I keep forgetting to post this. I wrote it half a year ago and thought I’d post it now with the newest super lice news coming out this morning. I’m not sure how prevalent lice is in the summer months, but perhaps may be helpful for summer campers or prepping for the next school year!
There have been news articles on Super Lice across the United States. Super Lice are lice that are considered resistant to over the counter (and often prescription) treatments, but that’s not news, it has been that way for a while.
I’m a bit of a germaphobe, and I have certainly had my share of heeby jeebies at the mention of lice. I never had lice as a kid, and neither did my husband, nor do we remember anyone in either of our houses or our friends’ houses having had lice. I’ve gone through the panic when letters came home from classrooms since my oldest started preschool almost a decade ago, so much so that I ordered some supplies to have at the ready if it ever appeared here. I had ordered combs on Amazon, thinking I wouldn’t want to run out to local CVS or grocery where the town would see me. I didn’t know much at all about lice and had only been taught by society to fear it.
But Sarah once told me that she loved getting lice as a kid. It meant she got to stay home from school and lay on the couch watching TV with her head on her mother’s lap while her mother combed Sarah’s hair for hours. That didn’t seem so scary.
And then just when I was totally convinced that our heads just must have some pH, other scalp/hair makeup that kept us lice free, or possibly that we’d never get the bugs because my kids aren’t “huggy” kids and there is little head to head contact with anyone, we got lice. It was right after New Years this year. My daughters and I spent a really nice morning hanging out with a group of friends at a friend’s house, and the next morning one of the mothers told us they had found lice on one of the girl’s heads. I checked my kids through a bunch of times that day and the next but didn’t see anything at all. I read up on what to look for and how to handle it. I watched many YouTube videos and bought some shower caps, hair clips and extra bottles of conditioner. I poked around on all of my kids heads often and still didn’t see anything.
Well, I didn’t see anything… at first. On the second day, shortly after tucking in my kids, my head itched a little. One of the supplies I had bought more than 5 years was the Robi Comb. The Robi Comb is an electric (battery powered) comb that works like a regular metal pick comb but buzzes (my dog does NOT love that sound) and if you hit a bug (or your finger, a hair tangle, or a drop of water, or sometimes dandruff or a fuzzy), the noise stops (basically when two comb teeth are connected to form a circuit). I think it’s supposed to zap the bug it runs into too. So on the second day after our heads up, when my head itched and I ran the Robi Comb through the itchy part of my head the buzzing stopped.
That was it. It had come. It looked just like the pictures I’d looked at online. Bizarrely accurately exactly alike the pictures. I used the Robi Comb for about 30 minutes without finding anything else, and then went and told my husband, who looked through my hair and didn’t see anything at all.
I thought about waking up my kids to treat them immediately, but it was about 11:30pm and I decided to start in the morning.
I didn’t have any medicated lice treatment on hand. We went for the soaking our heads in olive oil for many hours method (which is supposed to drown the live bugs), wash that out, then a 15 minute vinegar soak (which is supposed to dissolve the glue the eggs attach with). Then combing combing combing with a fine metal toothed lice comb (we had two still in the packaging I’d ordered 5 years before when my oldest entered kindergarten).
I have had five friends go through lice in their house and tell me about it. I’m guessing there are others who just don’t talk about it. From those who have confided, every single one of them did the same thing. They used some over the counter treatment/shampoo, maybe did a quick comb, then a couple weeks later when the eggs hatched, they freaked out and called a nitpicker to comb out the kids. Every one of them. From there, each mother swore that they were a professional now that they knew what to do and look for and they would come over and comb and it really wasn’t a big deal. They learned that the medication was the treatment, but the cure was in the combing. And a good fine toothed metal lice comb was necessary. I have the patience and accuracy for thorough precise tedious jobs, and with it being right after New Years and school vacation, we had plenty of time for combing and TV watching.
We never found anything on me besides that first bug I caught in the Robi Comb (I’m guessing it climbed over during tucking in right before I found it). I combed out a few lice on my oldest daughter on the first combing. That was the extent of our infestation. Many thanks to a mom telling us so we could catch things while it was very easy. I don’t think the olive oil did a thing, when combing, the bugs were alive on my daughter, though it is possible that there were more and they fell off when she showered, or the oil “stunned” the bugs and I took so long combing they woke up again. We’d put enough oil on that it was dripping down our foreheads and necks for hours so it wasn’t for lack of oil. Similar with the vinegar, I can’t say whether it worked or not – maybe it worked so well, dissolved the egg glue, and they slid off during washing before the combing, so that’s why we didn’t see any eggs, or maybe there wasn’t any eggs to begin with.
