What You Need to Know About Lice-- By Guest Contributor Jackie K.
What I know now, compared to what I knew in January of 2010, are worlds apart. If you’ve never had the pleasure of being exposed to lice, count your blessing. I never experienced them as a child, nor did I know anyone who had. I do remember, in elementary school, these ladies coming into our classroom on a regular basis to check our heads. However, no one was ever sent home, and we would all laugh and say it felt weird when they parted our hair and searched around our scalp with sticks. Other than that, I had zero experience with these parasites called head lice.
I will share my story with you, which discloses some of the myths and facts about head lice. In a crisis situation, lice are something you have to prepare for. You may find yourself in close quarters with others and unless you have the proper tools to treat them, you will be dealing with them forever. They can get out of control and spread quickly if you do not know what to look for. Other people may have had different experiences and some things may work on one person, yet not on another. If you’re like me, you’ll want to use something that works, and that you can use to treat everyone in the house as a preventative measure.
My first experience with lice was overwhelming. My mom called to tell me that one of her co-workers had just received a call from the school indicating that his child had lice. Since his child was in the same school district as my girls, she thought it would be a good idea for me to check them. Ironically, that night I checked my daughter’s heads and screamed – no more like, shrieked in horror. WE HAD LICE! My oldest had adults, yes ADULTS in plural, and a hatching of nits (eggs) all over her head!! My middle child had the same thing and my youngest; well, he had a louse (one louse, typically an adult) on his head. I had no idea what to do; I had nothing in my home to treat them. It was 7:30 in the evening and I had to go to the store and buy product. So I rushed out like a mad woman who was in a crisis and bought what I thought would work. I bought enough of the name brand, chemical treatment, to treat my kid’s heads as well as mine and my husbands. I also purchased a spray for the furniture. To say it was expensive is an understatement. I did not care, $100+ was not a big deal to me at the time; I just wanted these things gone!
I went home with the mindset that I was going to be done with this in short order. Boy was I wrong! I read the back of the box of the expensive chemical shampoo, it said: “Do not treat unless you have lice,” along with many more warnings about the side effects of the chemicals. This meant that my husband and I could not treat ourselves. Keep in mind, I may not have had them YET, but it sure felt like I did! For those of you who have had these little pests in your home, you know EXACTLY what I mean. Picture a grown woman jumping up and down like a little kid screaming “ewww cooties”! (I really wanted to do that last part but reserved it for my own mental image, as my kids did not need to see me act like that.) Instead I tied my hair up in a bandana and walked around looking like Rosie the Riveter for a week or better.
Now I was in for a real task, not only did I have to treat my kids with this stuff, after reading all of the warnings I was worried about what I was putting on their heads; and I still had to comb through their hair with a tiny little comb that was provided. What?!?!?!? How long would that take? Both of my daughters have long hair! Remember, it was 7:30pm when I discovered the lice, so the treatment began. So I stayed positive for my kids; I didn’t want them to see me running around like a nut. I also didn’t want my girls to feel grossed out about it as it was not their fault. We are clean people that bath every day. How could we have gotten these things? Mind you, a key problem is that I was not notified by my children’s school that this was in our school yet. Therefore, I did not get the fact sheet about illnesses or parasites, I had no facts or tips to go on! I stress the word YET here because now I would have to take the time to look it up on my own. These are the days a mother wishes she could clone herself.
I began treatment with the shampoo and waited 10 minutes as directed; I bagged things up while I waited! I decided to give my son a buzz cut to avoid any unnecessary treatment for him. At first my husband was upset until he saw the louse on our son’s head, which was the size of a piece of rice! When they are that big they have been feeding on your child for a while and laying a multitude of eggs (nits). Once he saw the louse, he said, “Yeah there’s no way he would have let you pick his head.” My husband decided he was not getting anywhere near any of their heads, so he helped bagged up pillows, blankets, etc. and disappeared. I would need to take everything to the laundry mat the next day; think of how much stuff would you have to bag up and launder? Would you know what needed to be bagged and what to do to with items that cannot be bagged and washed? I will address that later in the article.
It was not time to rinse out my girl’s hair and begin the process of combing through it. To my worst nightmare, I found that the chemical shampoo had NOT worked on my oldest daughter – she still had live bugs on her head. I couldn’t shave her head either, she would die of embarrassment. NOW WHAT WAS I GOING TO DO?!?! According to the box instructions, I couldn’t retreat her, but should instead take her to see a doctor. UGH, it was 9:00pm, no one was open!
Okay, okay think fast, what do I do? I searched the internet for “head lice” and found a website for an Olive Oil treatment, another for a Mayonnaise treatment, and still another indicated to use vinegar. In frustration and against the box instructions, I re-treated my daughter because I felt like I had no other option. Thankfully the second treatment worked – the louse were dead.
