Lice are nasty and have such a stigma, an infestation can be pretty embarrassing…but it happens. It doesn’t mean your child is unkempt or uncared for and it doesn’t mean you have a dirty home.
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.
We all hate the idea of using harsh chemicals on our children so here’s one remedy you can try first…make sure you have a good comb on hand just for this purpose, you can find them at the local drug store or online at places like Amazon (ask for “nit” or “lice” combs).
Ready to get rid of them? Here’s what you need to do…
Olive or Vegetable Oil (can also buy special lice shampoo)
Optional: Reading glasses (2x magnify) can help identify the tiny eggs
Instructions for Removal Treatment:
- Completely coat the hair from root to tip with the oil, be very generous with it.
- Put on cap.
- Leave this on for at least 12 hours before shampooing clean.
- Repeatedly run the comb through the hair (slowly). You must remove every single egg 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 head and comb daily for up to two weeks to ensure no more eggs are being laid.
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 hair then while sitting under good light, look closely through the scalp (close to hair shaft) and pick out any eggs you see (they are white or clear and very stubborn to remove). Do this daily. The wet hair helps spot the eggs easier but you can do this while hair is dry.
If you’d rather just use a commercial product, you’ll find special shampoos at the drugstore. Use the same procedure noted above, frequent treatments (follow product instructions), daily combing and nit picking. These tiny insects are designed to cling tightly to the finest hair and can sit under water no problem for hours at a time. You probably won’t see the skittering bugs themselves, but the eggs are easy to spot. At first you won’t notice them but train your eyes to the hair shaft close to the scalp and once you spot one, look for more. They like warm spots like the back of the neck and behind ears but the whole head needs to be examined closely. When I say each hair needs to be examined, that’s not an exaggeration. The longer the infestation, the more eggs there will be.
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 child comes home with it, notify school and friends. Yes it’s embarrassing, but your child is going to 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.
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, comb 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 they aren’t being punished, 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 hair accessories for a couple weeks just to be safe, a 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. You don’t need to worry about checking their fur or keeping them away from the child.
The problem is most prevalent among young children since they pass it 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.
Nit Removal Combs
These special combs are inexpensive and reusable. They are specially made for this purpose, the teeth are stainless steel, fine and close together. The design helps to pull up the eggs as you run it through hair. They are useful on all types of hair (fine, coarse, short, long).
After you’re done with it, soak the comb 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 you a good idea of what to look for, this one is from the brand “Terminator”.
What to do if you yourself have lice and need help removing them: If you don’t have another adult willing to help 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, you may find it possible to do just fine on your own. You won’t be able to examine your head well, but if you use a nit comb over your entire head 2 or 3 times a day, along with special lice shampoo as instructed, this might just get the job done for you. 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 and combing the hair thoroughly.
Neat to know: This has been a problem (or should I say nightmare) for mom’s 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 you’ll find it easily.