San Antonio Mom Blogs - Life and Parenting in the Alamo City

The Lice Whisperer

Ladies and Gentleman, start your itch-ens!

Last November we had our first up-close-and-personal (oh, so very personal) experience with lice. Blecchk Aaackk Blerrrgh! Just typing that makes my head itch and my skin crawl.

Through the itchy, scratchy hysterical haze I did find a nontoxic, successful way to eradicate the little buggers from hair, heads, and home and, apparently, word has spread.

Friends, and friends of friends, contact me for Lice Advice (I should totally trademark that, right?). I’ve become the Lice Whisperer™. Actually, I am the Lice Freak-er-outer. But “whisperer” has a gentler, saner, I-have-my-sh*t-together ring to it.

I guess because we got through our Lice Crisis™ with our sanity (barely) in tact, others want to be soothed by our story in the hopes that they, too, can come out on top.

Of Lice and (Wo)men

On the morning of November 1, as I brushed our daughter’s hair, just minutes before sending her off to school, a tiny gray bug with even tinier fuzzy legs sashayed down her forehead.

I’ll pause here. Because you’re either scratching your head, or cringing from the shivers running down your spine, or you’re curling into a ball and rocking back and forth because you don’t. Want. To. Deal. With. It.

Being ever the optimist, I thought, “My, that’s a large flea. Maybe we should spray the yard.”

Denial knocked on the door and I answered. I continued brushing my daughter’s hair but I found another bug and another and another until it was beyond obvious that a lice frat party had formed on her head and they were, at that very moment, scattering while trying to hide the keg.

Still hanging out with Denial (She brought strong coffee. Who was I to argue?), I called the school nurse. “Um, hello. I have a strange question. What do lice look like?” The nurse laughed, openly, because my question was not at all strange but entirely routine and completely idiotic. She described our guys right down to their Kappa Sigma sweatshirts. Crap!

My next step was to Google it. I had to verify the positive ID for myself.

photo credit: household-management-101.com

Cheese on rice! Lice, it was.

Cue Hysteria

Denial was obviously not getting rid of the bugs so Hysteria stopped by next, drop-kicking Denial out of her way. She held my hand and cackled into my ear that the full-on freak out should commence, forthwith. I sat my daughter on a wooden chair, popped on an episode of Electric Company and proceeded lose my sh*t. For around five minutes. Then I Googled. Again.

At first, Google was no help. I read articles that detailed the steps we would need to take to get rid of the lice. The instructions I found were helpful, and manageable, and full of hope. NOT. Much of what I found ordered you to vacuum EVERYTHING and wash EVERYTHING, EVERY DAY for WEEKS. Maybe YEARS. I don’t know. I stopped reading by that point.

But then a light bulb hovered above my head and I turned to Google once more. There had to be, I figured, people who lived in this, the 7th largest city in America, whom I could pay to help me through this. I don’t generally work best when Full-on Freak Out mode has been activated. But the Internet, over the years, has served me well. And this is America, dammit, where Capitalism reigns. Surely someone wanted me to pay them to get rid of lice. I had to give it a shot.

The Part Where Capitalism Wins

I Googled, “lice removal San Antonio,” and the results came up. And suddenly there was an angel and a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. Or, maybe not. Maybe that’s part of Linus’ speech to Charlie Brown to explain what Christmas is all about. But, no matter. The news was good. Very good.

I placed a call to the Lice Doctors and scheduled an appointment for four o’clock that day. And with that appointment came a lifting of weight (at least temporarily) from my shoulders. I could hand over my Lice Burden™ to Alexis who adeptly combed through my daughter’s hair with her super duper Nit Terminator to shut those frat boys down. Party over, Lice Losers™!

The Lice Doctors’ biggest selling point is that they are experienced in combing every bug and nit out of your kid’s hair. They are experts. They do the dirty work. But they also leave you with a detailed system to follow to ensure that the lice don’t reappear or come back. This “olive oil” treatment must be strictly adhered to for up to three weeks to guarantee a lice-free head and home. It’s not fun. Your kid will hate you for dousing their head in olive oil every night as if they were a salad you’re about to toss. They’ll never look at Italian food the same way ever again. But, I promise you, it’s worth it.

It worked for us. And I happily forked over the $100 per hour cost (I think our total time was an hour and a half, so $150) to regain a little of my sanity. I realize not everyone can or wants to spend that kind of dough. You can get rid of the suckers yourself. If you’re patient. And not prone to histrionics. Although, I spoke to a friend just the other night who’d been battling the beasts on her own for a week with no success. She dialed the Lice Doctors immediately after she hung up with me. It is money well spent.

What’s $150 compared to the countless tens of thousands of dollars I would have spent for in-patient psychiatric hospitalization after a lice-induced nervous breakdown? “Not much,” my long-suffering and endlessly patient husband would answer. “Not much at all.”

