5 things I learned from a lice outbreak

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5 things I learned about lice. It's better to be prepared for these critters! | via www.TheSurvivalMom.com

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:

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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 is a writer and reader. She grew up all over the world as a military brat and is now putting down roots with her family in Ohio. Visit her at SarahAnneCarter.com

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14 thoughts on “5 things I learned from a lice outbreak”

  1. ( sorry for the mistakes, I’m french…)
    1 only time, my oldest girl have eggs lice in her hair. You can soak hair with oil ( yes, kitchen oil, very cheap !), but she must have hait very soaked, then you wrap her hair with plastic wrap ( right ? you see, those use in kitchen ). Do this 2 hours minimum. you will must do a lots of shampoo after that, but the lack of oxygen ( oil inside the ” nostrils” of the lice and eggs) will kill them, and it will be more easy use the metal comb. You can also put in the freezer those little things whose can’t be whash. lavender essential oil in the shampoo can prevent further invasion.
    Can’t stop scratching my head, now…lol

  2. DD#1 is highly allergic to the chemical stuff and to keep her out of the ER I did lots of research. I love the Fairy Tales Products. The terminator comb is a life send. I can’t find lice in the hair just by looking but I can remove them with that comb. And it gets the eggs out too. We regularly use the Rosemary Repel Creme Conditioner and spray on conditioner during the school year. Dd#1 hasn’t had a case since.

  3. i treated my daughters hair with one treatment and never saw another! Coconut oil!! I slathered it on, put a shower cap on her and left it on 8 hours, then combed. Eggs, lice and all gone! I then continued to put tea tree oil in her shampoo and coconut oil in her conditioner. Never had them since!

  4. Since I started putting tea tree oil in my daughters shampoo & conditioner she hasn’t got them. Before I started doing that she would have several infestations during the school year. Highly recommend this for prevention.

  5. My 2 little ones and I had a run in with lice! We used the Robi Comb-has a charge in it so when you comb the hair and a louse or a nit gets between the tines, the charge zaps it and kills it. The comb goes off so you know you got one. It is harmless to humans. If you can’t afford one or find one, the regular nit combs work well, just takes more time to make sure you’ve got the little boogers. When I was in Cosmetology school, one of my shampoo/blow-dry clients had nits(the eggs) throughout her hair that I didn’t notice until time to blow-dry. My instructor stopped me immediately and told me had I started blow drying, the eggs would’ve started hatching! If that is true, then I would not do what an earlier commenter stated in saying to use heat to kill the lice. You might have more on your hands, or head, than you bargained for!

  6. Sarah Anne Carter

    Merry – I did some quick research and heat does kill them. Some people suggest using a blow dryer to kill them. Your hairdresser probably knew that they need heat from your scalp to hatch, but a higher level of heat does kill them – not cause them to hatch.

  7. lice has a more difficult time attaching to hair with product in it. Anytime I find out lice is going around I put gel in the kids hair, i French braid the girls with a bun at the bottom to keep it from being loose and style my boys Mohawks. We had severe cases is class where more than half the students had it, same with a dance class (sharing sparkly fedoras for a routine) and several other activities and neighbors and playmates. No one in my home has ever gotten it. And as I said all I do it gel the crap out of their hair and wash it super good nightly.

  8. Too bad I didn’t read this before Christmas, I could have asked for tea tree oil for a stocking stuffer. I could see myself freaking out about them, so it may be worth it to go for the preventative measures.

  9. We had them when my kids were small, a last present from the regular public school when we left to homeschool. The chemicals made rashes on the kids and did not kill the lice. A friend said to slather the hair in mayonaise, not lowfat! wrap with plastic wrap, cover with a beanie to keep it on and leave on overnight. I think it was two applications about a week apart. Worked great and soft hair to boot!

  10. Don’t forget to clean your car. A friend kept getting re-infested and those little buggers were living in the car. They took a two week self imposed quarantine and finally put an end to it.

  11. My child had lice once and she had to go to school like that. She said it was embarrassing. But at least I had found a remedy. Its basicly just adding downy (yes downy the laundry thing) it helped get rid if it so well buy the end of her school year she was done with lice. Just like that! Use this every day for one week and you will see big time difference. It also leave the hair smelling good as well.

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