If you’re like me, just talking about or even thinking about head lice is enough to make you scratch your head. We have four children and, despite numerous warnings in our school notices about there being head lice again at school, our kids haven’t had them for five years. As well as this they are involved in a number of out of school activities (church, scouts, music, drama, ballet…) where they are in constant contact with other kids, but still, no nits. I don’t believe in preaching to other parents, we are all in this journey together and all have wisdom to offer. But, since our family have been so fortunate in this area and, since I’ve heard a number of other parents lamenting the time, effort and energy involved in ridding offspring of these itchy parasites, I thought I’d share our “nit free” experience, in hopes it might help someone else out there. After all there’s nothing worse than scratchy kids… or adults. 🙂
Five years ago I was in the maternity ward, having just given birth to our youngest child. My head was sooooo itchy and I kept showering and washing my hair. The other Mums in the ward must have thought I had an obesssive compulsive disorder, I was hair washing three times a day or more. I know, it was very slow of me not to realise what my problem actually was (especially with three other young children at home), but you must remember, I had just had a baby! Nits were the last thing on my mind… until they weren’t. One day, after another shower session, a big one actually crawled out of my hair and onto my forehead! I was infested! The other Mums heard a scream from the bathroom… but then I was too embarrassed (not knowing any of them personally) to say what the problem was and made out I’d seen a big spider in there. Later, I disclosed my problem to one of the midwives… I’d be very surprised if they’d never seen head lice in the maternity ward before anyway.
On returning home with my new bubba (who did not have a lot of hair at that stage and showed no signs of head lice) my husband and I then had to inspect the heads of the three remaining children and also each other’s and also my Mum’s, as she was staying with us at the time. This was war!
I said above that I didn’t tell the other Mums in the maternity ward out of sheer embarrassment, but I did make sure to tell the hospital, so those other Mums would be informed. As with many things in life, head lice don’t just go away because we want them to and the more people in your circles who know, the better the chances of preventing them spreading. I rang the school my eldest son attended and the kindergarten our other two children were at. I also made sure that the parents of any children ours had played with were aware of the situation.
After that we concentrated on the home front. I bought a brand called “A-lices” anti-head lice shampoo. (I’m not doing a plug for this particular brand, just telling you the one I bought… there are lots of good ones available). Then we went into attack mode. Firstly, all of us in the household used the shampoo. The more hair, the more shampoo. I didn’t use it on our new baby, as the instructions said it wasn’t suitable for infants under 6 months and our pharmacist also recommended that we NOT use it on her. The rest of us, however, got the full treatment.
I also changed all the bed sheets (not just the pillow cases). This was quite exhausting (the hair washing and the linen changing) after having not long given birth and it was also annoying: some of the beds had just been made up and we had to do it all over again. Of course, the linen can only be changed AFTER the person whose bed it is has used the shampoo, otherwise you risk the little blighters returning . (This is also important for soft toys kids may have cuddled close to their heads). A normal wash in the washing machine is fine. We also washed all hats and other “head gear”.
If a louse comes off the head and is left behind (i.e., on a pillow or head rest), it may be possible for the louse to infest another individual who places their head in that area.
Once laid, it takes 7-10 days for a nit to hatch. Nits off the head may not even hatch at all as they are laid close to the scalp, because they need human warmth to incubate. A nit hatching off of a head results in tiny nymph head louse which, without an accessible/nearby human, is doomed because it requires an immediate blood meal.
Adult head lice off of their human hosts will generally not survive for more than 24 hours.
After washing everyone’s hair with anti-lice shampoo, we combed each other’s hair (as is recommended) with a nit comb (you can get cheap, plastic ones) to remove dead lice and eggs. If you’re really concerned, a second washing and combing a day or two later is good too… labour intensive, but effective.
I don’t remember who told me that tea tree oil is a good preventative with head lice, but I’m forever grateful to that person! After all our efforts washing out and generally waging war on head lice, I wanted to be sure they wouldn’t return. I bought some tea tree oil from our pharmacy and a plastic spray bottle. Ever since then, every morning, I’ve sprayed our kids hair with a tea tree oil and water mix. (I tend to be heavy handed with the tea tree oil). The kids aren’t always so fussed on the tea tree smell, but the bottom line is that, despite regular checking and despite nits being about in our community (as I’m sure they are in most places where there are lots of kids), our family had remained head lice free. Five years, four kids and no nits!
So, here’s a summary of what helped us and what I’d advise anyone in the same situation to do:
- Make sure everyone who might possibly be affected by your kids having nits is aware, so that they can check their own and their children’s hair. This includes telling schools, kindergartens or other community groups.
- Buy a strong anti-head lice shampoo and make sure everyone in the household uses it.
- Make sure ALL linen is changed (after the person whose bed it is has been “de-nitted”).
- Also wash all hats, scarves, head bands or other “head gear” that may be harbouring lice eggs. (Headbands, hair clips and the like can be soaked in a solution of anti-nit shampoo and warm water for and hour or so, for soft toys a normal wash in the washing machine is fine).
- Comb hair after shampooing and re-wash a day or two later if you think the first time may not have “done the trick”.
- Buy some tea tree oil from your chemist and put in a spray bottle and spray your kids’ hair EVERY day (it becomes routine).
- I hope you are as successful in getting rid of head lice and keeping them away as we have been! 🙂
...while they’re frustrating to deal with, lice aren’t dangerous. They don’t spread disease, although their bites can make a child’s scalp itchy and irritated, and scratching can lead to infection. It’s best to treat head lice quickly once they’re found because they can spread easily from person to person.