Head Lice – The Parent Perspective0
Nobody wants to think their child can get this but unfortunately when someone in a school gets it, it is likely to spread to other children if it is not treated. When you see the standardized note come home from your school or preschool that says “a child has lice”, take it seriously and do a full head check to make sure your child does not have it. It can be very hard to see.
Children need to be thoroughly checked by their parents several times a week outside in broad daylight for lice as a preventative measure. They also need to be told again and again not to share any personal items such as hats, jackets, hairbrushes, scarves, headbands, barrettes, hats, helmets, headphones, anything that goes on the head with other children.
My advice is to just assume that your child is always exposed to lice…which isn’t that far from the truth since they are often sharing hats and hair accesories. Use products in your child’s hair that lice don’t like and hope and pray that lice don’t get resistant to that too. Also, passing along the knowledge onto our children about lice and how they get it is important for them to know and understand. Remember, this is not a stigma, it is life. And life is so much easier without lice. I am speaking from experience. It takes hours to go through the whole process of checking your children, cleaning your house and more.
If head lice is found, this is what you should do:
- Call her school and all of the parents who your child plays with. Communication is key. Chances are that if your child has it, so does another child. Do not be embarrassed. You are not dirty and are not a bad parent. Lice actually prefer clean heads because it gives them better access to the blood; gross but true.
- If you do not already have one, buy a nit comb immediately. Not the plastic ones that come with the over the counter lice treatments, you need the metal nit comb.
- Look through everyone’s hair in the house. Treat everyone’s hair in the household with a lice treatment. I recommend the natural ones, like Fairy Tales. Talk to a pharmacist or your pediatrician. After you have treated everyone, the next step is to get a magnifying glass and the nit comb and start combing through the hair. Do not assume that if you use the shampoo it is all gone and that’s it. It’s not. Go outside with a towel wrapped around your child’s shoulders and start combing. Do not comb inside the house as lice can fall off while combing and then they are on the floor of your house ready to be picked up by the next family member. Eggs, known as nits, are cemented onto individual hairs (tiny oval shapes), they cannot be flicked off, they are hard to get off of the hair.
- When combing, you must break the hair into small sections at a time by clipping the other hair up and going through each section with the nit comb to make sure that you get all of the eggs and live lice. Start combing at the base of the scalp outward to the end of the hair. After each section, make sure that you rinse the comb in hot, soapy water to get any eggs or lice out of the comb before beginning a new section. This whole process can take hours. I once spent 5 hours doing this with my daughter’s hair. I thought I was going to lose it emotionally. It is imperative that every single last egg is eliminated or else you are prone to getting another infestation all over again. Check your child’s hair with the nit comb daily until it is gone and then continue weekly for the next month.
- Next is the house cleaning. Brace yourself. You have to clean everything, and I mean everything. Anything that your child has been in contact with must be cleaned with hot, soapy water in the washing machine and dried on high. This means that all of the rugs need to be washed, carpet thoroughly vacuumed everyday, bedding washed, mattresses vacuumed, couches vacuumed, car seats and seat belts all vacuumed, all chairs wiped down and vacuumed, floors mopped, all stuffed animals put into plastic bags and sealed away for at least 2 – 3 weeks (I personally recommend at least a month and then wash and dry them when you want to bring them back), bathrooms thoroughly cleaned, bath towels and rugs, all pillows that can be washed need to be washed and dried and those that can’t be washed, put in a hot dryer for 20 minutes. Throw away all combs and brushes and hair accessories and buy new ones (if you do not throw them away, make sure to seal them in a Ziploc bag for a few weeks. Seal up headphones as well. All of this is imperative as lice can live off of the human body for up to 4 days. Some literature says only 2 – 3 days but more and more they are finding that they can live on carpet or upholstery fibers and dead skin cells, etc for longer periods of time. I tend to lean on the cautious side so I assume they can live for up to 5 days and treat it that way. All clothes need to be washed and dried and the hamper needs to be either replaced or not used for 3 weeks. All counter surfaces and tables need to be wiped down. The insides of the dressers should also be cleaned. I’m a “don’t take any chances” kind of mom when it comes to these parasites. They are not easy to get rid of and can become a very serious problem if they are not completely eradicated. Now, not only do all of the children’s items need to be washed, etc, so do the parent’s. This is a human problem, not just a kid issue.
- All of the above needs to be done until the lice is completely out of your child’s head and your home. The magnifying glass and nit combing needs to still occur for at least a week every day even after all of the lice are gone. A reapplication of the lice shampoo that you used the first time needs to be reapplied 7 – 10 days after the first treatment. I would also recommend that the hair is check daily for the next 3 weeks.
Anytime you see your child scratching their head – check that spot on their scalp. Children’s treatment and preventative products can be picked up locally or online. There are also other treatment products at the drug store. Everyone would be smart to use the preventative products until they are sure their class is lice free.
- A preventative measure that I started after going through this process two different times in our house is using mayonnaise on my daughter’s head whenever we hear there is a lice outbreak. The mayonnaise smothers the live lice in the head. You put mayo on your child’s head, every square inch, just slather it on and then cover it with a shower cap and send them off to bed for the night. Wash it out in the morning and comb thoroughly. If you use this method to also get rid of the lice, then you will need to go through the hair again with the nit comb to get the eggs off which will be easier too since the hair will be slick. Another preventative measure is using Tea Tree Oil in the child’s shampoo and lathering that up on their heads. Apparently lice don’t like the oil. I haven’t done much research on this yet but I’m doing anything I can at this point.
This articles was written by a group of third grade moms who experienced it first hand and did not find the very short uninformative letter that came home from the school effective in treating lice so they did their own research.