This post was written by the savvy women of Nit Pixies in Montclair, a full-service lice removal salon for families.
Don't Panic. Here's what to do to treat and prevent lice. You got this.
You unzip the zipper and there it is: the dreaded letter about a lice outbreak in your child’s class. Quickly you pour a glass of wine and begin to panic. Our first piece of advice is to take a deep breath and say calmly, “This too shall pass.” Once your blood pressure has come down, it’s time to take action.
How to check your child for lice
First, put your child under a bright lamp to see if he or she might be infested. Look for any live bugs cruising around the head as well as nits (better known as eggs) which will be stuck to the hair shaft. (They look like little flakes of dandruff, however they are three dimensional and if you blow on them, they will not move.)
When you are checking your child’s head, look directly behind their ears, the crown of their head, the back of their necks and in the hair at the top of the forehead. If you do see lice, unfortunately treatment whether at home or at a salon has to begin. These buggers simply do not disappear and the longer you wait, the worse the infestation gets. If you don’t see any signs of lice, do a happy dance and begin preventative measures.
Lice preventative measures
The first line of defense for children with long hair is to put their hair up in pigtails, ponytails or a bun before they head off to school.
Spritz or oil extract.
Then, use an oil extract or herbal spray that contains mint, lavender, or tea tree oil. Lice do not like these scents and will scurry away if they smell them. Put a dab on the side of their temples and at the base of their necks, or give a quick spray over the hair. You may also wash their hair with Tea Tree Oil Shampoo; however, we recommend you only use it once a week. It can dry out the scalp very fast and create sores. [Editor's note: I like to spray our lice prevention mist on backpacks and hoodies when our best buddies have lice]
Keep your head to yourself.
Finally, sit your child down and speak to them about not sharing hats, combs, clothes etc.. with their fellow classmates. Also ask them to be nice to the kids who do have lice as their friends just drew the unlucky card that week and it could be anyone’s turn the following week.
Kindness from friends goes a long way with a child who is embarrassed because of a lice infestation.
How to treat lice in your home
Treating your home after hearing you have lice can seem daunting, but it is not difficult and can be done quickly and efficiently. There are many myths and urban legends floating out there that say you have to bag practically everything in your house for three whole weeks. Luckily this is not the case.
Let’s start with bedding.
Since lice cannot live longer than 24 hours off the scalp (okay, the big guys maybe 36 hours) sheets, towels, and bath mats should be washed immediately. If your washer and dryer can accommodate larger items, comforters and pillows should be washed as well. If they are too bulky, simply put them a garbage bag in the garage for 24 hours.
As far as clothing, you only need to wash the clothes that were worn that day and possibly the day before. NOT THE WHOLE CLOSET! Lice simply cannot live, once they are off the scalp.
It is extremely important that you vacuum thoroughly around your house. This includes both carpets and furniture. Once everything is vacuumed, as a precaution, do not use the sofas for at least 24 to 36 hours. Any lice that have crawled off the hair are now dead and will not crawl onto anyone else. The other place that needs to be vacuumed is the car. If you have leather seats, don’t worry about it. If they are cloth seats and the carseat is cloth, vacuum them or wash them, including the carseat covers.
Dry or bag the loveys.
Beloved plush friends. A quick way to kill lice that have hatched and crawled onto a stuff animal is to simply put it in a hot dryer for a half an hour. This will kill the bugs mighty fast. Again, if you feel more comfortable and your child isn’t screaming for his bunny, you can also put them in a garbage bag in the garage for 24 hours.
In the end, always remember that nits and lice cannot fall off the hair shaft and hatch on any surface. They have to be on the scalp to live.
Myths about Lice
There are many misconceptions on how or why children are infected with head lice and we are here to debunk all the “urban myths” that clog the internet chat boards. So let’s set the record straight shall we?
- Lice DO NOT fly or jump, they crawl
- Lice DO NOT live off the scalp after 24 hours (typically lives 8-10 hrs.)
- Lice IS NOT the same as body lice
- Lice IS NOT a socioeconomic disease
- Lice DOES NOT prefer dirty hair, in fact it prefers clean hair
- Eggs or Nymphs DO NOT live once off the head
- Female louse CANNOT lay eggs anywhere but on the hair shaft close to the scalp
- Eggs DO NOT fall off on the pillow and then hatch (they MUST hatch on the head)
- Pets DO NOT get lice, thus they cannot spread it either
- Lice CANNOT live on stuffed animals
- Olive oil and mayonnaise will kill live bugs but they DO NOT kill eggs (combing or picking them out one at a time is the ONLY way they will die)