If the sight of someone scratching his or her head triggers you, you’ve possibly had a run-in with lice. And, once you’ve experienced those little horrors, nothing is worse than hearing your child say, “Mommy, my head itches.” Having dealt with head lice on two separate occasions, I’m here to help clarify any preconceived notions, alleviate your fears, and share tips on what to do and what not to do (because if this mom knows anything, it’s that hindsight is 20/20).
The first time we discovered lice, I was mortified. Mark me the worst mom ever, because my son complained for a full week about his head itching! I just assumed it was an allergic reaction to the new shampoo we bought. Finally, after my mother’s wise prompting, I considered the inconceivable possibility of lice. Within minutes of examining his head . . . there. they. were.
And here, we have we the example of what not to do.
I screamed like a little girl, ran to find a bag, and promptly tied it over his hair — while simultaneously sending him into panic mode. Like a complete lunatic, I basically ran in circles, having no idea what to do. And, because I’m the worst mom ever, he started to cry and very seriously asked, “Am I going to die?”
Pulling myself up by the proverbial boot straps, I held his face in my hands and reassured him he was going to be okay. I also reminded him what a dramatic pansy of a mom I am and that I would most definitely scream several more times before this was all over with.
After treating his hair, I treated mine and everyone else’s in our house. On top of the normal cleaning of linens and toys, I washed walls, scrubbed floors, and bagged towels and blankets that hadn’t even been taken out of the closets. I bagged every pillow in the house and refused to let the kids sleep with anything but a sheet. At that time I was about seven months pregnant, and because of all the unnecessary cleaning, I almost went into labor. What should have taken a day, took about three days. But, we had a ridiculously clean house and were lice-free, so win-win! (However, those tedious hours spent sifting through my child’s hair were pointless. A short week later, my father had a bonding day with my son and took him to the barber shop, where he had his head completely shaved.
I’m not bitter at all.)
Skip forward two years — we had a second lice experience, this time with my daughter.
It took no time to realize she had it. Her hair could rival Rapunzel’s and every morning I braid it back for school. I noticed a few nits and went into “Super Mom” mode ready to annihilate the louse . . . but also, repeating a mantra in my head: “Don’t freak out, don’t freak out, don’t freak out.”
And here, we have the example of what to do.
I immediately notified the school. I quickly checked my other children, who were all clear, and sent them with grandparents. I started by reassuring my daughter that it was going to be alright; I informed her I might scream, but there was nothing for her to be afraid of. I did the necessary bagging of items and started washing her bed linens and clothes. It took over two hours to treat and comb through her hair, and little by little, we de-bugged her.
Sitting for hours while I combed her hair possibly made her delirious, or maybe it was the lice medicine getting to her, but my daughter actually began to sympathize with the nits.”What a terrible mommy and daddy, just leaving their babies in my hair. I feel so bad for them . . .”
Needless to say, the second go-around was much easier than the first. Granted, she had a very small amount of nits in her hair, but we were lice-free by the end of the night. No freak-outs, no melt downs — definitely a win-win!
Are you itching yet?
Below, I have listed the best advice I can give to anyone dealing with the dreaded bugs.
Tips for Dealing with Head Lice
1. Stay calm.
It’s so easy to go into panic mode, especially when it comes to our kids. While lice is super gross, they are not life-threatening. It’s easy to think we have failed in the hygiene department, but that isn’t true. Lice happens, and there is no sense in getting worked up about it. So keep calm and treat on, Mama.
2. Notify your school/daycare.
I cannot stress this enough: let your school know! A lot of times parents don’t want anyone to know their child has lice, but it is important to notify your school. Most likely, your child is not the only one who has it. Without notifying the school, it could spread and ultimately you risk the possibility of catching it again.
Obviously, your first priority is to treat, but whether you are using over-the-counter treatments or opting for the home remedies, make sure you are thorough during the combing process. I go through the hair twice a day for about two days, and then once a day for a week. Give them your phone or iPad; movies and games will help keep fidgety little ones preoccupied. TIP: Nits are easier to spot when hair is wet, so make sure to wet hair before combing.
4. Don’t over clean.
If they haven’t touched it, chances are you won’t need to clean it. Lice cannot survive long without a host. So save yourself a little time and just focus on your child’s room and areas that they occupy the most. TIP: Let pillows and cushions sit out in the sun or throw them in the dryer. For a more effective approach, spray with a lice killing treatment.
5. Check hair daily.
I’m saying this again because it is so important! You want to be sure no nits are left behind. One nit hatches and you are back to square one! It’s time-consuming but worth the hassle! Keep checking those strands of hair. TIP: Use a tea tree oil shampoo, or add a drop of tea tree oil to your child’s shampoo. Word on the street is that it can repel lice.
SIDE NOTE: Schools are not required to send home notes regarding lice outbreaks. A lot of schools are doing away with the ‘no nit’ policy, meaning that if a child has nits, he or she can still attend school. It is important to continuously check your child’s hair, and teach them about not sharing hats, bows, and hair brushes.