What to do when your child gets lice

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If your kids are in school, I am sure you hear about lice going around all of the time. The very thought of it makes my scalp itch.

This guest blog, by local OC mom, Danielle, is a personal account of her experience dealing with head lice and helpful tips for all of us if God forbid, we find ourselves wondering what to do when your child gets lice. Here is what she writes…

“You are brushing your daughter’s hair and you see something. You wonder if your eyes are playing tricks on you or did you just see something move.  You take a deep breath and comb through the hair one more time and it is confirmed, there are visible live bugs on her head….LICE!

To say that I am infinitely familiar with this tale would be an understatement.  I had never seen or come across lice before.  Like many of you I was not checking for lice and was just going about my merry business.

When this happens you go into a full blown panic not knowing what to do next. Guess what, you are not alone!

I have three kids, a 6 year old (in 1st grade), a 4 year old (in preschool) and a 3 year old (in preschool).  Since my oldest was in kindergarten I had heard about lice going around but I never paid much attention to it.  That was a mistake!

Because I had never dealt with lice before, my first call (upon discovering it crawling around on my daughter’s head…yuck!) was to a friend who has older kids. She told me to go immediately to the pharmacy and get the over the counter lice shampoo.

She suggested Nix over Rid brand shampoo under the guise that Nix would kill the eggs and the live lice.  Just typing this is making my head itch! When I discovered the infestation it was already 7:30 pm and my kids were ready for bed.

Once home from CVS, I immediately followed the instructions on the box and started the shampoo treatment on my 4 year old.  In the process, my other 2 kids fell asleep so I could not shampoo them that night.

After the shampoo I then painstakingly combed her hair with a RID metal lice comb.  This took nearly 2 hours and my poor 4 year old sat there like a champ.  I’ll admit, it was disgusting but I had to keep calm as I did not want to freak out my daughter.  In fact she did not seem phased by the fact that she had bugs in her hair.  The fact that she remained calm made it much easier on me for sure.

The days that followed were a whirlwind.  Immediately the next morning I shampooed my 6 year old daughter’s hair.  However in the interim, I was given additional instructions from my kind friend, who told me that there are professional hair lice removal people.  Who knew?!

I was on the horn with one by 9:45 am and was at her place of business by 12:30 pm.  In the following days I did a ton of research on lice and professional lice removers.

OC lice removal companies 

There are a bunch of companies that deal with lice removal out there.  There are some that come to your home and others that have salons that you can go to for treatment.  The in home companies run on average $95 per hour and the salons are significantly cheaper.  Here are some of the companies I found:  Hair Fairies, Pixie Locks, Hair Angels and Simple Head Lice Solutions.

The company that assisted me was Simple Head Lice Solutions.  They provide house calls or you can go to their salon.  I opted to go to their salon in San Clemente.

I cannot say enough good things about Simple Head Lice Solutions and Jackie the owner.  Her salon was discreet, clean and she was very informative and friendly. I will tell you all some of the nuggets of info she gave me in a minute.

But, going to a professional de-louser is not enough. Here is where the emotional roller coaster sets in!

How to de-louse your home

In additional to de-lousing your hair you have to de-louse your home.

I had no clue what I needed to do, or that lice are called louses.  First a louse can live off your head for 24 hours.  They cannot survive longer than that without a blood source.  Gross!  Their eggs require a warm scalp to grow and develop and can also only last 24-48 hours off your head.

Knowing this, what do you need to do to de-louse your home? 

First you have to wash all the clothes you wore or had contact with within the last 48 hours.  You do not need to rewash your entire closet!  Next you have to strip all the linens and mattress covers off your bed and wash in hot water and then put them in the dryer for at least 20 minutes on hot.

Most lice information sites also tell you to wash your pillows, which I of course did as well.  For the pillows you cannot wash you can place them in quarantine aka a garbage bag for 48 hours although most info says they should stay in the bags for two weeks.

After you wash everything, and I mean everything, you have to vacuum your mattress, couch, carpet and anything else you can think of that hair falls on.  The purpose of this is to capture any stray hair strands that may have fallen off that hold eggs. Do not forget to vacuum the car seats!!!!

Next you need to wash or discard your hairbrushes.  I opted to toss all my hairbrushes, combs, hair rubber bands (which I think looking back was a bit extreme), and I bagged and quarantined all fancy hair-bows and headbands.

After vacuuming everything and completing our treatment at Simple Head Lice Solutions, I also covered my couch with a sheet for 2 days and the car seats with towels that I changed daily.  You can never be too cautious.  This de-lousing adventure will take hours/days to finish everything.  I swear I discovered 3 new gray hairs by the end of the week!

Helpful tips on how to avoid head lice: 

Ok, helpful tidbits I discovered along the way….first lice hate the smell of mint.  

Jackie at the salon suggested finding a mint or tea tree oil based shampoo.  Paul Mitchell has a tea tree oil shampoo or you can just buy tea tree oil (they sell it at Trader Joes) and put it in your regular shampoo.  I discovered a product called Fairy Tales Hair Care that is designed for especially for kids and to help deter lice.

I bought the shampoo and leave in conditioner after reading many posts online from Moms about what products are best to use.  Jackie also told me to go buy a 3 oz water spray bottle ($1.19 at Target in the travel care items section) and boil water and then let cool.  Once cool add 2 drops of peppermint oil (I found this at Whole Foods) to 1 oz of water and spray kid’s hair, shoulders and backpacks before they leave the house each day.

Next, have your kids wear their hair tied back every day.

But there is no cure-all guarantee to avoid head lice.  Lice can come back even if you douse your kid in mint oil daily.

Check your kids once a week!

To ensure your whole house does not get infested, you should invest in a good metal lice comb and do head checks once a week. 

To keep your kids from screaming you can do this after a shower and when their hair is wet and leave in condition has been applied.  FYI, you need to clean/sterilize the combs after each use (and after each person it is used on).  You can soak the comb in rubbing alcohol for ten minutes or place the comb in a glass baking dish and pour boiling water over the comb and let sit for ten minutes.

I wish I did not know this much about lice.  But now I am armed with the information and know what to do to best keep these pesky things away.  If you need additional information there are a bunch of informational websites on the internet or you can call one of these de-lousing companies.  Calling Jackie was the best thing I could have done!”

Thank you so much Danielle for this wealth of information! It is good to be on the lookout early, and you told me so many things I never would have known.

Anyone else dealt with head lice? Do you have more helpful tips for us? Please comment!!

[Photo credit: CDC website]

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