This past fall we had something happen that rocked my world. It was traumatizing. It was a bit agonizing. It was gross. It was lice.
I know what you’re thinking, “Ewwwwww!!!” That’s what I was thinking too with a side of, “Oh dear God no!”
I was mortified. I was shocked and I had no idea what to do. I had no idea how to get rid of lice. I still get the heebie geebies thinking about it. It’s taken me months to feel like I could write about this and my head is feeling itchy as I type – a form of PTSD for lice victims.
My story goes like this. One Saturday we noticed my daughter had been itching her neck and behind her ears a lot. I looked it and saw that she had scratched herself all over the place. It looked a bit like mosquito bites that had been itched too much.
I thought she was maybe allergic to something – maybe I used a different shampoo on her without realizing it, maybe she ate something that was causing the response, maybe she had really dry skin, etc. I didn’t see any major reason to worry so I sent her and my son off to my in-laws for the night. It was our anniversary the next day and my husband and I had been dying for a night out and a morning to sleep in. I didn’t think about again.
The next day I went to pick up the kids and my mother-in-law told me my daughter had been itching her head a lot. I had seen her do it several times since arriving. I decided to check again.
I parted her hair and saw the same type of mosquito-type bites that I had seen on her neck and behind her ears. Then, I saw a bug.
“Huh, this is weird,” I said as I picked it out of her head, the realization not yet setting in. “It’s a bug.”
“A BUG!,” my daughter said. She happens to be afraid of bugs so I told her not to worry. I’m not a fan of them either, but took care of it.
I parted her hair again and saw another bug. That’s when it hit me. That’s when I knew it was lice. Cue instant disgust.
I have never had lice before. I had no idea what to do. I learned quickly and I got rid of them all in three days.
If you happen to find these little buggers in your little ones’ heads, here’s what to do.
How To Get Rid Of Lice
This is so much easier said than done. I panicked. I panicked in the way a person would panic if a tsunami had been coming towards them. Lice is something that’s manageable as long as you do all the things you are supposed to do to make sure you vanquish them from your heads and homes forever. Take a deep a moment to collect yourself and then get to work.
Find your nearest lice salon
These places exist and I had no idea. They don’t usually have signage because they don’t want kids, or adults, to be embarrassed going in since there is a lot of shaming that happens when someone has lice. Instead of stylists these are people you pay to pick bugs out of your hair. I’m not kidding. It seems like the type of job that Mike Rowe would showcase on Dirty Jobs, but these places are clean, pristine even.
Know that if you go this route you will be paying a lot of money, especially if it is an emergency appointment on the weekend, which is what I did. I was desperate and crazy though. I had them go through all of our hair and my husband’s beard. It was worth it. It helped to get a read on how bad the situation really was (and it was bad) and they helped me understand how to deal with it going forward.
Here’s exactly why it was worth it: They found over 100 adult bugs in my daughter’s hair and over 300 eggs. They found six in mine and 65 eggs. This doesn’t even count the babies that stay attached to the scalp until they are mature. They found a couple eggs in my husband’s head and instructed him to shave his beard. My son, luckily, was clean.
I started crying in the chair. I had absolutely no idea. I had no idea where they could have come from. How could she have that happening in her head without me realizing?!?!!?! The women at the salon said they see it all the time. The bugs multiply like rabbits…worse than rabbits. Estimates are that an adult female can lay about 6 eggs per day.
We made a follow-up appointment for that Wednesday and I made a silent vow to myself that I would rid our house of these pests by then.
Buy the right tools
You need a lice comb that has close, spiralized teeth similar to this one, which is the one we have. The teeth on this help to remove the tiny nits, lice eggs. I still don’t know exactly what those look like and refused to look in the bowl after they combed out my daughter’s hair. I do know they are insanely tiny and stuck to hair by a glue strand, which is like an umbilical chord. You break the strand and the egg won’t hatch. There are also nit “looseners” you can get (think shampoo) but I bought our’s straight from the salon so I don’t have experience with other products to recommend.
Put all hair tools on ice
Put hair brushes, combs, hair ties and anything else you use in your hair in plastic bags and stick them in the freezer for at least 48 hours. That’s the recommendation. I ended up throwing everything out after the freezer time was up because I was so grossed out. I just didn’t trust it. If you’re not a paranoid freak like me, the freezer will do.
