Lice advice from a parent painfully familiar with the pests — FranklyStein

lice meA lousey vacation a few years ago.I posted an article this week on super lice, and it made me think back on my family's multiple run-ins with these pesky parasites.

While we've never experienced super lice per say, we've had head lice under our roof more than our fair share. If you've been around us recently, don't fear — we haven't had a case in more than a year. Our multiple run-in's however, have left me with a lot of knowledge on the topic that might help others out.

The first time we had lice, all six of us plus my elderly parents got a nasty case of the critters while on vacation. The second time, we caught a break with only two confirmed cases. The third time, we weren't exactly sure who had them beyond one child so we treated the whole family with our normal regimen — which is not your typical drug store treatment.

I was so overwhelmed the first time we had lice, I called a service recommended by a friend to come in and help. The lice technician came once, did the initial treatment on each of us using the company's own all-natural products and left us with explicit instructions on how to continue treating our heads and house for the next week or so. I followed the regimen to the letter, and when we had the tech back for a recheck the next week — we got the all clear. No more lice.

I've used that same service every time with the same results. In order for it to work, it takes treatment everyday, a good bit of cleaning and meticulous follow-through, but it's worth it. The best part? No chemicals are involved and you don't actually have to nit pick.

A few years ago when writing a story about lice for Chesapeake Family, I told a nurse how we got rid of lice, and she was amazed that the treatment actually worked. I don't know why she was surprised because the regimen makes total sense — much more so than exposing kids to chemicals you can only administer once or twice.
All it takes is a special all-natural shampoo used every day for a week to 10 days, diligent combing with a lice comb daily and applying olive oil to the hair at night so any missed nits don't hatch and attach.

After writing the post on super lice, I started thinking about all the experience I've had in the lice department and felt it might be helpful to share my “lice advice.” I'm no health care professional and I have not been formally trained in lice removal — but we have had it three times. So I will share what I have learned as a parent.

  1.  Live lice are impossible to see unless you have a raging case. Nits can also be quite hard to spot. One time I spend 30 minutes checking one of my kid's heads before I found anything that made my heart race.
  2. You don't always itch. When we had our first case, my son was the only one itching but we all had the creepy friends.
  3. Use a headlamp or a desk lamp aimed directly at the head when searching for nits. Give it more than a few minutes search if you have reason to suspect your child has lice.
  4. Companies that come in and treat lice are the best in my book, but they cost a fortune.
  5. Invest in a good lice comb.
  6. Don't discount products with all natural ingredients — even the ones sold over the counter (according to an experienced co-worker who has tried one). The benefit of these products is you can continue treating long after the lice are gone to make sure they are actually gone. Just be sure to follow directions, keep treating, keep combing and keep looking for lice.
  7. If using all natural products, don't stop treating, looking and combing too soon or they will come back.
  8. Most healthcare professionals recommend over-the-counter medications containing 1 percent permethrin or pyrethrins for treatment. These cannot be repeated and must be followed by days of nit picking to be affective.
  9. After treating the first time, be sure to wash all bedding and put it in the dryer on high for at least 30 minutes.
  10. Put all stuffed animals and pillows in the dryer for at least 30 minutes on high. The heat kills the lice. Do this with bedding every day for several days after the first treatment. No need to wash every day, just use the heck out of your dryer. Your dryer is your best friend.
  11. Anything you don't want to put in the dryer, store in a garbage bag for at least four days.
  12. Wash clothes in drawers that may have been exposed to dirty clothes. Kids are notorious for wearing clothes and putting them back in the drawer.
  13. Vacuum furniture, carpets and even the seats in the car. Remember, however, that lice can't live much longer than three or four days without a head. So don't go crazy after the first thorough cleaning. One technician told us to focus on “heads and beds” but mostly heads.
  14. Don't freak out. Lice are a pain but there are much worse things in life.

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FranklyStein is a blog by Chesapeake Family Magazine editor Betsy Stein, who lives in Catonsville with her husband, Chris, and four children, Maggie, 17, Lilly, 15, Adam, 15, and Jonah, 11.