“When you reach the end of your rope,
tie a knot and hang on.”
A few Sundays ago, I went to urgent care. Nothing major, but my scalp was insanely itchy and I had an equally itchy rash on the dominating the back of my neck.
Sheepishly, I muttered to the doctor, “I’m a teacher. My daughters are in school. Could you please check my head for, uuuuuuuuuh … lice?”
She fingered through my hair and gave me the green light. Nope, no lice.
Her diagnosis: Dandruff and a non-specific rash. She wrote me a note to use Head & Shoulders, ditch the hotel shampoos (I like to use the fancy products my husband gets on business trips), and lube my neck with some prescription rash cream.
My husband had a solid laugh. Dandruff and a rash – hehe haha – and you thought you needed to go to Urgent Care. (Truth be told, I’m a bit of a hypo).
On Tuesday, I was still really really itchy. At 2:30, I went to the staff bathroom during my prep period to inspect my head.
There were two bugs crawling.
In my hair.
My heart pounded … is this lice? Panic rose, as I started to freak.
I ran to my co-worker’s classroom and made a disgusted face, dude, can you please check my head for lice?
She inspected and gave me an all clear – “It was probably just a fruit fly.”
I finger crossed that she was right, yet as I continued to itch and itch my head the doubts lingered.
When the bell rang to signal the end of my workday, I fled to my daughters’ schools. Along the way I created an action plan: Google lice. Check heads. Inform husband. Call kid’s hair salon for advice. Go to Walgreens.
I barely greeted the girls before I grabbed for their heads.
Like a mama chimp, I picked through the girls’ hair.
S: Two bugs.
V: One easily visible bug.
Eeek!!! This was no fruit flies, we had lice.
I’m outing myself because we’re not alone: According to the CDC, every year there are 6 million to 12 million lice cases in U.S. children ages 3 to 11. The odds are VERY high that at some point, you’ll be introduced to these unwelcome guests.
Everyone is vulnerable. Lice don’t care how clean or dirty your hair is.
Are you scratching your head?? I still am!
Well, rather than hide in shame, I would like share a natural way to get rid of lice.
I wanted an option and had no idea that there were options other than RID! You don’t need to douse your darlings’ heads with toxic shampoos.
Before I begin with the how tos, let me tell you: Lice is a bit of nightmare. The first two days were a parasite tsunami. Chez Rudey, tensions were high.
Within hours, I blew up …
Husband: Scrambling around the family room, tearing the couch apart, after our deloused girls drifted to sleep.
Me: “Will you comb me out?”
Husband: “Ummmmmm…,” he paused from striping the couch of throw pillows, cushions and blankets.
Me (a moment hesitation, and I turned on the über bitch): “Are you effing kidding me? What about in sickness and in health?” I stormed into the kitchen and before he could respond, I spewed, “Fine. Then I’m going to Hair Fairies. It costs $300.”
Instead of forking over hundreds of dollars, we launched a …
WAR on Lice.
- The Basics: When lice take up residence on your scalp, they also start to lay eggs/nits (up to eight a day!). Lice can survive about 30 days on your head. You do the math. We did and it’s compounding. These buggers become an infestation – fast! They glue their nits to strands of hair, close to the scalp. If you see a small, oval blob on a piece of hair, that’s probably a nit. The nits are itty bitty, so turn up the lights.
If you want to nerd out:
- Breathe: Go ahead and freak out. It’s okay. They’re gross. Now pour yourself an adult bevy and breathe: It’s treatable and not a disease. It will be a hellish few days (maybe weeks) of laundry, tedious combing, and spats with your significant other. But it will end. Now, let’s kick them out.
- Check EVERYONE in your house: You have head-to-head contact with your kids – reading and cuddling. Admittedly, we shared hair brushes. Moms, eighty percent of the time, if your kiddos get lice, you’re getting it too. Dads = 20 percent. My husband had nits. If left untreated, nits turn to nymphs and then to baby-making lice. We treated everyone.
- How does she do it?: This video is a must watch dealing with head lice. The little girl is swimming in lice, and the lady is pro. Dang. It makes me squeemish. But we learned the lice-be-gone combing method from her.
