Thursday, January 6, 2011

Let’s talk about something that no one wants to talk about.

Becoming a nit picker.

oh no, you've got lice!

nit 1 (nɪt)

— n

1. the egg of a louse, especially when adhering to human hair

2. the larva of a louse or similar insect

One day not so long ago the school nurse called my friend. Okay, just kidding, she called…me. To tell me that head lice was going around in the school and that one of my children had it. To be safe I should treat the whole family.

I immediately started scratching my head.

And then I ran to the pharmacy to get lice treatments. Everything on the schedule went out the window and I cleaned in a frantic frenzy.

I cleaned and scoured and put chemicals on my children. In order to clear our name and our heads, I did all the things that I was supposed to do according to the leading information out there. We were lice free.

Until the next week when we weren’t any more.


Did you know that a louse can run up the shaft of a hair? Well it can, and super fast, too! Did you know that its’ eggs (nits) are glued to your hair shaft about a half-inch from your scalp? And they are very small and hard to see. And a person has a lot of hairs to look through. So in other words, when you become the nit picker, you spend HOURS looking through hair, and if you miss even ONE tiny egg hidden on ONE strand of hair, then you will be re-infested.

Now that I am a lice expert (ah-hem), I thought I should bestow some of my vast wisdom and knowledge to whomever may be out there, wandering the internet and wondering, “How in the world should I handle this lice situation?” Because let me tell you, by the fourth time that you are “lice free” and you see your kid across the room scratching her head with a comb like there’s no tomorrow, you do not have the same reaction as you did when the school nurse calls to break the news. You can’t run around like a crazed lunatic every day of your life.

So take a deep breath. You can do it. Slow and steady wins the race.

I learned that the kits at the pharmacy are not very effective. The reason they are not effective is because you are putting pesticides/chemicals on your head that kill the bugs, but do not kill the eggs. When the egg hatches, it crawls out into the chemical residue and becomes immune. So over time, lice have adapted, but they can’t make the chemicals any stronger because we are putting this right on our heads!

I learned that lice can hold their breath for a pretty long time. (Hey, I’m not a scientist here.) So my friend told me about the olive oil trick. I was skeptical, but willing to try anything and I liked the idea of using something natural. The idea is to smother the bugs. You douse the hair from root to tip in olive oil and put it in a swim cap or shower cap and leave it on for 2 hours. (You can leave it on longer if you want, but it seemed to be long enough.) The kids would be doing their homework or playing while the bugs were suffocating. (waa ha ha ha haaa!) And then after a shower to wash the olive oil out we would put on a movie for the kids to watch while the Mr. and I would nit pick. This takes hours!

nit picker

Another friend told me about and I bought a kit (which was pricey!) out of desperation but I refused to expedite the shipping because I had already paid dearly. So in the week it took to get to me I kept on with the olive oil and we were lice free.

Until we weren’t. Again.

But this time it was a child that hadn’t been infected in over 2 months, so we figured out after extensive questioning that he had gotten it from his classroom. This time we had Lice Killer on our side. It was pretty much the same process as the olive oil treatment but with essential oils in it and a nit glue dissolver spray. I am still going back and forth about whether it was necessary or not. Although the comb was indispensible!!!!

let me use my handy dandy nit comb.

Everyone wants a definitive answer: Are you lice free? Yes or no.

But it’s not that simple. We were lice free a lot. Until we weren’t. Every time I was sure we were done, we weren’t. Even now, I know that there are bugs out there. They are still walking around on people’s heads. Clean people’s heads! But I know that if any catch a ride home to our house again, I will never again buy lice treatment at the pharmacy.

Here are some interesting things you might not know about lice:

-Lice can’t jump

-They only live on human heads

-They don’t like dirty hair (At one point I was thinking that I might ban bathing in an attempt to scare them all away. Alas, I couldn’t hold out, so bathe we did.)

-The kits you get at the drug store are only 20% effective and they DON’T kill the nits

-Did you get that? 80% INEFFECTIVE. And they don’t kill the eggs!

