For Shakespeare: Emergency Lice Advice

>> Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Shakespeare asked: I have a question. What should one do about a lice infestation? Should one use Rid? Olive Oil? Should I just shave everyone's head? Does blow-drying work? I'm a bit panicky here, but I wanted to know what you know or could find out about this.

Sometimes we have to take questions out of order because of the urgency. Lice manifestations qualify. It's enough to freak out any parent. I've been very lucky. I've never had an infestation personally (though I know that sympathetic head itching thing) and, with three children, I've only one infestation with my children, back when my eldest was in day care.

The problem with telling you what I did is that it's confusing. My ex went straight to the lice shampoo and seriously went into panic mode. Those that know him and his rampant hypochondria likely have no problem imagining his freaking. Rather than do double-duty on the cancer causing, often marginally effective lice shampoo, I opted for the lice comb. The first night, I pulled off considerable nits, the second day, only one or two. After the second day, I never saw another sign of lice on Stephanie's head. Her bedding was thoroughly washed in bleach as was her clothing. My ex did the second round of lice shampoo.

To date, there's been no sign of cancer or recurrence. Now, there's several schools of thought, including the one that chemical stuff doesn't work, is dangerous and you should only go with the comb. However, there's at least some evidence that the comb often doesn't cut it. However, the comb doesn't hurt and, here's the thing, if you use any suggested method, combing is a good way to help ensure it's all gone. It should not take hours. The recommended length of time is 10 or so minutes (per head) and I doubt you'd need more than 20. I had a dish of soapy water to rinse the comb in and my daughter had and has very thck hair. Wikipedia lists some steps here.

Several suggested treatments as well as some that are not recommended (like cutting off all your children's hair, gasoline, kerosene, oil, vinegar, hair dyes or bleaches, garlic and Vitamin B) are listed on Wikipedia.

The bad news is that diligence is required to really eradicate lice, even under the best of circumstances. The good news is that it's not an insoluble problem.


  • Quadmama

    A parenting magazine I subscribe to just had an article on lice... and I recycled it the other day. But it sounds like you pretty much touched on everything. Make sure you wash all bedding, stuffed animals etc. in hot water. I'm just waiting for the day when I find lice in one of my daughters' hair (or all four of them!) It's bound to happen.

  • flit

    Oh, bringing back SUCH not happy memories here.

    A lot of the shampoos quit working back in the late 80s, early 90s ... I actually sent some critters to the co. that made one brand because they asked me to after I complained that I was throwing them into a capful of straight shampoo and they were still crawling!!!! (now my head is itching)

    I think they have reformulated to get 'round the resistance the damn things built up though - but one other thing that worked for us was a really cheap floral shampoo. They seemed to hate it - would run away. I used to wrap whatever kid (not only mine; I treated & combed half the neighbourhood)in a white towel (so that I could see the little bastards as they tried to escape), apply shampoo and grab the damn things and throw them in a lit candle (it gave me a little bit of satisfaction LOL).

    Main thing is to keep on top of it - comb every day for long after you find any sign of 'em. And of course, all bedding, stuffed toys etc either needs to be done in a hot dryer, or if they can't be, bagged and frozen.

  • The Mother

    Combing does work, but the problem is that lay folks often mistake normal stuff on the head of kids (like epithelial cell flakes) for nits.

    With a girl with long hair, the combing thing CAN take hours. The trick is to do it like the hairdresser dyes hair--one section at a time.

    ALL clothing, bedding, and everything that the head touches must be washed in HOT water and dried in a hot dryer. That may be the hardest part of the lice cleanup.

    Everyone else in the house needs a head inspection, too.

    As for the shampoos, they may or may not work, and can have serious side effects (if they get in the eyes, especially).

    Most of the other remedies fall in the category of folk medicine. I don't recommend wasting time on them.

  • Shakespeare

    I think flit was dead on when she said it would take hours. It took me four to get through Crystal's head last night (but I picked out about 150 eggs). I also learned that nits are bigger than eggs, but that's because they are the shells of hatched lice. Those came out pretty easily with washing...but the eggs were beastly. Too small for the tiny combs to get out--even the metal ones, so I had to use my finger nails. Found one hatched beastie on on her head, but no more. Pulled about 15 eggs off my son, and then Richard pulled many off me last night. Richard, not so surprisingly, had none (lucky bastard!).

    I've have done two week's worth of laundry over the last two days. Hot water, hot dryer. I am vacuuming over everything, too, every hour or so.

    One piece of advice I found everywhere: blow dry your hair. I hate it (my scalp is too dry to begin with, and it turns my curly blonde hair into frizz), but supposedly--even according to the WA health department site, it loosens what bugs you have and lice HATE it. I'm supposed to check my kids' heads for the next three weeks, pulling off nits and other items as I find them. Richard actually got the hang of it last night--I feared he wouldn't (and I simply CAN'T pull the stuff off my own head!), but he did. Good guy.

    Thanks for putting my question at the top of the queue. And thanks for the sympathy, everyone. I bought a pesticide free shampoo for the kids (to use by Sunday--or earlier, if I get edgy--and I'll likely dip myself in the cancer-poison one more time, since I know Richard's eyes aren't as good as mine (when I'm wearing glasses), nor are his fears as insanely OCD. In the meantime, it'll be search, search, search, pick, pick, pick...

  • lice treatment

    Ugh! Yuck...the lice memories come creeping (and crawling back). We went through a HUGE lice outbreak also, and I tell you these things wouldn't die for anything.

    Shakespeare, great mention about the vacuuming and drying the hair. Those are great points. Another good idea is to keep her hair in a ponytail or braids and spray w/ hairspray (sticky). Anyway, to the original article poster, glad there was no cancer showing yet.

    :) Happy to hear it and super site!


  • Lidian

    I can't recall the name of it but we bought an electric comb that killed the lice as you combed, and it was excellent - my friend had bought one and recommended it. It was from the US. Sorry I can't recall the name but this was about 8 years ago. Thankfully we just had one bout but that was more than enough.

    Tea tree oil shampoo is good to use in conjunction with this, and thus you avoid all the chemical stuff.

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