A few days before Christmas I was off from work and standing around in the kitchen with my kids and somehow we got on the subject of lice and I asked if the kids had been checked at school recently. They had no idea what I was talking about. Needless to say I was pretty surprised. I grew up thinking head lice prevention was a regular part of the school day, but either it isn’t any more or it isn’t in my kids’ school district.
I don’t know about you, but I have pretty clear memories of sitting at my desk in first through fifth grade while the school nurse and maybe a couple other helpers went up and down the row of desks from person to person pushing our hair around with a popsicle stick while we sat staring ahead or staring down at our desks. It sounds weird and it seemed weird at the time, but it was all in the name of head lice prevention. I don’t ever remember the nurse finding anyone with lice. But then I suppose if she did find someone with head lice she wouldn’t have screamed in horror and rushed them out of the room to be quarantined. (Now that I think of it though, that might make a memorable scene in some kind of campy horror movie…note to self-call Hollywood!)
Even as I think of it, weeks later, it still seems strange they my kids haven’t experienced this. I guess I’ve always chalked it up as one of those things that you just have to sit through as a kid. It’s strange to me that I won’t be able to share this common experience with my kids.
Anyway, after we talked about this, I got curious and started to look into what you would do if you had head lice and what you can do about head lice prevention in the first place. (Fun fact: this is making me feel itchy just thinking about it!)
Head Lice Facts
- A head louse is a tiny parasitic insect that lives among human hairs and feeds on blood (creepy!)
- Lice (plural of louse) are common, contagious, and can be a pain to get rid of.
- Although lice are a pain in the ass, they don’t spread disease.
- They do make their host’s scalp itchy and irritated, and the scratching can lead to infection.
- While they are very small, the lice and their eggs can be seen by the naked eye. (Check this handsome devil!)
- Head lice can spread from person-to-person quickly, so get rid of them fast. (Kill it! Kill it with fire!)
Head Lice Prevention
Once you’ve found out someone in your household has lice you need to take care of it lickety split. This is a multi-pronged solution, so you might want to come up with a kick ass code name for your head lice prevention efforts. I suggest Operation Bug-b-Gone or Strike Force Parasite Punishers!
- The first thing you need to do if someone has lice is get a medicated shampoo that will get rid of the insects and their eggs (called nits). Rid makes a handy 3 piece kit to help you tackle the problem head on (pun intended). It includes the medicated shampoo, a louse comb for getting all the critters out of your hair, and a spray for your carpet and upholstery that will kill any that might be hanging out on your furniture.
- Remember when I said kill it with fire up above? I wasn’t entirely kidding. You should take any clothes and bed linens that the infected individual has had recent contact with and wash them in very hot water then put them into a hot dryer for at least 20 minutes.
- If you have something that can’t be washed or is to delicate you can get it dry cleaned or put them into airtight bags for 3 days.
- Bust out that vacuum and Hoover your floors and furniture. When you’re done, empty out the chamber or throw out the bag.
- Soak combs, brushes, barrettes, hair bands, etc. in rubbing alcohol or medicated shampoo for an hour. Some people feel safer just throwing that stuff out and starting fresh, but I know that replacing a lot of combs and hair accessories can be expensive.
- Follow through. Read the directions on the medicated shampoos. A lot of them call for a follow up treatment after a week or 10 days to make sure there weren’t any bugs that made it through the first round of treatment.
- To complete your head lice prevention regimen you can get some shampoo that will keep the little buggers away. Maybe I was being paranoid, but I ordered a set of Fairy Tales shampoo and conditioner and tell the kids to use it regularly to keep the lice from getting on them in the first place. The shampoo uses rosemary, citronella, and other stuff to keep head lice away. Apparently, head lice are not a fan of the smell of rosemary and so it acts like a scent barrier on your head. Make sure everyone is using this shampoo and conditioner every couple of washes to keep head lice from showing up. So far it’s done the trick and I quite enjoy the clean rosemary smell. Everyone in the house uses it and we’ve had no problems so far!
- Finally, if you have pets you shouldn’t have to worry. Lice that live on humans are different than lice that live on animals so Rex won’t get them from you and you won’t get them from him.
Mostly, it seems that head lice are a pain in the butt, but they aren’t the end of the world. I’m still surprised that they don’t check for this regularly in school like they did when I was a kid, but maybe that practice isn’t or wasn’t as common as I assume it would be.
What about you? Have you ever had to deal with the scourge of head lice and the aftermath of head lice prevention in your house? What would your head lice prevention super cool team code name be?
As they said when I was a kid, “Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.” Now I’m gonna go try not to scratch the hell out of my scalp. Yo Joe!