We never found anything on my other two kids. My son’s hair was due for a haircut, so after combing through a few times and making sure the girls were clear, I did trim his hair shorter than 1 inch, just to not have to worry about it at all. That’s a very easy fix for boys (or girls) with short hair. The lice need an inch or more of hair to stay warm and hide.
The combing takes lots of time. My middle daughter and I have fine thin shoulder length hair. My husband helped and our heads were combed through in about 40 minutes. Though I wasn’t totally convinced he combed thoroughly and had him do mine at least twice a day for a couple days. My older daughter has thick thick halfway down her back hair and a tendency to have dandruff. It took me a solid 3 hours each the first two days, after that, with the help of clips, I got better in the management of the hair and also felt I’d got most everything and could do a thorough job in an hour. We combed everyday for the first 5 days, then every couple days for another week, and I’ve combed through a few times since, but we never found anything after the first combing. We used conditioner to help in the combing sometimes, and always brushed damp/wet hair (unless using the Robi Comb, which I did a LOT on my own anytime my head itched for a couple weeks!).
It took a lot of time, but it really wasn’t too awful. Again, we only had it this once, were warned, ready-ish, and caught it quick, so I am definitely not an expert and don’t much experience. This is less of a how to and more of an “Lice in the house really wasn’t so bad.” Definitely not nearly as bad as I expected after all of the stigma and fear and creepies. Lice carry no disease. They combed out pretty easily. They stay in one part of your body- always on your head, that’s WAY better than the ticks we pull off or find crawling around. If you spend any amount of time outside, you’ll find ants, spiders, flies, mosquitoes, and all sorts of bugs crawling on you, which should seem just as gross or not for you, and most of them can harm you a lot more than lice. How about scabies burrowing in your skin? That’s a little creepier too.
Our town stopped sending letters home when lice is in a classroom and you no longer have to report it to the school. This was in a attempt to try to soften the stigma of having lice. Now there are just periodic “check your kids” notices to the whole school from the nurse. Part of what made our experience not so bad was someone alerting us to check my kids and that I had someone else going through it at the same time for direction, laughter and any moral support needed – or at least to know there is no shame, it was just from having a fun morning hanging out and playing together. It happens.
I’m not sure about the letter policy. Since prior to this, I had zero experience with lice, I DID panic when we got the letters. At the same time, I didn’t know what to look for, so I’d peek at my kids scalp once or twice after the letters came home and that was it. I did want to know who it was. I didn’t think poorly of that kid/family (especially having heard the stories from friends), but I didn’t really want my kid hanging around that kid for a while. There was always lots of whispering about it when the letters came home. Now that I see how harmless it is, I can appreciate eliminating that stigma factor. Strep throat is probably more contagious and there is less fear. The second part of that shedding the stigma concept is that people should come forward and at least tell the guardians of the friends that may have been exposed and perhaps share how to deal with it with products and combs that have worked for them, or the name of a nitpickers. I definitely don’t think that is happening yet.
I did do a ton of laundry and cleaning. You don’t need to do that according to my friends who have gone to the nitpickers and the majority of the up to date websites. Lice can’t live off the head for very long. I knew that, and was over the lice as germs concept once seeing them, but we were home all day towards the end of school vacation going stir crazy with no plans, so I probably would have done laundry and cleaned anyway to keep busy or feel control over something in life. Like Sarah enjoying relaxing TV time with her mom when she had lice as a kid, having a really clean house, all of the laundry done and kids home relaxing was actually a not un-nice part of having lice!
If there ever is a next time, I think I would use some sort of homeopathic shampoo treatment first. I echo my friends who have been to the nitpickers advice and recommend a good fine toothed metal lice comb and a lot of combing. If you have long hair to deal with using conditioner while you comb helps, as well as hair clips to keep hair separated. But most of all if your kid does come home with lice, I recommend giving a heads up to those they may have shared it with.
I’m guessing a “nitpicking, movies and wine” party might be a funny memory for many groups of parent and kid friends!