- Invest in a good comb: Buy the Nit Free Terminator Lice Comb. If you have school-aged kids, buy one (or two) to have on hand. Trust me. Even if you’ve never had a lice breakout, this is a comb to have if there is a scare.
- Treat it : Use a lice removal kit. Following the instructions on the box, we popped the girls in the bathtub, shampooed their heads, and lathered their hair with comb-out creme. I pour myself another beer, turned on a Disney movie, and started combing. It’s a royal pain. It’s important to wipe the comb on a paper towel after each stroke. The nits look like seeds on a strawberry.
- When you think you’re done combing, keep combing: You probably missed a few nymphs or nits. There is no magical fix – you have to MANUALLY comb them out. Re-watch the video. She rocks!
- Comb some more: Lice have a 7 – 10 day reproductive cycle, so treat every three to four days until you comb-out clear, twice. Translation: No nits! I used tweezers to pull off few stubborn nits. The bastards stick like glue to the shaft of your hair. If you can’t flick it away, it’s not dandruff. The product is natural, so you don’t have to wait seven days to re-treat. We treated it six times. The first time there were lice, nymphs and nits. The second time – three days later – there were a couple nymphs and some nits. After that, nothing, but we kept combing another week since we had read some horror stories of re-infestation.
- Combing is a bitch: What if your hair is too long or thick or curly to comb over and over ? It’s not necessary, but it may be worth a haircut. On the second morning, frustrated with the comb outs, I grabbed my sewing scissors and chopped 5 inches off my hair. Insane, I know, but it REALLY hurt when my husband was nit picking.
- Bag Lady: You bag items that cannot be washed – like stuffed animals and gigantic euro pillows. Should you bag for two weeks? It’s not a must, as the bugs die after 36 – 48 hours of being away from your scalp/blood. Still, we did two weeks for good measure.
- Fire Up the Laundry: You’re going to be doing A LOT of laundry. You need to wash ALL bedding, pillows, towels on HOT. Throw coats, hats, gloves and backpacks in the dryer on HOT for 20 minutes, everyday as long as you are treating for lice (two weeks!).
- Break out the Dyson: Vacumm couches, mattresses, carpets, carseat covers and the inside of the car. Then throw down a sheet to cover the couches until you’re certain there are no more nits. You can dry the sheet on HOT for 20 minutes every day.
- Contact tracing: Notify your school, carpoolers and locker mates. I know, funzies, but lice love to party! You won’t be on the black list. People will appreciate your candor. Keeping the creepy crawlies a secret increases the chances that the fun will be unknowingly passed back to you. Chances are if your kiddo has them, one or more of her friends have them too. V’s best friend did.
- Call on the pros: The women at Fairy Tales and Lice Detectives were super helpful on the phone. After we treated our heads four times, we decided to call in the experts. We had money remaining in our flexible spending account, so we thought, why not … For $100, a pro from Lice Detectives came to our house, treated all of our heads, and reassured me that we were all clean. She sold me peace of mind. She actually found NO evidence of lice in our heads. Phew!
- There are many shampoos on the market aiming to prevent lice. Take your pick or put a few drops of tea tree oil directly into your shampoo bottles. Tea tree smells like gasoline. The lice hate it, along with mint and rosemary. I put tea tree in my shampoo bottle and the girls are using this …
- If you have girls, tight updos with ample hairspray offer the best protection. Lice have trouble attaching to ballet buns and braids. I spray the girls with the repel conditioning spray.
- Try not to share the following (and I stress try because kids like to share, and I sometimes forget):
- Dry hair after bath time. Lice dislike heat.
- If you get the dreaded school note, grab a nit picker, some regular conditioner and do a comb out. If you catch that first louse you can save yourself a ton of time and trouble.
- Remind your kids to tell you if they start feeling itchy. We caught it relatively early because of the itching. It turns out I was having an allergic reaction to the lice’s saliva. (Ewwww!).
In the end, it is what it is. Reward yourself for getting through it. I bought a new workout outfit, and took the girls to see Frozen. (We put our coats behind our heads on the seats – I am so done with lice!)
How did you defeat it? What works? What does not work? Feed me with a comment.
P.S. It helps to talk about it, so I bought this book for a read aloud.