After shampooing and rinsing came the wonderful phase of nit picking. Let me tell you, now that I understand the literal sense of this phrase, I would not wish it on my worst enemy, EVER! It is a tedious task and I felt like I was going blind, but wanted to be sure to get all the nits (eggs) off. To make matters worse the comb provided was not working, the nits were sliding right past the teeth and I ended up having to use my fingers. These things were glued to the hair like no glue I have ever seen. Holy Cow! I was now beyond grossed out, exhausted, and had had enough of my girls crying to last me a lifetime. I picked out as many as I could find and for as long as my girls could tolerate. Finally, I wrapped their heads in bandanas and off to bed they went. Exhausted, and unable to sleep and feeling like I had just poisoned my children with all of these chemicals I made myself a cup of tea and sat in front of the computer while my washer was on a marathon run of loads of laundry.
As I began my research, I was overwhelmed again with the realization that I could not tell fact from fiction. Sadly, I was realizing I was not at all prepared for this kind of thing. Not only was I going to have clean my entire house again, I was going to have to do this with my three children at home. I could not send them to school if any of the louse were still alive and the treatment had not fully worked.
We went to the laundry mat where I spent over $100 doing ALL of my laundry again. I had no real resource to believe; every website I read said throw it out, buy new, or wash in HOT water and dry on the highest heat. I cannot tell you how much stuff I shrunk or threw away because of my lack of knowledge. By the way, have you been keeping track of how much this unprepared person spent so far? It was well over $200 in just 24 hours and this was with power, open stores, working ATM’s and debit cards. This does not account for the money I spent on take-out for dinner because I was too busy cleaning to cook. Let’s not forget, I had to purchase new hairbrushes and hair clips because I ignorantly threw them all away based on what I read at three in the morning.
I have treated and managed to kill the live lice; however, there are still nits on their heads because I could not get them all but they have to get back to school. The nurse says I did a good job but perhaps I should follow up with a different product for my oldest called TLC (Total Lice Control) an all-natural product that she gave me a sample of, which I did. I also found a local company that has a group of women who will come help you nit-pick. They are called the “Lice Ladies”, they will nit-pick and treat your child’s head at a cost of $80 an hour. Yikes! Keep in mind though, if you do the math on what I spent on treatment and time to do it myself, $80 a head would have saved me money. I wish I would have known this before I had wasted time and back breaking energy. The website with their product lists all kinds of the helpful information about lice all in one place. 13 years ago a mother who had a similar experience to mine did something about it and created her own company.
Since they were local, I called the number on the box and shared with a kind woman what I had just experienced, she helped me relax and realize that I was letting this entire situation overwhelm me. Then gave me some recommendations, and told me if I still had issues to call her and she would come to my home and help me. Of course there would be a fee, but she promised I would not be bothered by these parasites any longer. In addition, she told me what I could do to keep my home as free of the louse as possible. I would like to share that same information with you now.
Head lice are tiny parasitic insects that live on the human scalp and hair. They can be spread from person to person, by direct contact with the hair, or through sharing of personal items. For example, items such as hats, combs, brushes or hair accessories that have been worn by someone who has lice. In addition, if you, or your child, have had a diagnosis at work or school you have been exposed. You can also get lice from movie theaters, airplanes, or hotels and motels. Even the classiest hotels can be affected and infested with the parasite; most often, you will find the parasite in schools. In my experience, I believe that kids transfer them by backpacks that hang close together. And where do these sit when your child puts his on? Yep, right on their back, close to the head, target rich environment if I have ever seen one. There is no real peak season for lice as they live everywhere. I read a story that when they opened the tombs in Egypt there were mummified lice on the heads of the mummies that had hair. What does that tell you? Lice require a human host, so they cannot live on pets or on the ground, but they can crawl across the floor. Albeit slowly, but if they don’t have far to go to the next host, well you know what happens next. Lice move quickly on the head. I mean quickly. Lice do not fly or jump!
Here are more facts on lice:
- There are 12 to 25 million reported cases per year!
- Typical time of infestation prior to diagnosis is 4 to 6 weeks!
- Their color ranges from opaque to black.
- They have nothing to do with cleanliness.
- Food Sources: Blood; just like mosquitoes, lice only like certain people. Not everyone in your family will get them. They burrow into your scalp to eat, thus the itching. You may itch for days after all the lice have been eliminated.
- Nits are laid right next to the scalp and grow out with the hair. Nits will never fall off by themselves-they will remain glued to the hair shaft until you pull them off or the hair falls out.
- A nit hatches in 5 to7 days from being laid. Newly hatched lice mature in 5 to7 days. A mature louse can lie up to 7 to 10 nits per day. Their life cycle is approximately 30 days.
- Mayonnaise, Vaseline, and Olive Oil treatments are NOT effective. If it was that easy this country would not have epidemic levels of infestations of lice.
- Amount of time spent to eliminate the problems: Days to Weeks!
- Lice sprays do not work. Chemical based shampoo products scientifically proven to be only 35% to 50% effective, as well as neurologically toxic.