-The lice have become immune to the pesticide since the egg hatches and the nit crawls out into chemical infested hair

-If you miss even one nit, you will get re-infested

Here are some tips that have helped us get rid of the little buggers:

-Use tea tree shampoo (lice don’t like the smell and will find a better smelling home)

-Blow dry your hair

-Wash and dry pillowcases, winter hats and anything that is in direct contact with the offending head frequently (like once a week, the same day as treatment)

-Put stuff in the dryer (lice can’t live in hot environsputting a pillow in the dryer will kill them)

-Vacuum a lot (you are trying to get rid of hairs that have may have shed with a nit attached.)

-Put brushes and combs through dishwasher or boil them

-Take stuffed animals and pillows and other things that could have been infected with lice but can’t be put through the washing machine into trash bags and put them in a garage or basement or somewhere away from the living area for 2 weeks

-Educate your children about how to avoid spreading or receiving lice (don’t share hats or brushes or hair accessories with your friends; keep long hair tied back or braided; avoid contact with an infected person’s head or pillow…)

-When you think you’re lice free, do another treatment that week anyway. And then another one the next week too. Because seriously—a lot of hairs + little tiny nits=re-infestation even when you’re clean and thorough.

Helpful links:

Good luck, my friends. (You’re gonna need it;)


darlene said...

oh honey .... i remember the days and am ever grateful to the last time when my son came home and said, pull out the electric hair razer mom, i want it all off. so we buzzed cut and that was that.

and now i am scratching and itching just reading about it and remembering. we still keep tea tree shampoo in the house ;-)

ANG said...

Oh - I am sorry. What a HUGE pain. We have somehow avoided this one so far (knock on wood), but with all the kids around our house, I figure it's just a matter of time. So thanks for the advise!

Clairissa said...

Keeping this post in my back pocket. Thanks for the handy how-to guide. I have tea tree essential oil. Is that the EO that came in the kit? Love the idea of going the natural route. I won't even use conventional bug spray on my kids in the summer. That stuff scares me.

We've yet to get infested with lice (yet, knock on wood), but after reading your experience, it doesn't surprise me that it just keeps going around and around in schools. If it really takes as long as you say in hours of picking and checking over and over, I guarantee the majority of parents aren't as dedicated as you are in treating it.

Here's to staying lice-free!!

Courtney said...

This is GREAT! I haven't personally had to deal with lice yet, but in my old job as a family advocate we did a lot. So I became quite knowledgeable on it all. In SLC they used to have (maybe they still do) a company called LiceBusters. They would come into the home and show you how to get rid of the buggers.

Anyway, thanks for the great tips. I hope I never have to refer back to this post! :)

And its so weird how I suddenly feel very itchy!

Emma Jo said...

I am SO SO SO SO very sorry. Let me tell you, that my worst, absolute WORST fear (I know how ridiculous that sounds but it's kinda true) is that this little family of girls will get lice and I will spend 6 months de-licing us. Knock on wood, knock on wood, knock on wood.

Anonymous said...

We had it on our area - and our friends literally had it for like 4 months before they got rid of it. Drives me nuts when people won't do everything they can to get rid of it~ crazy.

OH, I bought this lice prevention shampoo and spray that I still use on my kids. It's all natural. It's called Lice Prevention Shampoo and Conditioner. Also, a good friend said that Black Walnut oil works wonders to keep it off your heads (lice prevention). Has a sister that went to India and swears by using Black Walnut oil in your hair everyday.

They just invented a new machine (here in Utah!!) that kills all of the lice and eggs immediately - some kind of heat and electrical charge machine. Some day, the world will be lice free!


Dallas and Krista said...

Ugh, ew, yuck, blah. I had lice when I was in elementary school. It is still gross to me. I am itching my head this very minute. Ah! Now I seem to itch all over. Mind games, I tell you...

Anonymous said...

forgot to say, love those pics!!!

Jessa said...

I am happy the olive oil trick worked...... for a little while! ;) xoxo

brittany said...

yes, you were my saving grace, friend. I feel like the olive oil is the best way to go. It's what I recommend now;)


How To Play Blackjacks said...

It is certainly right

Anonymous said...

I knew I remembered reading about about lice on your blog. We are a week into our own - us against Old Testament pestilence plague. I too had my doubts about pharmacy lice killer, because it can be used on like 2 month-olds (how strong can it be?) I read about tea tea oil and olive oil. I am buying some tomorrow.

Rachel Small said...

This is an excellent post, thank you! I used it as a great mentor text with my students. You are an expert head lice scientist and you shared your expertise with the world to make it a better place. Bravo!