use on children. Here’s one remedy that can be tried first…make sure to have a good “nit” or “lice” comb on hand just for this purpose, these are found at the local drug store or online at places like Amazon.

Ready to get started? Here’s what to do…(don’t miss all the tips and general notes following the instructions below).

How To Get Rid Of Lice

Materials Required:

Olive or Vegetable Oil (can also buy special shampoo)
Shower Cap
Nit Comb

Optional: A cheap pair of non-prescription reading glasses (2x magnify) can help identify the tiny nits

Instructions for Treatment:

  • Completely coat the hair from root to tip with the oil, be very generous slathering it on.
  • Put on cap.
  • Leave this in place for at least 12 hours before washing and shampooing clean.
  • Repeatedly run the special comb through the hair (slowly). Each and every single egg must be removed and yes, this is very time consuming.

This process serves two purposes: to suffocate the live bugs and to slide the nits off easily.

Repeat process in 7 days. Check and comb daily for up to two weeks to ensure no more eggs are being laid.

If a commercial product is preferred, special shampoos can be found at the drugstore. Use the same procedure noted above, frequent treatments (follow product instructions) and nit picking.

Notes & Tips:

Whether using a home remedy or a commercial product, these tips will help produce the best results:

Watch carefully during the week between each treatment to ensure that there are no more infestations. A missed egg can hatch and produce a whole new harvest. A good idea is to wet the head then while sitting under good light, look closely through the scalp (close to shaft) and pick out any eggs you see (white or clear and very stubborn to remove). Do this daily. The wet strands help spot them easier but the procedure can be done while the noggin is dry.

These tiny insects are designed to cling tightly to the finest strands and can sit under water no problem for hours at a time.

It’s unlikely skittering bugs will be spotted, but the eggs are easy to locate. At first you won’t notice them but train your eyes to the shaft close to the scalp and once one is discovered, look for more.

Where to look: They prefer warm spots like the back of the neck and behind ears but the whole scalp needs to be examined closely. When I say each strand needs to be examined, that’s not an exaggeration. The longer the infestation, the more nits there will be.

They’re only interested in the scalp surface, no checking of hair is required on arms, legs, chest or pubic area.

During The Removal Process

  • Wash all bedding.
  • Bag all stuffed toys (knotted tightly closed and leave bagged for 2 or 3 weeks).
  • Wash all outer garments and hats. Tossing anything that can’t be washed in the dryer for about 30 minutes can help.
  • Vacuum well all carpets, furniture and the inside of vehicles (including headrests).
  • Keep a towel and brush separate from the rest of the family’s use.
  • Have the child sleep alone during this time and using bedding that’s just for them. Be sensitive and ensure they understand this isn’t a punishment, it’s just for now until the problem is resolved.
  • Do not allow sharing of clothes, hair accessories, hats, outer garments, headphones, helmets, etc., during this time. I would bag up all barrettes, clips, ribbons, accessories for a couple weeks just to be safe, a single strand of hair attached to a headband may have an egg that could hatch.
  • These are a human parasite so pets aren’t a problem. There’s no need to check their fur or keeping them away from the child.

The problem is most prevalent among young children since it’s passed so easily from one to another. Sharing hats, costumes, stuffed toys, a hug, all it takes is brief contact for it to pass from one to another. They don’t jump or fly around from one person to another, it’s direct contact that transmits them. A louse usually cannot live off a host (body) for more than 24 hours.

How to know when it happened: Unfortunately chances are you won’t notice anything for the first couple weeks. This means there’s time for the whole family to be infected from one person bringing it home. If your kiddo comes home with it, notify school and friends. Yes it’s embarrassing, but the child will be constantly re-infected if everyone around her at school, daycare and friends have them. Everyone in contact with him or her will need to be on the lookout.

Nit Combs

These gadgets are inexpensive and reusable. They are specially made for this purpose, the teeth are stainless steel, fine and close together. The design enables the eggs to be lifted and pulled up as it’s run through and are effective on all types of hair (fine, coarse, short, long).

One done, soak the tool in hot soapy water, rinse and dry thoroughly then pack in a sealed plastic bag and store away for future use. These are definitely useful tools to keep close by.

The picture on the right gives a good idea of what to look for, this one is from the brand “Terminator”.

Do You Have Them Yourself? Where To Find Assistance

If there’s no other adult around willing to pick through your hair, do a search online for Lice Removal services. Check with local schools too, they may know of someone willing to help (for a fee). Alternatively, it is possible to do just fine on your own. It’s difficult (near impossible) to examine your own head well, but if a nit comb is used thoroughly 2 or 3 times a day, along with special lice shampoo as instructed, this might just get the job done.

Still go through the house, vacuum well, wash bedding and garments thoroughly, do everything instructed above and this will probably be sufficient. It’s important though to be diligent in treating thoroughly.

Neat to know: This has been a problem (or should I say nightmare) for moms for thousands of years. Most of us will have to deal with it at some point or another. Way back in the day, delousing a child was known as a “Mother’s Duty” or “Mother’s Task”. There’s a lovely old painting with this title from the 17th century showing a mother tending to her child’s head. Do a search for it online and it can be easily found.

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    • Jessica

    ~ this is a really good tip!

    An alternative is Crisco, instead of oil… (sticks of the child head better) rinse with Dawn.

    Lice Prevention is a few drops of Tea Tree Oil in your child’s hairspray, conditioner etc. 🙂

    • M. P.

    Put half vinegar half water into a spray bottle. Next cover your child/person with a smock/apron/trashbag so the vinegar doesn’t get onto their skin. Parting small sections of hair at a time, you will spray the roots of the hair/nits. This will cause the glue from the nits to loosen & it will make it a thousand times easier to remove them with a comb. Allow it to sit for a few minutes in their hair or as long as your person can stand it lol. I reccomend paying a little extra money to purchase the fine tooth non plastic version comb because you can boil them & reuse them for the next child/person & then reboil them & save them incase it ever occurs again, which it is always a possibility. ( This was tested by my own own children when I felt I’d lose my mind because I just didn’t have enough hours in the day to sit with each of them & their waist long curly hair!!) IT REALLY WORKS!! <3

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