HELP! My Child Has Lice! Part 1

This is a 3 part series on dealing with lice.  The first post addresses basic information about lice and products, the second addresses treating lice and cleaning the home, and the third addresses prevention.  I am not a medical doctor; this post is based on my personal experience with lice, and is not intended to replace medical advice.  Check with your doctor concerning diagnosis, and treatment options.

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While this may be an itchy subject that we don’t normally talk about, I think it’s an important one that we mom’s need to share with each other.  If you’re dealing with lice right now, let me encourage you that if you’re diligent in treating the lice, the lice won’t stick around forever!  This was a month and a half long process for us (primarily because I wasn’t diligent at the start), and I was almost ready to shave my daughter’s and my hair completely off!  I felt embarrassed, isolated, and as if this would plague us for the rest of our lives.  God is good, my friends; he carried us through the lice, and he’ll carry you through it as well.

About four years ago, we discovered lice in my daughter’s hair (age 3 at the time), and unfortunately, I ended up with lice as well.  No worries for my local friends; the lice is long gone!  🙂  However, there’s so much that we did, tried, and information learned, that I think it’s worth sharing it with you.  First, some basic information I learned about lice:

Lice don’t jump, or fly…ever.  They do not have wings, or hind legs, so they can’t jump or fly.  The only way to catch lice is by rubbing heads with someone, or by sharing brushes, combs, hats, bed pillows, etc…

Lice can live for about 48 hours, on a human host.  There’s differing information about the life cycle; some say 24-48 hours, while others say 48-72.  By then, they’ve already laid hundreds of eggs.  They can also live for up to 6 hours underwater.

Lice eggs are called nits.  Lice attach their eggs (nits) on the hair shaft with a sticky substance, and are usually yellow or white in color.  However, the nits we encountered were all brown.  How do I know if it’s a nit attached to my child’s head?  Well, try blowing on the hair shaft, or rubbing it off gently.  If it comes off easily, it’s probably some sort of dandruff.  If not…it might be lice.  If you’re still unsure, watch your child for a few days checking her hair for more nits or lice.  If it is lice, you’ll notice more nits, and more scratching.

You can’t kill nits.  This information may have changed in the past few years, but as far as I know, you can kill lice, but not the nits.  The idea is that you kill the lice, and then remove the nits.

How do I check my child’s hair for lice?

This is what worked for us:

  • use a well lit area (the more light the better)
  • grab a small section of hair either behind the ears, at the crown of the head, or the nape of the neck (these are typical places for lice to go first)
  • lift the hair up to look underneath, rather than parting the hair to look down on the head (this helped me spot the nits easier)
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Lifting the hair up; this helped me spot the nits easier.
Parting the hair; this was hard to find the nits.
Parting the hair; this was hard to find the nits.
  •  gently finger comb her hair, looking closely at the shaft of the hair strands
  • after looking through one section, look through another section of hair on a different part of the head
  • I wouldn’t check strand-by-strand just yet, unless you’ve already discovered lice in her hair (simply to save your sanity),  spend about 30 minutes to look for the nits or lice
  • remember, nits are hard to remove, so if you see something flake off easily, it’s probably not a nit
  • Neon Nits is a spray that turns the nits a neon color.  I did not find it helpful, but others swear by it.

What if I find lice, or nits?

If you find nits, then she has lice.  How do I know?  Well, there has to be a parent for there to be babies.  You may not find the actual lice; the nits are the largest indicator that your child has lice.  If you find nits, then it’s time to treat; even if you find only one nit.  Trust me, if you find one nit, there’s more.

Ok, now what?

There’s a lot of information out there about what kills lice; please do your research, and seek medical advice before deciding on treatment options.  However, these are the most consistent lice killers that I found:

  1. Prescription shampoos.  This is a strong shampoo with bug killing chemicals.  It uses a different chemical than what is found in the over-the-counter stuff.  However, the chemicals used are controversial on whether or not it’s really safe to use.  So, do your research before using this method!
  2. Store bought shampoos.  Again, this is another shampoo with bug killing chemicals.  However, the chemicals aren’t as strong as what’s used in the prescription strength shampoos.  They are considered safe, but that’s also dependent upon a persons opinion.
  3. Heat kills lice.  More explanation on this next week.
  4. Tea tree oil.  This is a natural method of killing lice; however, you need to use caution with tea tree oil.  It’s very strong, and can cause allergic reactions.  And it should only be used as a topical application, never ingested.  It also needs to have a medium when used; you don’t want to just rub tea tree oil all over the head.  Resources suggest using some type of oil to carry the tea tree oil, but I’ll talk more on that next week.
  5. Mayonaise.  I’ve heard that mayonnaise actually smothers lice, but I didn’t try it.  However, for a year or two I kept a large container of un-opened mayonnaise in my pantry for “just in case”.  🙂

I’ll speak more on how to treat, and use the natural methods in my next post.

So, how do you get rid of lice?

Regardless of your treatment methods, you must be diligent in re-treating the hair, and re-cleaning the house!  I’ve been told by few people that they did not need to re-treat.  However, this was not my experience.  And because I did not follow advice to re-treat, and re-clean, we spent almost two months fighting lice.  Start from the beginning with your diligence.

Re-treating, and re-cleaning are important because it is easy to miss a few lice.  And just one louse left on the head can create the problem all over again in a matter of hours.

How do I treat the hair? What do I need to do to clean the house?  How often do I need to re-treat and re-clean?

Those questions will be answered in the next post.  😉

Part 2: Treatment

Part 3: Prevention

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4 thoughts on “HELP! My Child Has Lice! Part 1

  1. Eeek!! This makes me dread the day we’ll have it. And I know we’ll have it. It’s like a rite of passage in childhood. I remember having it for a little while as a kid too.

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