July 30, 2015

Icky, crawlies in your kid’s hair… Lice

Male human head louse
Creative Commons License photo credit: Gilles San Martin

A few years ago, when my daughter was in elementary school and came home one day with a note from the school nurse, declaring a lice outbreak. No sharing of hairbrushes or of hats, all bookbags and coats needed to be stored in plastic bags at school. Not long after that note, I get a call from the nurse, my daughter had lice and she couldn’t come back to school until the lice and nits were removed.

I was horrified. Lice?!? Isn’t that a problem for other people? To other families whose kids don’t wash their hair? Or a dirty household? What does this say about me as a mom? As a kid growing up in suburbia in the 80s, my classmates and I got the cursory lice check but we never had an outbreak.

In fact, until my daughter had lice, I never even knew what a louse or a nit (louse eggs) even looked like, nevermind try to stop an infestation.

Since the school district had a no-nit policy, I ended up taking a few days off of work, but thankfully my then boss who had no kids was understanding. Let’s just say that my initial attempts to rid the lice were unsuccessful and I failed the no-nit check by the school nurse the first time I tried bringing my daughter back to school. I should also note that my daughter – at the time – had long hair and hated getting her hair combed. Trust me, I had more than a few fantasies of cutting her hair short.

The first lesson I learned about removing lice and nits and this, while there are all sorts of lice removal preparations on the market, the only way to remove an infestation is to soak the hair in olive oil or mayo (as the pediatrician’s office recommended) and comb the hair thoroughly. Soaking the hair overwhelms the lice and combing removes the attached nits. Comb comb comb. And comb some more. Procure a shower cap if you don’t have one already handy and let your child’s hair soak for an hour or so.

The other unsaid, but very very useful tip is to trash the commercial nitcombs that and go for dog flea comb. You’ll get over the ick factor quickly after you realize that these combs are not only sturdier, but they are easier to use.

I can’t say enough about Tea Tree Oil shampoo, which is a natural lice repellent. Once I heard about it’s use, I went straight to the natural foods store in town and got the biggest bottle and used it until it was gone. We didn’t have an re-infestation.

Also while vacuuming the house entirely 3 or 4 times may make you feel better, lice are unable to jump. You should wash in hot water any clothing, hats or linens that your child comes in contact with. It’s recommended that you purchase new hairbrushes and combs to stop a re-infestation.

And what reminded me of that now long ago lice outbreak? I just heard that my former boss, who was understanding (ok, a few nitpicking jokes) during those stressful few days, is now dealing with a lice outbreak at his child’s school.

Update 1: After we published our story, a representative from Lice Treatment Center LLC a company which provides in home and organizational lice removal services reached out to us via Twitter letting us know that they are here to help and are available nationwide in the US.

Update 2: Cozy Friedman CEO of Cozy’s Cuts For Kids reached out to via Twitter to let us know that Tea tree oil shampoo is available outside health food stores now. Brands like Boo! are in salons & drug stores.

Update 3: Wouldn’t you know it? A few months after writing this post, my daughter got lice again…this time from her summer sleepaway camp. Here we go again.

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About the Author: Joy Larkin is a co-founder of MomsToWork and she is really excited about the new MomsToWork Job Board. Follow @joy - joy on Google+

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