I didn’t think I was one of those “that will never happen to me” kind of people. But I was wrong. When head lice descended upon my household, I realized that I had never taken the threat seriously because I never thought it would happen to me.
Guess what. Those little boogers don’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter your age, your socioeconomic status, or how clean your house is. If you are a hugger or you share a bed with someone (like a teenage slumber party), you can get head lice. I’m a hugger and one of my daughters is a hugger.
Wait a minute. I’m wrong. Those boogers do discriminate. They don’t tend to do well in African American hair (now there’s a BIG reason to love your African American hair if you have it) and they tend to prefer long hair, so girls are more prone to getting them.
Discovering Head Lice
I don’t know how long she had them before I discovered it and I never would have thought to check her. But I happened to have brunch with a friend who told me the horror story of her weekend battle with head lice. Her daughter is older but attends the same school as my kids. I sympathized and hoped I’d never go down that road but since it hit so close to home, I started to face the possibility that maybe it COULD happen to me.
When I got my kids home, just for my own peace of mind I checked the older daughter first and nothing. For the sake of being thorough, I checked my little hugger. Parting her hair this way and that, sure enough I saw a little creepy crawly thing with an iridescent body that almost made it look like it had wings. I felt a knot in the pit of my stomach.
I trapped that creepy crawly between my thumb and forefinger and used a piece of tape to pin that sucker to a piece of paper for better inspection. A quick Google search confirmed it and I reluctantly declared battle.
Getting Rid of Head Lice
Thanks to my friend who had already gone down the road and now because of my own experience, I can help anyone who happens to find this blog post battle those little boogers most efficiently and cost effectively.
Step One: Go to the nearest drug store
I learned and found in my own experience that you don’t have to buy the expensive lice treatments. Although if that makes you sleep better at night, then go for it. We used Listerine. It killed the lice after the first night. But it doesn’t render the nits (eggs) unviable. Neither do the lice treatments. So in my book, it’s a comparable but cheaper solution. Here’s what you’ll need:
Listerine (or lice treatment if you so choose)
Shower Cap (one for each family member you’ll be treating)
Lice Comb (a comb or attachment for each family member you’ll be combing out unless you want to boil the thing in between heads)
Laundry Detergent (you’re going to need extra if you’re running low)
Trash Bags (big ones)
Step Two: Put Essential Bedding ONLY in the washing machine on Hot
We battled this beast for a solid 3 weeks total. I minimized the girls bedding down to one fitted sheet, a favorite blanket, one small stuffed animal, and a pillow. Every morning I stripped their beds and started the washer. When we returned home those items went to the dryer and just before bedtime I fixed up their beds again. Don’t worry, it’s not for forever. Go ahead and put JUST those items in the wash.
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Step Three: Prep Their Heads
I had my girls take their shirts off and wrap in a towel or bathrobe. Blue Listerine can dye things blue. Pour the Listerine in their hair over the sink and bunch their hair up inside a shower cap. The menthol in the Listerine is cool on their skin so keep encouraging them that once they get their hair up, it’ll be okay and it’s important that we win this battle against the bugs.
You may want to stick some paper towels under the elastic of the shower cap so that the Listerine will soak into the paper towel. My kids ended up with a blue line across their foreheads but it faded in time for school the next day. Yes, I sent them to school the next day, we will get to that. Once they are soaking, put them in front of the television.
Step Four: Bag Stuffed Stuff
I made the mistake of thinking I had to wash EVERYTHING. You don’t. Just bag it up (you’ll thank me when you see your water bill, mine doubled the month we fought head lice). Bag up whatever linens are non essential and seal the bags. Lice need a host to survive. So if they are in there or their eggs are in there, they will die when they don’t find a host.
While your kids’ hair is soaking in Listerine go to town with your trash bags. Bag the blankets, the stuffed animals, the rugs, and the pillows. Store those bags somewhere for 3-4 weeks.
Step Five: Comb it out
I used a white bowl with a little water in it to wash out my lice comb. The color of the bowl helped me to see what was going into it. You’ll end up with natural hair debris, fuzzies that get caught in hair, dead lice, and nits. The nits tend to be around their ears and the base of their neck so comb it all out but make sure to target those areas heavily.
On the first night, I repeated steps 3 and 5 several times. It was a long evening and very tedious but by the end of the night there were no more live lice.
Step Six: Get Essential Bedding into the Dryer
You have to remember to finish washing the essential bedding so your kids can go to bed. Get it out of the wash and start the dryer.
Step Seven: Check Yourself (before you wreck yourself) (sorry…had to)
Yup, you will have to check yourself to make sure you aren’t fostering those creepy crawlys in your own hair. I hope you don’t, but if you do, you know how to deal with it.
Step Eight: Boil Brushes
I heated a pot of water to boiling and tossed all the brushes and combs (including lice combs) into the pot every night while we were going through this. I left a drying towel out on the counter for the brushes to dry.
Step Nine: Alert the School
Our school has a policy that kids can still attend school if they have nits in their hair but not live lice. That makes sense because the nits stay pretty well stuck to the hair shaft and don’t transmit too easily, especially if you’ve been combing regularly and they are kept to a minimum. It’s the lice themselves that travel. They don’t fly and I question their ability to jump but they crawl fast.
Plus if kids had to stay home with nits then they would miss a lot of school. A lot.
Step Ten: Maintenance
I combed their hair out at least twice a day from that first night. I did it in the morning before school and I put their hair up in a braided pony tail. When they got home, I took their hair down, washed it like normal, and combed it again. This, along with the boiling of the brushes, and the washing of bed linen went on for several weeks.
Step Eleven: Don’t Let Doubt Thwart Your Efforts
With an epidemic at the school I wanted to stay on top of it and I continuously found nits during that time. But I almost backed off my efforts when I questioned that what I was seeing weren’t nits at all. I almost convinced myself that what I was finding were natural hair follicles, not lice eggs. But I was wrong. Here’s an awesome YouTube video to help you. Give the video a thumbs up for their efforts to encourage and support those of us who are fighting this battle.
Do not get discouraged. It is common for this to take a while to clear. Every nit you find and remove is one step closer to eradicating the problem. I am sorry you’re fighting this battle. I feel your pain. But you will get there. I hope this little guide makes it easier for you.
How Does This Post Relate to My Mission?
I’m on a mission to connect and encourage connection in a busy world. It’s through connection that we live joyful lives because where’s the joy in living isolated? Fighting head lice is a great time for families to spend together. You’re in it together and you might as well focus on connecting and building memories through the misery. But don’t forget that this battle will isolate you from the rest of society while you’re focusing elsewhere. So stay true to the battle so you can get back to living joyfully connected with the outside world.