Now that you have read my story, and all of the facts about lice, knowing how to treat them is the next task. There are many ways to treat lice, and many people have given me their advice on how to treat lice. What you need to do is find what works best for you and your family. You have to know the only way to really be sure they are gone from the person in your home is to check their heads constantly. You have to always have the product on hand that works best for your family. I promise you, if you or your child gets lice once, you will get them again. I speak from experience, having dealt with them for the last four years, each at different times of the year. I check heads all the time, including during the summer months when I have not had issues yet, but doesn’t mean I won’t. It only takes one exposure and one time for me to let my guard down and not check for a while, and they are back. Below is a list of what I do when these pests come to my home. It works, and is a lot of work, but doing something right requires a lot of work.
How to Treat For Lice:
- Examine each family member’s head, even if they don’t show signs of lice.
- Treat everyone in the household on Day 1 and Day 7, even if they don’t show signs of lice.
- Once you have treated everyone, begin to remove nits and any dead lice with a fine tooth comb. One missed bug will continue to cycle and getting rid of these will prove frustrating. After the first day of treatment and comb out, check everyone’s head again at least every other day realistically.
- Bedding MUST be dried daily. On high heat in the dryer for no less than 30 minutes. You can skip the washing cycle if you have already washed once on hot cycle. Bedding means, sheets, blankets, and pillows.
- Vacuum initially very thoroughly; furniture, flooring, computer chairs, dining room chairs etc. Don’t forget the Car and Car Seats – even if you have leather. Once you have done your initial vacuum every other day is fine. Vacuuming is your best tool to help keep them from spreading. You don’t have them all over your home; you are just taking precautions to not miss a hair with an egg/nit or bug still attached.
- Put those backpacks in the dryer every day once you have had lice or gotten the notice your school has lice; for 30 minutes on high heat
- Bag up all stuffed animals, hats, and pillows or anything else that can’t be washed but is in your child’s room, remove them from the room, place in garage for two weeks. (If it is summer time, you can bag these items and put them in the trunk or just lay them out in the direct sun for a day, the heat will kill them like it does in the dryer).
- Gather up all hair brushes, combs, hair clips and so on. Boil water and soak these items in hot water for 10 minutes each day. Clean your hair brushes as well prior to soaking. This will save you a lot of money in having to buy new products. You can do this daily.
- All clothes that have been in contact with the infested person within the last 2 weeks need to be washed; including coats, hats, hair bows, and backpacks. Clothes need to be changed daily following each comb out session.
- You can go out and purchase the mattress covers and pillow covers for bedding if you don’t want to have to vacuum the bed and so on every time this happens. That is going to be expensive and not a must unless it makes you feel better. It will help lessen the chances of bed bug issues as well. But, this is a personal choice. For me, since I did not know the first time how long we had them. I covered all beds with these covers, so if any were on the mattress and I missed them, they would not re-infect my house. I have washed them since, and put back on, because it also helps protect the mattress from any crazy spills or other accidents kids may have.
- Vacuum, Vacuum, Vacuum! I can’t stress this enough! Until you know your house is clear. Not every day, but at least every other. Throw out the vacuum bag as well once done if you, like me, still have a vacuum that uses bags. Once you know your house is clear of lice, I would resume your weekly vacuuming.
I don’t like to use the chemical based products because they did not work on the “super lice” for my family three years ago. Coupled with the fact that you can’t use it treat the entire family as a preventative measure, and the toxic chemicals, just shows me why I need to have a natural product. I mean think about it, these things have existed forever and will always be a part of the human life cycle. If you can find stories where lice were on an Egyptian mummy’s head, well, think of what they did before chemicals. They had to do something right? So now take those ideas from the past, blend them with the future, and we should be able to deal with these pests no problem!
Keep in mind everyone, all this happened during the course of normal life. We were not in another crisis already like Hurricane Sandy, the power outage that hit the East Coast, or the floods in Colorado. This was a crisis of its own at a time when I had access to stores, money and cleaning facilities. The things you will need to do if this happens in a crisis, will most likely take you longer and be so much more difficult. You may not be able to get to the store to buy treatment products because you have no cash to use. Below is a list I created for myself of items I like to have on hand so that I can treat my family and home for lice if TEOTWAWKI happens.
- Always have enough lice treatment on hand to treat the entire family.
- Purchase a metal comb to help comb out those nits and lice. (It will also help you comb out dandruff from a sunburn on the head too if needed, and the occasional glitter epidemic)
- 55 gallon drum bags for sheets and other items in if there’s no power or way to launder clothes quickly.
- Magnifying glasses to help see the louse as you nitpick; louse are small even when full grown.
- Water and fuel source for boiling brushes, combs and hair accessories.
- Extra set of clean bedding.
- A washing machine or alternative way to launder items you will need to use every day.
- A good sense of humor, you aren’t the only family ever to have had this happen and you won’t be the last.
- Bandanas. Get ready to wear your hair up like “Rosie the Riveter” and carry on. Because ladies “We Can Do It!”
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