Lice – they’re something every parent hopes they never have to deal with. To have bugs crawling around and laying eggs in your hair or your child’s hair can send shivers up anyone’s spine and fill you with dread. But, it can happen to anyone and it might be a little easier to handle if you’re prepared.
It happened to our family, and I wasn’t prepared at all!
I learned 5 things about lice, and quick!
One of my daughters had an itchy scalp and we checked her two days in a row and only found dandruff. We had gone to children’s museums and dance class that week. She goes to public school, but we hadn’t had a lice notice for quite a while. Then, on the third day, we checked her head and there they were – lice. I parted her hair and could see the bugs moving around.
I feel prepared for tornadoes, power outages and being stuck in my car, but I was not prepared for this. I inwardly panicked. I had not done any research and felt like I needed to know everything right away and get rid of these things fast. My husband and I checked the Internet, consulted some friends with experience and ran to the store. We quickly got a game plan together and started working.
Let me tell you this up fron. Lice are a lot of work. You will find yourself doing many things “just in case,” because the last thing you want is for the bugs to spread to the other children (or you) – or come back and re-infest.
(Stop scratching your head – I know you are.)
We may have gone overboard, but we treated everyone’s head in the family, looked through everyone’s hair, washed all the bedding and clothing, vacuumed everything, and put any toys with fabric or throw pillows in bags and tucked them away for the duration – two weeks – to avoid re-infestation.
And, that was just day one. Every day for two weeks involved checking and coming through hair, vacuuming and washing bedding and clothing. It took 2 hours each day to comb through our daughter’s hair.
We learned that lice die after 48 hours if they are not on a person’s head. They can’t jump or fly. The eggs need to be close to the scalp for heat to incubate. They are mostly spread by head-to-head contact, and rarely by sharing clothing and hairbrushes. They do no discriminate based on personal hygiene or home cleanliness. And, thank goodness, pets cannot spread lice.
We celebrated when it was all over. So, here’s what I learned:
- Have the treatment and comb on hand
Spend some time now and research about lice and treatments. Know beforehand if you are going to use the medicated shampoo, essential oils or another option and have it on hand, along with a metal fine-tooth comb for lice removal. It will let you avoid taking someone with lice to the store for those items and you can start treatment sooner.
- Children take their cue from their parents
Our children stayed calm during the whole craziness of the discovery and first day because we did (at least on the surface). We did stress to them the importance of following our directions so it didn’tspread. They saw how much work it was and were expected to help out a little extra. Since we took the time to explain it to them, there wasn’t much complaining.
- Have trash bags and extra bedding
We had a supply of trash bags on hand that we could put things in and it came in handy – not just for the toys, but also for bedding that we washed but didn’t want to use again until it was all over. We also had extra bedding on hand for the days where the wash wasn’t quite done by the children’s bedtime.
- Make sure to have a good heat source (washer/dryer/water)
Heat kills lice. You need to have a way to have hot water and air to kill them.
- Be prepared to spend a lot of time
It took two hours alone to comb through hair and every day there was a new list of chores to do – change bedding, vacuum carpet, furniture and mattresses – on top of the normal daily chores for a family of six. When it was all over, it took a day or two to put everything back in its place, too.
We are fortunate that we caught it in the early stages and it only affected one member of our family. We were done with the ordeal in 13 days. We still check all their hair every once in a while … just in case.
For more details on lice, visit the CDC Web site. Photos are courtesy of the CDC.
Have you thought about lice so you’re prepared if it should happen? Have you experienced lice and have any tips to share?
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Sarah Anne Carter
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