You never forget your first time. The first time you get a lice letter from school, that is. The letter simply says that someone in your child’s class has lice and you immediately begin to panic. And feel itchy….everywhere. You immediately grab your kids and frantically start looking through their hair. Do you even know what you’re looking for? I know I didn’t. I think I expected to find giant cockroach type things crawling around but that couldn’t have been further from truth. Lice are tiny and their eggs (known as nits) are even tinier. They are speedy little suckers. Shine some light on them and they will run faster than a mom whose babysitter just showed up. Are you itchy yet?
Well, I recently lived through it and I’m here to tell you that it’s going to be ok! The most important thing to remember is that having lice isn’t going to hurt your child. They can not transmit disease and are not dangerous to their health. Think of lice as more of a nuisance than anything else. It will take a little bit of work to get rid of, but everything will be fine. Do not panic!
Because we are moms and like to think that everything is somehow our fault, our immediate reaction is to think that maybe we weren’t keeping our kids as clean as we should have. Wrong! The truth is that lice actually prefer clean hair. So don’t for one second feel guilty about skipping their baths on that one day last week when you were just too tired. That’s not why your kids got lice! Your kid most likely got lice from touching heads with another kid that had it. That’s it! There are so many more myths about lice. Here is a great resource I found that really helped me. I really recommend checking it out. It explains everything in a really easy way and is so much better than anything you’ll find when googling on your phone at 2 A.M. So now that you’ve (hopefully) gotten over the guilt, your next step is to get rid of the lice. We all see those lice removal kits in the pharmacy that we used as kids. Shampoo your head with a bunch of chemicals and you’re all set. But what I have learned is that in most lice cases, there’s no reason to put all of those chemicals on your child’s head. You just need to get the lice out and the only way to do that is by using a good lice comb. Get your child’s hair wet and put conditioner in it, but don’t wash it out. Then take your lice comb and run it through every single strand of hair. After each brush, tap or wipe it out on a paper towel and you will see both the lice and the eggs. Do that for every inch of the hair and you will have removed everything you need to be concerned about. There are also lots of lice removal places that are popping up all over the place. I actually went to one and had a great experience. They didn’t use any chemicals and just basically did the lice combing for me. That obviously comes at a cost, but with it being my first experience with lice, I felt more comfortable with a professional doing it. And while you’re there, get yourself checked, as well. It’s not often that the parents get it, too, but it does happen. Use a lice comb to thoroughly check everyone in your household the same way I mentioned above. Just make sure not to share combs! Disinfect each comb after use by putting it in boiling water for 15 minutes.
The other thing about lice that makes moms panic is the overwhelming idea of having to fumigate your whole house. I remember the first time I received a school lice letter, my neighbor and I texted back and forth about how we would just burn down our houses if any of our kids got it. Joking, of course. (not really) But both of my kids recently had lice and my house is still standing. So do not panic about this either! It’s important to know that lice can not live outside of the human head for more than 48 hours. They will die after that. So there’s no need to deep clean every inch of your house, just the stuff that you children had close contact with. Give everything a good wash and throw it in the dryer for at least 40 minutes on high heat and you’re all set. Vacuum your rugs and even your couch but don’t make yourself crazy over it. Lice don’t like to leave the human head so it’s not nearly as common to catch lice off of a fabric. But if you know yourself and you know the OCD Clean Freak in you won’t be able to relax, you could just pack up and get out of your house for 48 hours. Without human contact in your house, anything that was alive will be dead when you get back. Once you and your kids are lice free, you can head to a friend’s house or a hotel. Turn those lemons into lemonade and have some fun with it. Staycation, anyone?
There’s no fool proof way to prevent lice moving forward. Kids will be kids and as much as we beg them not to rub heads and share hats, they’re going to do it. You can buy those rosemary sprays that claim to prevent lice but that’s not fool-proof. Professionals recommend that the best way is to just use a lice comb on your child once a week. That way, you’ll avoid ever having a big outbreak and catch it super early.
And at the end of the day, a friend reminded me to have some perspective on all of this. Lice have been around for thousands of years and aren’t going away anytime soon. It’s a nuisance, but a totally normal kid problem to have. When I was freaking out I had to stop and remind myself how many moms with kids facing major health challenges would kill to have lice as their big problem. All of a sudden lice didn’t seem like that big of a deal.