What you didn’t want to know (but you might someday be glad you heard)

Some of you might still be grossed out by my last post, and wondering why you’re still even reading my blog.  Sorry.  And it’s understandable, particularly if you have no personal experience.  Believe me, that’s where I was last month!

I honestly had no idea that there is such a high incidence of head lice.  And as I’m finding out, there is such a stigma here in the U.S. that you may *think* you don’t know any other families that have dealt with it!  But it’s very likely that you do.  Here are some facts; you do the math!

Pediculosis tends to be underreported because of the social stigma attached—namely, the preconceived notion that lice of any kind are related to dirt and poor personal hygiene. In fact, personal cleanliness is not a factor in infestation rates.

This stigma facilitates the spread of infestation. Affected families are reluctant to share information with their neighbors. Individual children are treated, but the community fails to address the infestation as a community-wide issue. School-wide and community-wide programs to eradicate lice are necessary to halt their continued spread.

Head louse infestation is most common in urban areas. Major infestations are seen in all socioeconomic groups. Head louse infestations occur most commonly in school-aged children, typically in late summer and autumn. The reported prevalence ranges from 10-40% in US schools.

From http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/225013-overview#a0156

10 to 40%!  Your child has 20 kids in his/her class?  That means 2 to 8 of them could potentially have lice!

Who knew?

So I want to share some things I learned as I dealt with this in my home.  Besides the fact that no one talks about it!!  But, there is knowledge out there that can help you if you happen to find an unwanted guest on your child’s head!!  🙂

This is probably way too long for a blog post.  Don’t feel like you need to read it all thoroughly unless you’re actually here because you know or suspect your child may have lice.  Just feel free to tuck this info away for future reference!

  • If you have children in school or preschool, it’s a good idea to do a quick head check for lice on a regular basis.  If you get a letter home from school saying that there are reported cases, check your children daily for at least a week.  And when I say check, you want to check the WHOLE head, paying particularly close attention to behind the ears and the nape of the neck.  You’ll want to look both for live lice and nits- which are lice eggs.  The nits will be on the hair shaft close to the head – they are uniform in shape and are stuck to the hair shaft.  In other words, if you can blow or easily wipe it off the hair, it’s probably not a nit.
  • Head lice are most commonly spread from head to head contact.  Lice do not jump or fly.  Therefore, putting your girls’ hair up in braids or even ponytails will decrease likelihood of transmission.  Natural repellents include rosemary, tea tree oil, and lavender – there are hair products readily available that contain these and I highly recommend regular use!
  • If you’ve found lice on your child’s head, don’t panic.  OK, you probably will at first – it’s understandable.  But do some research (the website linked above and this one are a good start) and if you have the benefit of knowing someone who has been through it, call them.  You will need someone to give you some advice, remind you to take a deep breath, and tell you that you’ll get through it (maybe you’ll need them to tell you repeatedly!).
  • Children should be taught never to share hair brushes, hats, helmets, hair accessories, or headphones!  And for older kids, in which, by the way, the incidence of lice is rising – remind them that head-to-head contact is easy when looking at pictures on cell phones and handheld electronics!  Just last week at the middle school open house I saw pictures up on the wall of children in one class – all of them had worn a wig for their picture – I shuddered!
  • If your children do get lice, you need to get yourself checked.  If you are treating your children at home, there’s a huge chance you can get lice, too.  And if you’re like me – you are hugging your kids, laying in their beds to read a story, and tons of other hair-to-hair contact – before you even realize they have lice!  You can go to your doctor to get checked, ask a friend who knows what she’s doing, or go to a place like this.
  • Please, please, please report cases of head lice to anyone they have recently had close contact with (friends, teachers, classmates).  Yes, it feels embarrassing, but it shouldn’t given the prevalence of lice.  And the more we as parents don’t ‘fess up and get this out in the open, the easier it is for transmission to occur!  It is better to know and catch a case of lice early – it’s easier to treat that way.  And, if multiple children have lice, it’s better to find out and have all of them treated rather than just treat yours, and then have them continue to be exposed to other untreated cases.
  • There are tons of products out there – we used RID.  One note about this – if your child has long or thick hair, expect it to be difficult to get the product through their hair fully.  You will need to use quite a bit and do small sections of hair at a time to make sure it’s fully saturated.  A metal comb is best – I didn’t think the plastic comb that came with the original bottle of RID I bought worked very well.  Follow the instructions on the box for treatment – including treating a second time after 7-10 days.  I also bought a Robi Comb, which I think would be good both for future head checks and for self-treating.
  • A note about combing – know that you have to be thorough and do this process at least once per day during the treatment period.  The best way to comb is to take a 1 1/2 inch square section of hair, and comb from all four sides of that square a couple of times – from the scalp all the way to the ends.  Wipe your comb often on a tissue.  I found it easiest to do my girls’ hair dry, although others say wet is best.  I guess do whatever works best for you.  I would suggest you put your hair up, wrapped in a towel, and wear a button-down shirt that you can take off (not over the head) after combing.  I would launder both the towel and the shirt after combing.  If you are finding white nits – which are empty eggs – I found it easiest just to cut that piece of hair out with a pair of scissors since often the comb didn’t seem able to get them off the hair shaft easily.
  • Launder, clean, vacuum, and quarantine things that can’t be washed.  The websites linked above will give you info on what/how to do this.  I probably went overboard on the laundering, but at the same time we had two family members who didn’t have the lice.  And I think all the laundry I did helped prevent them from getting them!

Again, sorry this was so long!  But I think we owe it to other moms to share what we’ve learned and help them through this!  If you’ve been through it before, do you have any tips you’d like to share?

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2 thoughts on “What you didn’t want to know (but you might someday be glad you heard)

  1. i never really thought of having lice as being embarrassing! haa – what does that say about me?! i just thought it was one of those things that went along with childhood like chicken pox and scraped knees! i can remember having it when i was younger…oh my poor mother with 3 girls with long hair! i can remember making jokes about it while my mom combed through our hair – “nit wits!”. 🙂
    i did just realize that i now can add another “pro” to my list of only having boys…so much easier to deal with head lice! 🙂
    also – just reading about it makes my head itch – ha!!

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