How to Get Rid of Lice (nontoxic method)

If you want to try to get rid of the lice yourself, here’s what we did (after the Lice Doctors saved our sanity and removed every. single. bug. and. nit. Really, not kidding here, you should call them first. They are EXPERTS. They sell peace of mind.).

Olive oil suffocates and kills lice. Olive oil will not kill nits (the eggs) BUT if/when a nit hatches, and you’re using this olive oil treatment, any surviving lice that hatch will suffocate too.

Lice can only live off a host for about 12 hours. Nits can hatch anywhere between 10 days to two weeks after being laid. That’s why this treatment plan is long. It aims to suffocate any lice you might miss when combing the hair out in the beginning. This is also why you don’t have to vacuum or wash everything. Lice must have a host (someone’s head) to live. As long as you check EVERYONE in the house thoroughly to be sure no one else is infected and as long as you follow this plan strictly for anyone who has lice, you can get rid of them completely. This saves you from constant, frantic vacuuming and washing and you can get rid of the lice without soaking your kid’s head in toxic shampoos (that don’t really work anyway).

First:

Mix a large quantity of olive oil with a few drops of pure tea tree oil. Lice don’t like tea tree oil. Adding the tea tree oil helps keep live lice off of you while you’re combing your child’s head.

Get a very good nit comb (The Lice Doctors use the NitFree Terminator (you can buy one from them or online).

Instructions:

1. Head outside if you can. This gets messy.

2. Cover the head in the olive oil / tea tree oil mixture so it is soaked completely.

3. Use the Nit Terminator, or other long-toothed (rat tail?) comb, to comb section by section, wiping the comb thoroughly onto a paper towel and throwing it away. You’ll go through a ton of paper towels but using a clean one each time ensures you won’t accidentally place nits back onto the head.

4. Be as sure as you can that you’ve removed ALL lice and nits. This is a huge, tedious pain and, again, why I recommend the Lice Doctors. They’re patient and they know how to get rid of lice and nits from heads. I trust them to do a good job more than I’d ever trust myself.

5. Once you’re sure all lice and nits are gone, shampoo the head with Dawn dishwashing liquid to get the oil out of the hair, then shampoo with tea tree oil shampoo (or your regular shampoo with a few drops of tea tree oil added). Condition, rinse, and thoroughly blow dry hair in a confined space.

6. Re-check the dry head for any remaining or stray nits. If you find them, do steps 1-5 again. I know. I know. It sucks. But you have to do it.

Week One:

That first night and every night for seven nights, smother the head in the olive oil / tea tree oil mixture. If your child has long hair, put the oil soaked hair into two side braids and have the child sleep on an old towel (do not use a shower cap unless the child is over 8 years of age).

Your child will have to wash his/her hair each morning after this treatment with shampoo that includes a few drops of tea tree oil and then wash it again with Dawn dishwashing liquid to get all of the oil out. If the child’s hair is long, comb it out when wet after the shower, put it in a bun and coat the entire bun with hair gel to keep it slick and still. This contains any possible stray nits/lice and keeps new ones from getting in.

Check the scalp each day several times a day for nits – if you see them, repeat steps 1 – 5 above.

Week Two:

On the 8th day you can skip the sleep-in-oil-at-night treatment but continue to do it every other night for the next seven days.

Check the hair each day several times a day for nits – if you see them, repeat steps 1-5 above.

Week Three:

On the start of the third week do the oil treatment at night only if you’re still finding nits.

Check the hair each day several times a day for nits – if you see them, repeat steps 1 – 5 above.

Be Sure To:

– Add a few drops of tea tree oil to shampoo bottles in the house for everyone in the family to deter stray lice from getting onto heads.

– Once you’ve completed the first two weeks of treatment, add a few drops of tea tree oil to water in a spray bottle and spray your child’s hair before they leave the house every day to deter lice.

Lice are disgusting. They’re also hardy and incredibly difficult to get rid of. The steps above are laborious and a royal pain in the behind. It’s difficult to fit the solution into our lives. I know it. We lived it. But, we got rid of the suckers. We survived lice. You can too.

