School and sports are starting up. You know what else starts up? Close contact and the lice risk. It wouldn’t be a Mom blog if we didn’t talk about the horrors that are lice. Most kids will get them at some point (and their parents). It just means that your kids have friends and no personal space.
Learn from my humbling story. I went to Honduras and warned friends to be careful about playing with the hair of the Honduran children. Because that’s where you get lice from, right? “Dirty” places and “dirty” people. But guess what I came home to find? My own child with a head covered in lice. My homeschooled child who hadn’t hung out with “dirty” people.
I’m not an honorary lice expert. And it didn’t happen during my training to be a physician assistant or my ten years of working a clinic. Medical professionals aren’t really trained for lice because that’s an over-the-counter thing. I remember being super frustrated with a patient who wanted me to check for lice because they “wouldn’t go away”. People dealing with lice need a hug (but don’t touch their hair!) because it’s so stressful!
And the worst part? The little suckers wouldn’t go away no matter what we did. We became the “dirty” people for two months. I read the box and trusted the medicine and it didn’t work. Now I know better.
Disclaimer: Yes, I’m a medical professional. No, this does not constitute medical advice or years of official study. This is me speaking as a mom who did her own research due to lack of efficacy. And to keep you from having the same months of frustration as me.
The ultimate key here? The Lice Schedule!
This science-based lice schedule is revolutionary because it’s based on the louse egg-laying cycle. It makes sense. It works. And instead of freaking out that you can’t miss more than one microscopic egg, you can chill because you know you will comb it again on day two. In several days, you’ll comb them out again when any missed eggs have just hatched. Each combing is faster and less stressful when you allow for some automatic missed bugs.
Getting to the science behind these wee beasties is essential. Don’t miss a day because that one day may give the bug just enough maturity to start laying eggs again. Did I mention this way is expense-free, poison-free, and (less) stress-free? Every parent, teacher, children’s pastor, and person should know about this schedule and science!
What’s wrong with the pharmacy medicine?
But, I’m a PA. I should always say that the officially recommended medicine is the best. Wrong. This is just another example of how wrong the “usual treatment” can be.
The pharmacy medicine gives directions: soak the hair, rinse, apply the conditioner, and comb out the eggs. It says specifically on the box to not wash hair with conditioner because it will make the medicine less active. It forgets to mention that perhaps the conditioner in the box also causes this. One medication sheet I found online suggested that you do this in reverse: comb out the lice with the conditioner and then use the soak.
What isn’t mentioned are all the things that will also make the lice repellent quit working: washing hair, using conditioner, swimming in a chlorinated pool, or treating with oil. So the olive oil you are told to use to further suffocate the lice? Don’t do that after the treatment, or you’re negating the treatment.
Not to mention, the medicine mostly only kills the live, crawling-around lice to start with. That way you comb out big dead bugs. You still have to get rid of the eggs with the microscopic brush. This is why is says comb it out again in seven days; because they know you’ve missed some eggs. However, in that time span, they’ve already reproduced!
The highlights of my degree in lice removal
- Lice can only live off the human body for forty-eight hours because they depend on human blood and warmth. This means you don’t have to decontaminate every stinkin’ surface of your house.
- The medications only work to kill the live lice that way you don’t have to chase them out to comb them. Yuck. The shampoo treatment does nothing for the eggs. This is why you have to comb. But no matter how magical the comb is, you will miss some.
- The lifecycle of a lice explains to you which days are the most important to comb. They hatch around day 7. Lice can only lay eggs once they are mature and that happens about day 17. This means you should comb out the baby lice, keep them from being old enough to lay eggs, and you’ll be done.
- It is very hard to find lice eggs. I saw them a few times on my own kid. Hours of searching, and I did not see them every time. If people are doing random screenings at school, they’re probably missing a lot. Blonde-brown hair? Difficult. You have to comb to make 100% sure.
- “Hot spots” are said to be the nape of the neck and behind the ears. If this is the only place you are looking, you are missing. I hardly ever found them here on my kids. Their favorite lice place on us was on the temple.
- Don’t look just at the scalp. Mama Louse only goes to the scalp to feed from your blood, and then scampers back up! Nasty little vampires.
Next time, don’t…
- Freak out and destroy your house.
- Feel diseased or gross or “dirty”.
- Buy $90 worth of medicine. Or keep looking for the next amazing version that surely will work better since the others obviously aren’t working.
- Obsessively try to comb out every single egg, scrub the lice brush after each comb to make sure I get rid of every recontaminating egg, and recomb each section multiple times each episode.
- Cancel all hotel travel and vacations. Granted, don’t stay at friends’ houses, play with their kids, or ride in their car. However, you can’t give lice to strangers at a museum or beach or even just being in a hotel with them. Give your kid an extra sheet to sleep on the floor (not with siblings), keep checking other family members’ heads, and move on with life.
My lice plan for next time
- I will immediately download the lice schedule for a refresher and stick with it. Wash the hair, comb it out, and repeat. Then repeat again. No fancy nothing needed other than a lice comb and patience.
- I will chill. Remember that lice can’t live on every surface and not everything needs to be washed. Since they can’t live off human blood and body heat for more than several hours, it’s much easier to avoid certain rooms for a day or two instead of spraying down everything unnecessarily. Same with the car – just don’t go anywhere for several days and the car should be good!
- I will strongly consider hiring one of those “lice specialists” who claim to eradicate it from the whole house quickly. I don’t know the efficacy here, but it’s probably well-worth my money.
- I will cut my kids’ hair and get it over with. Note I didn’t say “Take to get it cut” because, well, that’s embarrassing. When you go to the hair salon for a post-lice cut and the hairdressers calls you over quietly to show you the eggs… Personal experience.
- I will keep my kids’ head covered with a bandana or hat and minimize her exposure around the house.
- I will give access to only several days worth of kids’ clothes, take extras off the bed, and minimize things that might become “contaminated.” Less stuff means less washing.
- I will train, hire, or bribe someone willing to comb out Mom’s hair. This is giant embarrassing pain in the butt to ask someone to do. Marry well. This is the ultimate “in sickness and in health”.
- I will wash sheets and bedding for the child. Then lay out a sheet and pillowcase to sleep on, instructing her to bring them down every morning for a wash in hot water.
- I will give the child an assigned seat in the living room, drape a sheet over it, and don’t let anyone else sit there.
- I will make sure said child understands: towels, hats, headbands… Every time I thought she understood this, I found another thing she was using that made no sense.
- I will put up my hair, shower, and change clothes every time I comb out a kid.
- I will make sure my kids and I have used lice repellant spray or tea tree oil in our shampoo. Prevention over treatment any day.
- I will always have a lice comb at home for checking.
Real-mom life gave me real-world training. Even though we haven’t found any lice in more than a month, myself and my kid still keep expecting them to show back up and comb out our hair anytime it gets itchy or weird. A problem when I have a chronically itchy, dry scalp. I don’t know how any dead skin cells I combed out of my head still not convinced that they weren’t lice eggs.
If it happens again When lice strike again, I’ll go right to my lice schedule! Have you printed yours off yet?
Reclaiming Wonders // Bobbie
With years of planning family road trips, Bobbie is an expert at incorporating amazing activities into her family travel plan which she shares on the blog, on Instagram, and through content creation for destinations and products. As a homeschool mom of four kids in Georgia, she strives to create a learning life full of adventures around the dinner table or throughout the United States. Learn Bobbie’s story to be encouraged to leave the busy life and reclaim the wonders of life.