Trust Me, I Am an Expert (But I Wish I Wasn’t)

There are a lot of things I know a lot about, and even more things I know a little about and pretend to know a lot about. But in the past year, there is one thing that I, sadly, would consider myself an expert on. It is not a thing I openly talk about – especially with new people – but since you people are my people, here goes. 

It's head lice. Yep. HEAD LICE. I know all about how to treat head lice. (I am killing it with hair emergencies.)

Because one lovely morning when I was cuddling A on the couch, I discovered a bug in her hair. And then more than one. And then…well, let's just say it turned out I also had it and it was gross. (Is your head itching yet?!)

So after my initial tearful "butimthirtysomethingandiveneverhadliceuntilnow" fit – which my mom promptly ended by saying "of course you've had lice, you just don't remember" – I set about solving the problem. So here's the deal, in case the lice fairy ever visits your house: 

Step 1: Quarantine and Treatment – Kid with lice is separated from kid without lice, temporarily, to apply lice treatment. Because I was scared out of my mind, I immediately treated both A and I with Rid or something equally toxic, but if I had it to do over, here is what I would recommend for treatment:

  • how to treat head liceOlive Oil: The theory is that it suffocates the lice. I think mayonaise is supposed to accomplish the same goal. Ditto baby oil or Vaseline. But if you heat the olive oil up before application, it's like a ghetto hot oil treatment.
  • Lice Free Spray: There are a couple of natural lice sprays on the market that are relatively non-toxic. My favorite part about this product is that you can use it as many times as you want, unlike Rid, which is so toxic that you can only use it once every 7-10 days. I have since used it as a preventative method before t-ball and when there was a lice scare at the kids school a month or so ago.
  • Styling Tools: I used the blow drier and flat iron on both A and I repeatedly. I got this tip from my friend Deanna, who also saved the day during the red hair debacle. She is like my hair savior, I swear. Apparently the heat kills the nits. (Ew, it's even a gross word.)
  • Coconut Oil & Shampoo: I immediately purchased the Organix brand of coconut milk shampoo, conditioner and coconut oil to wash A's hair. I continue to wash her hair with it. Apparently lice do not like essential oils like coconut, mint, or tea tree. 

Step 2: Cleaning – While A and I were having our "hot oil treatments", I was frantically stripping beds, vacuuming furniture and putting everything else into trash bags for the recommended two week incubation period. Everything that could be dried went into the dryer for a minimum of 30 minutes: pillows, stuffed animals, hats, clothes, bedding…you get the idea. My washer/dryer has never worked so hard. Also – don't forget about carseats and strollers. Vaccum them. Repeatedly.

Step 3: Combing – This is the nastiest and most tedious step. It is the step that I would imagine most people either do inadequately or skip over entirely, which is why lice are often recurring. It almost makes you wish the lice would just eat your brain, because that would likely be easier. It involves sectioning off the hair and going through it, literally, with a fine tooth comb. And the stuff that comes off the comb…well…yuck. But it has to be done. More than once. I recommend a show that you never let your kid watch normally and an unhealthy amount of fruit snacks while they sit, captive, in a chair. Note: if you are unlucky enough to also have lice, do not ask your husband to do this for you. Call your mother or your best friend. Promise that you will leave wine, rubber gloves and a shower cap on the doorstep if they come. Trust me on this. 

Step 4: Full Disclosure – I was not thrilled that we had lice, but I would not wish lice on my worst enemy. Well…okay, maybe my worst enemy. But that's it. So I had to get on the phone and notify school, the gym, music class, story time (you get the picture) that we had lice. Which is awesome, in case you were wondering. 

Step 5: Repeat, Repeat, Repeat – I think this is the most important step. You have to continue everything ad nauseum. Particularly the vacuuming and the cleaning. Of everything their heads touch in the course of a day. And the combing. Ad nauseum. I think it was an entire month before I stopped vacuuming daily, drying our pillows and A's buddies each morning after sleeping on them, and picking through her hair like a monkey does to its offspring. I still haven't gotten over my head itching or stopped examining each flake of dandruff carefully to make sure that is what it is.

Step 6: Recovery and Prevention – A is no longer allowed to go to school or activities with her hair down. I continue to wash her hair with the coconut shampoo and spray both kids with Lice Free in high-risk lice situations. (No, I am not joking. Have you not seen a public indoor play space?) Am I crazy? Possibly. But I want to do everything I can to avoid becoming any more of an expert on this particular topic.