/end whisper

Comments

  1. Wow,very useful advice that I hope I never need. I laughed I itched and now I’m passing this along.
    Neven Jones recently posted…I’m ConvincedMy Profile

  2. We had a run in on vacation 5-6 years ago, and we did EVERYTHING – mayo, olive oil, nothing worked. What worked? Tea tree oil, Suave coconut shampoo, and a flat iron. We used tea tree oil spray on bedding, sheets, pillows, etc., used Suave Coconut shampoo (for whatever reason, they don’t like it) and flat ironed hair twice a day to fry ’em. Why pick em out and spend hours doing so daily? We’d fry em and they’d be good and dead. We’d also use the dryer to fry them on sheets/blankets/pillows when waking up, just in case there were any that had fallen off. We did NOT have a reoccurrence, even when there’s been breakouts in school. In fact, my two older daughters who were the ones who had the issue still use Suave and tea tree oil daily just so they never get it again.
    Lisa @ Crazy Adventures in Parenting recently posted…Making It CountMy Profile

    • colleenpence says:

      Lisa, I’ve never heard of these techniques but I’m so glad they worked for you. We still spray our water/tea tree oil mixture on our daughter’s head (liberally!) every day before she leaves the house. And we still add tea tree oil to our shampoo. So far, no recurrence.

      Now I’m headed out to buy coconut Suave shampoo and a flat iron. A mom can’t be too careful! 🙂

  3. When I was a child it was a lice epidemic on my school. It was bad and I remember that most of the moms did not know what to do in order to exterminate the insects. It seemed like the most they tried the most the lice reproduced. It was a really mess. Until one day one of the moms discovered a very good home remedy: Avocado Seed! She has been told to find a very ripe avocado, get rid of the pulp and with the seed rubbing the head of the child and leave it on scalp for one hour after that just rinsed put with regular shampoo. She has been told that remedy not only will eliminate the lice but it will prevent to get lice again.
    So, the mom did it and told the experience to the other moms, not all of the moms followed the advice but my mom did it! I can tell you after I had been rubbing with that avocado all the lice had gone and I have never had lice again. But if you want more home remedies you can go to; http://www.healthline.com/health-slideshow/home-remedies-for-head-lice and you will find other effective and safety ways to eliminate lice. Good Luck!
    carmenluysa recently posted…JourneyMy Profile

  4. Laura Vargas says:

    A few drops ( like 20) in your shampoo will keep the lice away! There’s been a lot of cases at school and my kids always stay free of lice!!!! I buy the tea tree at target (when in the US) and always always keep an extra bottle!!! Always better to prevent than to deal with lice!!!

  5. Catherine says:

    Please be aware that I called the lice doctors. They came out and combed through everyone’s and we followed the olive oil treatment as indicated in your steps above. However, after the 1st week of slathering everyone’s head at night, wearing shower caps and picking through the hair twice a day, I noticed an increase in eggs in the hair. I also found adult lice in the hairbrushes that I was boiling everyday. After one week of the lice doctor’s treatment regimine, my problem was getting worse not better. I’ve requested a refund from the lice doctors, but no one has returned my call yet…… I’m still holding out hope.

  6. I would like to know how long you did the straightening along with the other treatments Lisa! My daughter got sent home 8 days ago with lice but it was caught early so her case was very mild. However I do find 2-3 nits a day and I puck them out. I’ve done the lice treatments, coconut shampoo, blow drying, straightening, hairspray, lice spray, tea tree oil in the shampoo, etc. everyone who checks her hair says it’s gone but I’m still a little paranoid and overly cautious since I do still find a few nits a day. I also remove her bedding every morning as well as spraying her stuff daily. When she first got it I went through the entire house and washed everything and bagged up all stuffed animals. Anyways lol I was just curious how long/often you did the straightening and spraying.

    • Hi Jessica! I feel your pain, that was us the first go-around! If you’re still finding nits, you might not be frying them all when you straighten. It only takes one lone bug to restart the whole thing. Try getting as close to the root as you can, use tea tree oil in the shampoo and in a spray, and spray all the bedding and couches, anywhere that’s soft and fabric-covered where she and others sit. Also, treat everyone else in the house, too, including yourself. Straighten your hair, and have your husband and other children use the tea tree oil, too. Are you also using Suave coconut shampoo and conditioner? I used that to help, I still can’t explain why it works, but it does for so many, and it’s proven with us. We did the straightening until I went at least a week without seeing anything additional.
      Lisa @ Crazy Adventures in Parenting recently posted…How to Repurpose Easter BasketsMy Profile

    • Also, I’d be concerned about the school, too – are they actively monitoring her classmates? She could potentially still be getting nits if someone in her class still has it and isn’t being treated. Or is she not back to school yet?
      Lisa @ Crazy Adventures in Parenting recently posted…How to Repurpose Easter BasketsMy Profile

      • I’ve been using the tea tree oil in shampoo since before she got the lice so I’m upset about that because it didn’t help prevent it. I’m still using it now though and I’m also using the coconut shampoo and conditioner. Today I only found 1 nit but at the same time I worry maybe I’m just not flinging them all? Everyone in her class was checked, however idk how well they really look because they have allowed my daughter to come back even though I’m finding nits. Do you water down the tea tree oil before spraying it on things in the house? I’ve just been spraying the lice spray anywhere she sits.

