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.
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.
Cheese on rice! Lice, it was.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.