It’s been a head scratching few weeks around here! My husband and I escaped to San Francisco a couple weeks ago, and on our first morning away, I was awakened by a barrage of voicemails and texts from the school nurse alerting us that our daughter had head lice! Since we were on the other side of the country, my in-laws brought her home while we scheduled a service to come de-louse our daughter and check our other girls. That afternoon, it was revealed that all three girls were infested. My in-laws certainly deserve some kind of childcare/grandparent Nobel prize. (If memory serves,the last time they watched the kids for us, the girls got pink eye…) They handled the week with as much patience and gentleness as I could ever wish for my girls—administering nightly olive oil treatments, brushing out their hair for hours, and keeping the laundry going—all while loving on and laughing with the girls. Once we returned, my mother-in-law (Nana) taught me all of the tricks and processes (we had to douse their hair in olive oil at night and comb for nits for three weeks).
When I didn’t see a head lice alert come home from school, I learned that our school system has a new policy (through HIPAA) that they can’t reveal a head lice outbreak (even without mentioning any kids—which still confuses me a bit). So I began emailing all of our friends and classrooms. Not 24 hours after I sent the email, six families in another daughter’s class confirmed they had them as well as two in our eldest’s. I’ve been doing some research on this for my own sanity and for our school PTO and wanted to share some resources here.
First, head lice has a lot of misconceptions. Here are a few cleared up:
- Anyone/everyone can get lice. It’s kind of a right of passage—even celebrities aren’t immune! But it is much more common in children.
- Lice thrive on (and latch onto) clean hair—cleanliness has nothing to do with an outbreak.
- Lice do not carry any diseases.
- Lice do not fly or jump from head to head, nor do they swim.
- Pets cannot get lice.
Your house cannot get infested.
It is recommended to clean sheets and pillow cases but studies show that the lice don’t like to detach from the hair. It is more important to comb out nits and clean hats, brushes, and hair accessories (focus on the head, not the bed).
Some methods for eliminating head lice:
We used a service since my husband and I were out of town. We wanted to ease some of the work for my in-laws. When you use a service, someone comes to your house to remove lice and nits and teach you next steps. They also provide a note to the school that you are lice free. We still had to follow up with regular combings and olive oil soaks (every night for a week and every other night for two additional weeks). The service focused on soaking the hair in olive oil, combing out all nits and bugs, sleeping with a soaked head, and washing out in the morning (with dawn soap followed by shampoo and conditioner).
In Nashville, Lice Solutions or The Mobile Lice People are recommended services—even simply for a professional to check/confirm whether your child has lice. You can then eliminate them or on your own, or request their services.
I used a natural, over-the-counter lice shampoo and then followed up with regular combing and olive oil treatments at home. What you need to know is that shampoos such as Nix and RID don’t kill all of the lice (and definitely don’t kill the nits), so those tedious combings are still essential. (Also, most of those products have crazy chemicals and now lice are developing immunities to these chemicals.)
Some alternative options that were also recommended to me include the Nuvo method and Ladibugs elimination kit.
Some preventative things you can do—especially with young kids:
- Spray your child’s hair every morning with a lice prevention spray.
- Use a lice prevention shampoo and conditioner OR put a few drops of tea tree oil in your regular shampoo (apparently, lice do not like tea tree oil, so all of my girls got some in their stockings this year…).
- Check their heads once a week.
- Communicate with your school, classes, parents, and friends. Because it takes a village, people!
Sorry, if you’re scratching your head now!
Sarah Wilson wants to live in a world where emails are short, love letters are brave, and her kids don’t need to be reminded to say “please” and “thank you” on a daily basis.
Currently she is at-home in Nashville with three young girls while juggling freelance writing and communications work and developing grassroots education programs. Wilson previously worked in Public Relations, television writing and production, domestic violence awareness, and taught high school English. She’s still trying to decide what she wants to be when she grows up.
When she’s not wrangling little girls or sneaking in some writing time, you can find her reading too much young adult fiction, taking long walks on her local greenway, or snapping pictures of her daily life and writing about it on her family blog.