This is part 2 of a 3 part series on dealing with head lice. The first post addressed 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.
Last week I shared with you basic information about head lice. Today, I’ll address common treatment options that I found on the web. I am using my notes from a few years ago, so please do your personal research, and consult your doctor before making a decision on treatment.
As you read from last weeks post, we had a long ordeal dealing with lice. And I credit that to not being diligent in re-treating and re-cleaning from the start. Some say that they see success without re-treating, but I’d say play it safe; go ahead and re-treat at least one more time before deciding you’re done.
So, what do I do?
Once you have determined your child has head lice, there are several things that help in getting rid of the lice:
1. Treat your child’s head. The first part of this series briefly talks about different types of treatments. They vary from prescription, to all natural.
Shampoo: Part 1 of this series addresses the difference between prescription, and over the counter shampoos. These are easy because you just follow the instructions on the bottle. Basically, shampoo like normal, rinse and you’re done. You will need to re-treat in about 5-7 days. If the instructions on the bottle are different from my instructions, default to the product instructions. Remember, I’m not an expert; I’m just giving you my experience. 🙂
- Essential Tea Tree Oil: This is one you’ll need more research on, because it can aggravate sensitive skin. As I stated last week, do not ingest tea tree oil; it should only be used as a topical application. Test the oil before applying it to the head for allergic reactions: apply a small drop on skin and leave for 24 hours. This needs to be essential oil, and needs to be diluted in another oil. My choice was olive oil. Mix 8 drops of essential tea tree oil with 1/2 cup of olive oil. Rub all over dry hair, cover with a shower cap for at least 30 minutes, then wash it out. It took me 2 shampoos to get the greasy look out of my daughter’s hair. I’ve also been known to place 1-2 drops of essential tea tree oil in my regular shampoo when I’m suspicious of lice, with the hopes that it will discourage the little boogers.
- Mayonnaise: This is the road I have not traveled, but I’ll share what I learned anyway. Liberally slather mayonnaise all over dry hair, cover with a shower cap, and sleep on it (literally, it needs to set the entire night). Wash out the next morning. I’ve heard to use dish soap, and to wash several times because mayonnaise is difficult to wash out. This is why I didn’t want to go down this road. I did not think my daughter would do well sleeping with a shower cap. She was three at the time, and I was paranoid of waking to a freak suffocating accident. Please use caution with using a shower cap on your child all night! We don’t want a tragedy in our midst!
2. Look for nits, and pick them out. After you treat, you need to start getting rid of the nits. Remember, the nits are the eggs, so you may have killed the bugs, but if the eggs hatch tomorrow, you’re now at square one again. Get yourself a bowl of water, and use the method I outlined in part 1 of the series about looking for nits. This is the time when you want to go through the hair slowly (this may take a few hours), and check each strand. When you find the nit, pull it out and toss it in the water. You can use tweezers, or special nit combs, but I found it easier to just use my finger to pull off the nits. They’re attached with a sticky substance, so it’s not exactly an easy process! A friend suggested using Goo Gone to loosen the nits; I simply checked each strand, and pulled the nit off with my fingers.
3. Clean your home. Well, if you’re not exhausted yet, you will be now! Pretty much anything with fabric, or carpet needs to be cleaned in one way or the other. This doesn’t mean everything needs to be washed, but it’s still a daunting task. The reason is because lice can still survive for a time even when it’s not on a human host. So, if one falls onto a stuffed toy, it can live for a few hours until another child comes along and the louse then decides to hop onto the next child. Some people consider this portion of the process simple paranoia, but if there’s a possibility that you can shorten your length of time with lice in the house by re-treating, then it’s worth the process. I did not start our process this way, and ended up with almost two months of ridding our home of head lice. It’s your decision if you want to take that chance.
- Carpet: vacuum all carpet areas & dispose of vacuum bag (in the outside trash)
- Linens: sheets, towels, hand towels, wash rags, last night’s pajamas, etc… need to be washed in hot water, and dried in the dryer. Remember that little tid-bit from last week that lice can live in water for up to 6 hours? This is why you use hot water, and your dryer. Heat kills lice, and unless you’re soaking your linens for 6 hours, you won’t be killing the lice by just washing.
- Stuffed animals, other plush toys, and pillows: There are two ways you can do this. Remember the idea is to kill any lice that might have dropped on a toy or pillow. You can run these items in the dryer for 30 minutes, or place them in a large black plastic bag, place the bag in the sunshine and leave it for 24 hours minimum. Some sources said 1 day, others said 2 days, and then others said 1-2 weeks. I opted for the dryer method.
- Couches or chairs: Vacuum couches or chairs, and dispose of the vacuum bag (outside). There is a spray for furniture, but I’m not too sure it did much for us.
- Combs, hair brushes, or hair pieces: I bagged all of the combs, hair brushes, and hair pieces in a zip top plastic bag, and placed it outside in the sun for a week. Remember, heat kills lice. You can also soak these items in hot soapy water, but keep in mind that it needs to be longer than 6 hours because lice can survive in water for 6 hours. I bought some extra combs, brushes, and a few hair pieces to rotate while we were in the treatment mode. Every time we re-treated, I changed out the combs and such.
4. Re-treat, and re-clean 5-7 days later. It’s hard to kill all the lice, and pull out all the nits with just one treatment. Each day after you’ve treated, check your child’s hair (briefly) for nits that might have been missed. Watch your child for increased itching, bearing in mind though, that the treatment method may have irritated her scalp. So itching may be happening due to irritation, which is why you want to continue looking for nits. Somewhere between 5-7 days repeat this entire process. I know, I know, it’s daunting! But it wasn’t until I did this that we saw success! I only re-cleaned the house on the days that I re-treated. If you want to go down the road of re-cleaning every day, keep in mind it’s your sanity you’re compromising.
Are you exhausted yet? This was a frustrating process for us, but with consistency, we survived. And if you’re consistent, you’ll survive as well!
Did you know you can prevent head lice? That’s next week!
Part 2: treatment and cleaning