Only adult lice can live off a person’s head and they can only live for 24-48 hours.
Wash sheets, pillows, blankets, coats, clothing, pajamas and anything else that might have come anywhere near you. Wash everything in hot and dry it on hot. You don’t have to keep washing everything every day. If you put it all in the dryer on hot for a cycle the heat should be good enough to kill the lice.
I washed everything and then started bagging our extras.
Bag unwashables and extras
Put anything you can’t wash in a bag and leave it there for at least two weeks. I left most of our stuff in bags for five weeks. We had purchased new duvet cover for our bed the night before we found out about these unwelcome visitors. I just took it out of the plastic bag this weekend. That’s the level of mental and emotional trauma these guys inflicted on me.
Add any extras you have to a plastic bag once they are washed – extra pillows, extra blankets, etc. This helped me not feel like I had a mountain of laundry to go through every day and I knew those items would be clean and stay clean. Everyone got one pillow and one blanket for weeks. No flat sheets, no stuffed animals, no extra blankets to snuggle.
Use a lint roller on furniture
Use a lint roller on car seats, furniture and other areas you can’t throw in the washing machine. Again only the adults can live off a person’s head, but you can’t always see them.
Comb like your sanity depends on it
Your sanity does actually depend on it. Mine did. The women at the salon told me to brush our hair out with the comb once a day. You are supposed to do once a day for seven says, then every three days for two weeks, then a few times the final week. Lice have a life span of about four weeks so you have to keep it up until you reach the month mark.
That said, I brushed our hair out twice a day the first five days. The last live lice I found was a baby on my daughter’s head on Tuesday night. We went back for our Wednesday follow-up and the lice were gone! I swear it was like the best day of my life.
Comb in 4 directions and wear hair up
To make sure you are getting all the lice from all angles, you want to split hair into four sections. Go through one section at a time with the comb and secure all the other sections with plastic clips. Comb that section in four ways – front to back, back to front, right to left and left to right. Lice can lay eggs in all directions on a strand of hair so you want to make sure you are getting all possible angles.
I did this to my daughter once in the morning and once before bed. It took a half an hour each time on her long, curly hair. I wrapped a towel around her shoulders and used a spray bottle because it is easier to do when hair is wet. Make sure kids are entertained so they don’t get antsy. This is a good time for screen time.
Wear hair up
After you comb through hair put it in a tight bun or braids. Make sure the hair doesn’t touch the shoulders. You can use the lint roller across the back of your shirt again, just in case.
Use a lice killing solution
There are some prescription strength solutions that you can get with a prescription through your doctor. In Illinois we have a super bug and these solutions aren’t supposed to be effective, but that opinion varies doctor by doctor. We did end up using one on my daughter’s hair on Tuesday night. Her pediatrician approved it for her. My family doctor told me it wasn’t helpful and wouldn’t prescribe it for me. It’s a rough solution. It’s like putting toothpaste in your hair.
There are some natural solutions on the market but I don’t know how well these work. I did not use them. Olive oil is supposed to smoother the lice.
There are some solutions available over the counter that promise to rid you of lice. I’ve heard from both doctors and the salon that these do not work. Don’t think you can treat your child once and have these pests gone. It’s just not that simple. Combing is imperative and the most suggested solution.
Use deterrents treatments
I’m not going to tell you there is any way to prevent getting lice. You can do the normal things like no sharing of hats, no head-to-head contact (selfies!) or not sleeping in your kid’s bed. Nothing is a perfect solution. But, there are a few other things you can do that try to deter lice. You can use a lice shampoo and conditioner on your kids. I bought these after they were recommended to me. There is also a leave-in-conditioner spray that I used. We still use them. I carry a bottle of the spray in the car with us and spray it on their heads before we get out of the car.
Today we still don’t know how my daughter got lice. She was patient X at school as far as we can tell, unless someone was lying. No one in our families had them and we hadn’t been anywhere really since August…except Disney World. My husband and I actually believe it was Disney or the airplane to Disney. We will never know for sure though.
One thing I do know is that I never want to go through this again. There are multiple other gross kid things that I would pick over lice, you know, if I had my choice. I’m crossing all fingers and toes and hoping I never see one of these bugs again. I hope you never see one either and never need this list. Just in case, the pin button is to the left.
For more family health tips check out our Health & Fitness Section.