      • Also I treated my hair but not my sons since he’s only one and I have not seen anything in his hair and I check daily. My husband shaves his hair pretty much off so he doesn’t have it either.

  7. I…I…~scratch~…I can’t believe I clicked in AND I’m gonna share. ~scratchscratchscratch~
    Patti recently posted…The Scientific Way To Cut A CakeMy Profile

  8. Yolanda Saavedra says:

    I been deal with head lice for about 2yrs I have three girls that have head lice and I tried every products in the store am soo tired that my daughter have head lice what should I use to get rip of head lice

  9. Dina Karamitsanis-Taha says:

    I just wanted to say what an informative write up!!! THANK YOU FOR YOU KNOWLEDGE!! It was extrememly helpful!!! Especially the part where you mentioned lice clinic! That sent off BELLS… As I live in Calgary Alberta Canada! You got me thinking “why don’t we have a clinc?” So I googled it … Low and behold I FOUND A PLACE!!!! I was battling these PESTS FOR TWO WEEKS AND STRESSED OUT, and TIRED! So, I booked a appointment after I read the home remedy of olive oil and lavender (which I found from your list, extremely helpful!!)
    We just got the CLEAR AND FREE OF LICE FOR ALL THREE OF US!!!! Myself and my two girls 7.5 years and 11 years old!!! Husband is bald THANK GOD!!!! THANK YOU FOR YOUR BLOG! And your writing is AWESOME, INTELLIGENT, STIMULATING AND INFORMATIVE!!! YOU HELPED ME!!! Thank you… And I had googled this issue about 4!times!!you were my charm!!! Did I mention that it was one of my biggest fears!!!! The Lice!!! Well we faced it head on.!!! Be well and I’m sure you’ll continue to inspire women all over the world!!!! Thanks again for your candid honestly!!!

    • Dina, I’m THRILLED to hear that this plan worked for you. Few things are as frustrating as trying (and failing) to get rid of lice. Thank you for sharing your story. 🙂

  10. Shannon McFarland says:

    Thanks for this! Unfortunately I live in a small city and there aren’t any lice clinics nearby. Closest one is 2 1/2 hours away and they don’t come here. So tonight is day one of the tea tree oil/olive oil treatment. Thanks for all the info!

  11. Loved this! Went through lice with 3 middle schoolers all at once. Since I am broke and lazy, I too Googled it. To my everlasting joy, plain ol’ hair gel works as well as all the other stuff. Of course your child has to sleep with a gelled head in a bag and you still have to do all the combing and triple checking. But it worked! And it was really cheap in case it takes 2 tries.

  12. I have lice and I have known for a little while now and I haven’t told my mom yet (well I texted her 2 times telling her that I think I have it but she never did anything) so I started using at home things like olive oil and I already had tea tree oil bc I’m in competitive swimming. Anyways i also have a comb that I found at my grandmas house but the olive oil and the comb isn’t taking out all of the lice and nits… What do I do now??

    • Hi. I’m sorry you’re experiencing lice. 🙁 Try buying a specialized comb called the Nit Terminator at a local drugstore or on Amazon and have someone else help you comb out the nits. Once you think you’ve gotten them all out, blow dry your hair completely and follow the instructions in my blog post which have worked for us. Good luck!

  13. I oh so appreciate your “lice advice” as you put it. Thanks for posting a picture of lice up close so I know what to look for. My kids have previously been prone to having lice so I want to be prepared if it happens again. It’s good to know that there are nit combing services available, as well as olive oil treatments that work well.

  14. Please know that in 2008 (I think?) the FDA approved a natural drug for head lice that works really well and does not use neurotoxins or pesticides. It’s called Ulsefia. You need to get a RX to get it, though and it can be a little pricey if your insurance doesn’t cover it. But it’s great b/c it is only on the head for 10 minutes before you can rinse it off–no overnight baggies or mess! It is basically benzyl alcohol, which scientists found is the only substance that stops the lice from being able to close their spiracles (kind of like gills on fish) and so suffocates them. With coconut oil, olive oil, etc., the lice are suffocated, too, but since they can close their spiracles and still “breath” for up to 8 hours, you have to have the oils on for that long for the lice to suffocate and die. With the benzyl alcohol, it happens in 10 minutes. The caveats are the price, that it doesn’t kill the nits, and that you have to be careful with it on sensitive skin. Spread the word about this great discovery in the fight against lice! (Most doctors haven’t even heard of it.)

  15. Shawn Michaels says:

    It made me laugh. Thank God i am not the one who have lice but yes one of my friend has i will share your post with him . Anyhow, Its very useful and informative post. Nobody have ever raised this topic previously. Thumbs up for your great work!

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