Though I believe this post contains useful information, please also make sure to read this updated post with better lice treatment options. Now back to the original post. 24 October 2016
One of the most dreadful things that could happen when you are traveling with your children (or just plain living with them) is that your kids get head lice. Up until this last week I had never experienced taking care of children with lice, only having lice myself as a kid. I was very blessed to be staying with my Mother-in-law when this whole thing started. The day she discovered them my husband was having a medical procedure done so she shooed me out the door and started the delousing process (louse is the singular of lice, in case you were curious). Three weeks later I am still dealing with these persistent little stinkers, but I have definitely learned a few lessons along the way. So here you go, important things you need to know about lice.
You will definitely know them when you see them.
One of the major fears I had about lice is that I wouldn’t notice them on my child’s head when they did get them. I was wrong. I definitely noticed them right away, even on my darker haired child. The lice were the exact same color as her hair, but I found them easily. I could see little specks that were a different texture than the hair, and on top of that they were moving (which was gross, I’m not going to lie). The eggs on the other had were more difficult to see, but after a few days I figured out that if I brushed the hair at a certain angle I could see the eggs (empty egg casings are known as nits). Most of them were concentrated on the top of her head.
Lice shampoo does not work.
My aunt warned me about this, but I didn’t listen. You were right Heidi!! It was gross, expensive, and I don’t even want to think about those chemicals being absorbed through my child’s skin. Plus, it only killed the bugs, not ANY of the eggs. Three days after I used it she had a full blown crop of lice on her head again. Also keep in mind that you cannot blow dry your child’s hair when you use this junk because it is flammable.
Using home remedies.
Then I turned to the home remedy aspect of getting rid of lice. Let me debunk one myth about home remedies for lice. First of all, mayonnaise does not work! If you want to suffocate lice you have to keep whatever you use on the scalp and in the hair for over 6 hours. Unless you want to deal with rotten mayo on your child’s hair, avoid this stinky home remedy. The best combination we found was to use the lice combs twice to three times every day (even once you think it is gone), and blow dry their hair twice a day. The blow dryer kills the eggs so they don’t hatch.
Why don’t I have it?
One thing I noticed was that even though my girls and I share a brush, I didn’t have any lice. So I thought about what I do different than they do, and I use extra strength dandruff shampoo every day. Now you know, I have dandruff. I’m ok with it, really. In this case it actually saved me from dealing with lice on my own head. The active ingredient in my shampoo is Coal Tar, and I decided to try the dandruff shampoo on my child to see if it would kill the bugs on her head. Well, it did! It worked. I have found a few bugs over the last two days, but they have all been dead. Coal Tar does not work for lice in Europe. I don’t understand why, but I made that discovery the hard way. P.S. I got new brushes and no longer share a brush with the girls.
Dealing with the eggs.
If your child has a pretty bad case (like one of mine did) then you need to take a more drastic approach. We put together a couple of different home remedies on this one. Soak your child’s hair and scalp in Apple Cider Vinegar for five minutes while they are sitting in the bath tub (this loosens the glue the lice uses to attach the eggs to the hair). Now rinse it out, and use normal shampoo to rinse their hair. After that get some Coconut or Olive Oil and cover your child’s head in it. Place a shower cap over the hair and put an elastic head band around it so it stays in place. We did this over night, because you have to leave it on for at least 6 hours in order to suffocate the lice. Then wash the oil out using baby shampoo and comb through their hair with the lice combs. You will now notice that the eggs that were stuck on the hair will come right off!! Once you are all finished, make sure to blow dry to kill any eggs that did not come off during the brushing. You should also make sure not to point the blow dryer directly on the scalp, because it can burn your little one’s skin. Try to shoot the heat onto the scalp at an angle.
Delousing your house.
In order to get rid of lice in your house, you have to wash EVERYTHING and then dry it using the dyer. The first thing Travis said to me when we found out was, “At least we’re in the US where they have dryers!” If we had been home, we would have had to put everything in air tight, plastic bags for 3 days at a time. This would have made daily life difficult because you have to wash their sheets, bedding, and stuffed animals, then dry them every day to kill any bugs that may be on them. Lice can live without a host for several days, so please don’t skip this step. You will be sorry, I promise! For any surfaces that you can’t wash or put into an air tight bag, you can vacuum them (make sure you empty your vacuum bag immediately and place it in the outside trash) or spray your items with rubbing alcohol (I found out that this also kills the lice while I was using the rubbing alcohol to clean the lice combs).
If you are staying in a hotel, ask them to change your sheets every day in the morning, and find a laundromat for clothes (or you can use the hotel’s laundry service, but it is pricey). You can also use the plastic bag approach, but that is rough because then you start to run out of things while the three days pass and you wait for them die, die, die!
You may find these pesky little houseguests have returned a few days after you stop checking your child’s hair. It’s ok, just go through the steps again. However, you can avoid this by consistently checking every day! Learn from my mistake!
Take your time!
When you are combing out the bugs and eggs the most important thing is to take your time and try to get everything off of your child’s head! This is the single most effective way to get rid of lice!!
And remember, don’t panic. This is something that happens to people all over the world. Remind your child that they did nothing wrong, and sometimes this happens. My oldest was particularly depressed about this turn of events, and it took quite of bit of me encouraging her to get her out of the head lice grumps. I really hope this doesn’t happen to you while you are traveling, but if it does, do the treatments, slap a hat on your child’s head, and go out and have as normal of a vacation as possible.