Our school has been infested with lice since September. Just when we thought it was safe, news of more outbreaks came pouring home. My older daughter has had a full-blown case once and tiny cases twice. My younger daughter and I have each been infected once.
By tiny case I mean that a bug landed on her head and laid eggs, also known as nits, but because I was checking her vigilantly I pulled them off immediately. By full-blown case, I mean she had upwards of 400 nits and 150 live bugs. I know this may sound like a shockingly large number, but apparently it can be much worse.
We got our full-blown case when I decided to be the laid back mom who doesn’t drive her kids crazy with weekly neurotic check-ins like: “Is anyone sick? Puking?” “You need to put your hair up!” “You know you can’t wear fashion boots to gym?” It was during my calm mommy phase, “Sure, use the cucumber smelling shampoo instead of the lice repelling tea tree if it makes you happy,” that my daughter was infected. And then my other daughter was infected … and then I was, too.
I decided to suck it up and pay an exorbitant amount of money to have a nit-picker come to our house. It’s not that I wanted to flush a short trip’s worth of cash down the toilet, it was more that I knew I had lice. And I had no one to take care of my curly, coarse, thick hair. We learned a lot in our seven-hour session, and I thought I would share our new found information with you:
1) Your best protection against lice involve the following steps:
- For boys and girls: never share hats or sporting helmets.
- Girls should have their hair up in a ponytail or braid, AND they should wear a wide fabric headband. Lice apparently use wisps of hair, generally along the sides of the head, as bridges.
- Check your child’s head for lice every week or so.
- Run a lint roller over the surface of any fabric, public seat, including airplanes and movie theaters, before sitting down.
- Do not rely on lice protection products. Our nit picker told us she recently treated an entire infected family that used Fairy Tales hair products religiously. That said, there is some anecdotal evidence that neem shampoos, tea tree shampoos, and even some strong dandruff shampoos do kill live bugs. (Not the nits.) I used Babo Botanicals tea tree shampoo on my younger daughter and actually found dead bugs on her shoulders afterward. I now use the shampoo and the conditioning spray regularly in addition to regular checking.
2) If there is a case of lice in your child’s classroom, check your child vigilantly IN GOOD LIGHT. This was where I messed up during our first outbreak. My daughter’s head was itchy. I kept checking her over and over again, but I didn’t see anything. I was in the wrong light. Sit your child in a chair near a window and/or with a lamp directly above their head. Look carefully and take your time. I divide the head into four sections and check section by section using metal clips and the back of a comb to lift small amounts of hair.
2b) If you are checking regularly and find that these sit-down searches are taking long periods of time, another option is to lather your child up with white colored conditioner and comb through with a real nit comb, I like “Nit Free”. Comb each chunk in four different directions. This is how I found my second tiny outbreak. After each combing, I wiped my comb on a white paper towel. When I saw tiny brown eggs, I knew we had to take action immediately. (This conditioner method is also a great way for moms to check themselves.) This check should take at least ten minutes.
3) Look for BROWN nits (or live eggs). Not the white ones. White eggs are no longer living, they are just the shells of already hatched bugs. Brown nits are incredibly hard to see and they actually blend in with most shades of brown hair. (It is apparently easier to spot lice on blond or black hair.) When working with a light, angle your lamp so that the light mimics sunlight. Nits will glitter, like tiny jewels.
For tips on what to do if you actually find that your child has an outbreak… stay tuned for part two.