All social stigmas aside, lice sucks. Period. End of story. However, there’s an eerie calm that comes over you when you realize you have tiny insects running around in your hair. And by ‘insects’ I mean ‘bloodthirsty bugs’. And by ‘running around’ I mean ‘burrowing into your scalp and bleeding you dry.’
No big deal.
Except it SO IS!
(If you want to skip right to How to Get Rid of Lice, I already wrote about that here. Or scroll waaaay down.)
This Thanksgiving I Am NOT Thankful for Lice
This isn’t my first rodeo. At the risk of sounding repetitive: lice sucks. The last time we had these unwelcome visitors, only two of my kids were affected. So you can imagine the shit show this house turned into when five of us were hit. Thankfully, I had my handy dandy lice comb on hand and a fair bit of knowledge that would get us through the day. Oh, did I mention this happened on Thanksgiving Sunday?
Picture it: Sunday morning. Thanksgiving baking is ready and my husband has the turkey in the oven. Workout is done. After a great morning walk — or was it a run? It’s all kind of a blur — I have my sights set on a corner of the couch with a book and my coffee. But first I shower, because I’m not an animal for crying out loud; I even get dolled up a bit, ’cause, you know, Thanksgiving and all. In fact I am just applying the other side of my face when my eldest daughter comes into the bathroom.
“Mom,” she asks, holding out a handful of hair, “is this a fruit fly or lice?”
Let the De-Lousing Begin! (Not For the Faint of Heart)
Are you freaking kidding me? One look and I know. I just KNOW. And just like I know that little f***er is a louse, I know the day is done. It’s funny how quickly the adulting kicks in, though. Throw up the hair, ditch the ‘nice’ clothes and set up camp in the bathroom. But before I get started with the teen’s long, thick, blonde hair — because that’s at least two-and-a-half episodes of Gilmore Girls — I opt to check the other three kids first. All have lice, all in varying stages of their life cycle and each with varying degrees of Ewwww. Groovy.
Thus, Thanksgiving was spent on the toilet, one kid after the other perched on a stool in front of me. They were relatively patient as I lathered on the conditioner with tea tree oil, separating and combing through each section meticulously. My 10-year old son, however, got increasingly frustrated with each pull of the comb through his thick, coarse hair. So, rather than listen to the endless whining we did what any self-respecting parents of a lice-infested kid would do: we shaved his head. And he liked it.
Don’t Panic! It’s Just a Bloodthirsty Bug Crawling Through Your Hair.
Meanwhile, the teen sat. And waited. I couldn’t understand how my daughter could just calmly and patiently sit there, uncomplaining, as lice scurried around her hair while I checked her siblings. At one point her godfather, who happened to be visiting from out of town, came up to check on the situation and began plucking lice out of her hair while I worked on the other kids. Bet you didn’t know Godparent status came with these perks, eh?
Thanksgiving dinner was served about three hours later than planned and felt like more of a disaster than it actually was. However, the adult stress-o-meter would continue to hover around the don’t-push-my-buttons-or-I’ll-snap-like-a-twig level for about the next two weeks because just when you think the worst is over…it’s not. Not to mention, in a family as affectionate as ours, our kids found it extremely difficult to not hug or cuddle during that time.
After the last of my crew clocked out somewhere after midnight (yes, I did another check at bedtime), I started to feel the itch. I had just collapsed onto the couch, exhausted, with a cup of tea in one hand and a plateful of pie in the other, when I felt my scalp start to itch. Now the thing is, I often have an itchy, dry scalp, so this is normal. And it didn’t actually feel that different. I didn’t necessarily feel anything crawling around, but after the endless combing, the 18 loads of laundry, the bagging and washing and hot-air-drying and vacuuming of the past 12 hours, I couldn’t NOT check.
Quick! Call The Pros!
FML. Forty-two years old and I had lice for the first time in my life. After a few choice F-bombs I finally understood my daughter’s calmness: having lice SUCKS, but it is what it is. I put on my big girl panties and got down to business which meant first, setting up Netflix in the bathroom and then de-lousing myself as best I could. I also vowed to call Lice Squad first thing in the morning.
I phoned Lice Squad on Monday of the freaking long weekend — because, why get lice during normal office hours? — and left a message. They returned my call promptly and booked a home visit for first-thing Tuesday morning. I was checked thoroughly a second time on Friday to put my mind at ease. I can not sing the praises of the Lice Squad team enough. The service was warm, friendly, professional and thorough. My kids and I felt completely at ease and the information they supply helps to quell any anxieties.
