What to do when your kid has lice (the lousiest experience of all)
*Warning: may cause psychosomatic head scratching.
The six year old would not stop itching her head. Not a minute passed without her scratching her chlorine-sopped brown hair like crazy. A horrifying thought entered my head as I watched her fingers attack her head during her swim lesson she has lice.
I jumped on my smartphone and Googled lice, trying desperately to hide my screen from the eyes of other pool parents. Lice is not something I recommend you Google unless your child truly has lice. It is disgusting. I started counting down the minutes until her lesson was over, so I could rush her home to investigate.
Somehow I escaped lice as a child, teacher, and mother until now. I had no idea what to look for and how to treat it. Google helped in identifying the lice white eggs (nits) that stick near the roots of hair and brown or white crawling critters.
It is an unsettling experience to watch small insects crawling through your childs hair. I wanted to slip into a pool of disinfectant and not come out until all the lousy creepy crawlers were gone.
Let me break it down for you. If your child gets lice, there is no direct easy way to treat it. The process will be long and painful. It will suck.
Here are a few tips and treatment options I learned during a long and arduous three-week journey to rid those little f*%$ers. I am by no means an expert, but this is what I do know:
1. Stay calm.
Feel free to scream bloody murder inside your head as much as you want, but keep your composure around your child. Lice can be traumatic for the child, so you want to remain calm as you explain what lice is and how you need to treat it. My six year old said she was nervous and scared, so I tried to be very matter of fact and reassuring as we went through the process.
Lice are resistant to some over the counter treatments, and prescription treatments from the pediatrician can be very expensive and toxic. One natural treatment involves slathering the hair with olive oil or mayonnaise overnight in a shower cap to suffocate the lice and then combing them out the next morning.
The best treatment we found was Licefreee Spray. Stock up on two or three bottles. Licefreee is a saline-based non-toxic treatment. It smells like black licorice, which is more pleasant than the chemical based treatments too. Spray every inch of your childs hair and leave it in a shower cap overnight to suffocate the lice. What makes this treatment better is it scratches the exoskeletons of the lice and surface of the eggs (nits), thereby killing them unlike other natural or chemical treatments.
Another treatment is effective is using a hair straightener. The heat will kill lice and nits.
Some parents choose to buzz a childs hair or cut it short. This helps a lot. But our six year old has never cut her hair since she was a baby. It is almost down to her waist. We let her decide, and she wanted to keep it. It is easier, but not necessary to cut or buzz hair.
3. Comb like its your job.
Get a small-toothed lice comb. Its easier to comb hair out when it is wet. You need to separate an inch of hair at a time and comb through it. My six year old has hair down to her waist, so this took anywhere from one to two hours each sitting. After combing through each 1-inch section, I braided it and secured it with a plastic band to keep it out of the way. Wipe comb after each section onto a strip of paper towel and toss in a plastic trash bag. You can soak the comb in rubbing alcohol or hot water and soap after each use. Be sure to check hair for lice and comb every day for two weeks until there is no sign of lice or nits.
4. Quarantine the stuffies.
This was the most traumatic part for the six year old. All of her stuffies went into trash bags quarantined to the garage for two weeks. You can toss a stuffed animal in the dryer every day for 30 minutes, so we let her keep one. You can also store a stuffed animal in the freezer overnight. You decide which is more humane.
Wash all bedding, towels, and clothes the child may have had contact with in hot water. It may be easier to go to a laundromat than try to manage this at home. It will save you time. We ran ten dryers at once between comforters, blankets, towels, and clothes at a local laundromat.
6. The dryer is your friend.
You dont have to wash bedding every night, but I would throw bedding, towels, hats, and jackets in the dryer for 30 minutes every day to kill any possible lice or nits.
7. Suck it up.
Vacuum surfaces like couches, rugs, car upholstery, or car seats your child has had contact with to avoid contracting lice again. You do not have to go wild and crazy vacuuming every day, as lice or nits will not live long on these surfaces.
8. Tea Tree Oil.
Find a shampoo and conditioner that has a tea tree oil base. Tea tree oil will not cure lice, but it is a great preventative deterrent. Use this on your child and everyone else in the family for lice prevention.
Teach your child about lice prevention. Not all schools have policies of notifying parents and guardians about lice or even doing regular lice checks. If your child has long hair, put it in a bun, ponytail(s), or braids. Tell your child not to share hairbrushes, combs, or hats to prevent the spread of lice. Do regular spot checks once a week so you can catch lice early if it reoccurs. Lice also hate hair gel and hairspray, so those are effective barriers for preventing lice.
10. Be honest.
It is embarrassing when your child gets lice, but it is a common right of passage that many children get. You do not want to be responsible for spreading lice to others. If friends or family want to come over or invite you over, let them know what is going on so they can take preventative measures or reschedule.
11. Pay someone.
If you are lucky enough to live in a city with lice mobiles or lice clinics jump on it. It is much faster and less painful if you have the economic means to pay for lice specialists to do the work. This was not an option in our small city of Burlington.
12. Let it go.
You will sometimes need to let your child watch hours of television while you come out lice and nits. Other chores may need to go by the wayside, while you focus on ridding the house of the lice problem. Take several deep breaths and tackle it one louse or nit at a time.