Save this post! This is a parent’s guide for head lice (that you need).
Inside: A parent’s guide to head lice – know what to look for, treat, and how to prevent the spread of head lice.
You need this parent’s guide to head lice for yourself or your friend who calls you in a panic.
I see you over there itching.
Even as I type this, I cannot help scratch myself. But here is the reality; some experts believe head lice have been around for 1.68 million years. They are worldwide and are here to stay.
You do not need to feel shame about having head lice.
Head lice is a repeated problem that is common for school-aged children. (although adults can get it too)
I talked with the American Academy of Pediatrics as I was putting this together to ensure you have the latest information about what to look for with head lice.
How do you know if your child has headlice?
I don’t remember everything about my childhood, but I remember the time I had lice. My mom and I were on a trip to visit my cousin, and at a rest stop, she saw the wingless insect crawl across my forehead. (cringe)
Fun fact: A louse cannot jump, hop, or fly. They typically spread from head-to-head contact.
Zoom forward 30 years, and here I am, watching my three boys scratching their heads feverishly.
Children with head lice will most likely scratch:
- Behind the ears
- Back of the neck
After a few quick checks, I thought our children were lice-free.
But I was wrong. Alive lice do not like the light and move quickly.
Looking for headlice takes a careful eye, parting the hair, and lots of sunlight.
It wasn’t until I sat each child down on the driveway and began parting hair by hair that I saw the eggs, nymphs, and adult louse. (I will break these down for you, so you know what to look for)
What is head lice?
Do you think your child has head lice? First, let’s dive into what head lice are, what they look like, and how they survive, so you know what to look for.
- Head lice (also known as a louse) is typically a pale gray tiny bug the size of a pencil point.
- A louse feeds on small amounts of blood from the scalp and can live for 1 to 2 days without feeding.
- Lice will lay eggs and attach the egg to the scalp. These are called nits.
- Nits are much smaller than a louse and will be yellow or white.
- Nits may look like dandruff but will not fling off when moved. Nits are sticky and attach themselves to the hair. You must use your fingernails or a special comb to remove each one.
Head lice live in three phases:
This is where things get a little tricky. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, head lice live in three phases and can repeat themselves every three weeks if left untreated. It is a vicious cycle that only ends with consistent checks.
PRO TIP: Even when treated, you must check and remove what is left behind.
- Egg or nit – the eggs on the scalp
- Nymph – a baby louse, smaller in size
- Adult louse – can multiply fast and lays up to 10 eggs a day
Here is how we got rid of our headlice
First, I stripped down the bedding and washed everything in hot water.
Next, I tossed all the stuffed animals in a large garbage bag.
To lighten the mood, I placed the bags in the hallway with a sign that said animal hotel/no vacancy.
I also added a chart for my boys to see how many nights they will sleep without their favorite bedtime friends. Children need lists to understand better that the change is only temporary.
Remember, lice can survive 1 to 2 days without feeding, so that is the timeline I was aiming for when storing the stuffed animals. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests items that families cannot wash are dry-cleaned or sealed in a plastic bag for two weeks.
You can treat lice with head lice treatment medicine. Here is what we did instead.
There are many head lice treatments that your pediatrician can recommend.
Along with talking to my pediatrician, I Google searched lice services near me. This may not be available to everyone, but I needed a second set of eyes and hands with this.
Eradicating head lice is a tedious process, and I knew someone other than myself would have better luck.
When the lady expert arrived, we tag-teamed combing each strand and pulling out the lice and eggs. The lice expert checked every family member.
Related: Head lice can take over emotionally too! Here are nine tips I keep in mind when overwhelm begins to creep in.
I followed the lice experts system:
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- Comb and check head with this lice comb
- Add olive oil to the hair
- Part hair to carefully pick out every nit and louse
- Add dish soap to the hair to break down the oil
- Wash hair
- Blow-dry the hair
- Comb through hair again, picking out anything left behind
- Add more olive oil to the head
- Sleep with olive oil on the head for three nights
Was it greasy? 100% yes. We put towels down to sleep and sported kid shower caps for many hours. The good news is these precautions worked well for us.
Are the lice truly gone? We still have work to do.
You guessed it! We repeat the olive oil treatments on days 9 and 16.
Remember, the life cycle can repeat itself every three weeks if head lice are left untreated.
Continue checking and combing the hair, looking for any nits that may have been left behind.
Head lice are the pits, but they are treatable.
Head lice do not cause serious medical problems and are more inconvenient.
Be intentional about setting aside time to find good lighting using a good nit comb to comb out each nit and louse.
Staying on top of the time you put in will have great rewards, not having to continue the process a month later.
And when you are feeling shameful for having them, remember your friendly kid activity blogger had them too.