Folks, lice happens and no one is immune. Armed with a few simple tools you can absolutely and effectively get rid of lice in your home. Below you’ll find How to Prevent and Get Rid of Lice plus some cleaning tips and facts vs myths. Also, feel free to check out my previous blog post which delves into all the ‘nit’ty gritty. And, if you have the budget but not the patience, I highly recommend securing a visit from a reputable company like Lice Squad, whose mission is to leave you lice-free.
How to Prevent and Get Rid of Lice
Confident I had the whole lice thing figured out — I wrote a whole post about it five years ago — I realized, like most things, education and knowledge on the subject is constantly evolving. For example, did you know lice can actually survive in chlorinated swimming pools? WTF? Prevention is key, naturally, and I wish I were as good at taking advice as I am at dishing it out.
- Pay attention to the ‘Lice Letter’ sent home from school.
- Pay attention when your kids complains of an itchy head (early detection can go a long way).
- Braid or tie-back long hair.
- Don’t share hair accessories, brushes, combs or hats.
- Prepare a mix of water and tea tree oil in a spray bottle (6-7 drops tea tree oil for one cup of water) and mist outerwear, hats, backpacks and even spritz your kids as they head off to school.
- Add a few drops of tea tree oil to your family’s shampoo and conditioner; the oil is a deterrent (squeeze a dollop of shampoo/conditioner and rub in 2-3 drops of tea tree oil or add 2 drops per ounce of shampoo/conditioner directly into the bottle and shake before use).
- Conduct a lice check every 4-5 days.
- Do NOT wash hair often, perhaps twice a week. Lice like clean hair as it is easier to latch onto.
- Discourage sleepovers or kids sharing beds or pillows.
- Don’t feel like nit-picking? Call in the professionals like Lice Squad. You’ll pay a premium, but the peace of mind is priceless.
- Invest in a good lice comb like the Licemeister or the Louse Trap, sold by Lice Squad.
- Buy a huge bottle of generic conditioner as well as pure tea tree oil.
- Prepare the conditioner mixed with tea tree oil (2 drops for every 1 oz) and mix or shake in a bottle (peri bottles are super handy for this). This mixture not only slows down the bugs but also helps loosen the glue cementing the eggs to the hair shaft.
- Apply conditioner mix in sections, massaging in close to the scalp and covering the whole head. Wrap hair in towel or shower cap & sit for 30 mins.
- Set up your ‘station’ in a brightly lit area (sunlight is best).
- Comb the hair in sections no wider than the comb, going from root to tip, wiping comb on white paper towel after every 6-10 passes over the same section. Pay close attention to ‘hot spots’ (the crown or around the hair line, back of the neck).
- Rinse the comb periodically in warm water and wipe on paper towel.
- Bag all garbage and discard immediately outside.
- On the first day I did a repeat check before bed and found more lice so if you’re doing it yourself, be thorough.
- Lice Squad recommended a repeat treatment not more than 4-5 days after the first. I checked daily (though not the full treatment) for the first week, then every four days and will continue for about the next month.
- If you discover YOU have lice have someone else comb your hair.
Household Cleaning — AFTER De-Lousing is Complete
- You need not wash everything. Put all bedding and anything that is heat-safe in the dryer on a high heat setting for 30-40 mins.
- Seal bigger items like throw pillows, jackets or stuffed animals in a bag for 48 hours.
- Vacuum furniture and floors.
- Cover sofas with a sheet which can be put in the dryer at the end of the day.
- Repeat every 4th to 5th day after first treatment.
Quick Facts & Myths According to Lice Squad
- Lice are small grey or reddish brown bugs, 1mm to 4mm long.
- Lice do not hop, jump or fly.
- Live lice live on the human head, not pets.
- They feed on blood and can not survive off the head for more than 24 to 48 hours without snacking on blood.
- They reproduce by laying tear-drop shaped eggs, gluing them on one side of the hair shaft on an angle.
- Viable lice eggs are usually brownish-yellow, never white.
- Nits are the empty translucent egg cases.
- Any product claiming to kill lice or nits is unreliable; the only surefire way to get rid of lice is to kill or remove the eggs.
- It takes two to tango. Female lice need a male to mate and lay 3 to 5 eggs per day with a life span of about 30 days.
- Lice eggs take 7 to 10 days to hatch.
- Nymphs are baby lice; they take 7 to 10 days to be mature enough to mate.
P.S. We are still in the active re-checking stage which includes panicking any time someone scratches their scalp. Got any lice prevention or treatment tips you’d like to share? Drop them in the comments below.