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Dirty truths you never wanted to know about lice

standard September 12, 2013 10 responses

So, here’s the deal. If you have kids, I hate to break it to you, but odds are VERY high that at some point or another, you’re going to be introduced to some unwelcome guests.

No, not the pot smoking teen that your daughter is going to think is soooo hot. I have nothing on that yet.


Not an actual picture of a louse. I couldn’t bring myself to post one. You can find those here.

I know. Your kid is clean. Your house is clean. You’re not going to ever have to deal.

Except you will. Because lice love clean.

So here are a few truths about lice. Hopefully it’ll help you get through what might have become the worst day of your life.

1) Lice are parasites.
They can only survive on their host’s head. What that means is that someone’s louse will meander (aka “jump”) onto another head, lay an egg (nit) and then die. The egg will hatch in 7 days and will make a happy home on the new head, will lay more eggs, and will populate it’s own colony. Some of those guys will jump off and start a new colony on someone else’s head, etc…

2) Lice need human blood to survive
They’re not hiding behind the couch, so there’s no need to go on a mega cleaning frenzy of the whole house. Just make sure you wash all bedding and place all stuffed animals your kids play with in a big trash bag for 72 hours.

3) Lice can survive with no blood for 2-3 days
– So yes, they can “hop” from jacket to jacket at school when jackets are all lined up on coat hooks.
– Yes, that means you should wash the bedding every day for a couple weeks. Or at least throw it in a hot dryer for 15 minutes. They can’t survive the heat.

4) There are LOTS of treatment options
– You can panic, go to the pharmacy and buy every lice treatment product on the shelf and every comb you see, and treat your kids over the bathroom sink. (I did this at first. It was pricey, stinky, and didn’t work at all.) Note, “super bugs” are very resistant to this option. Read on for something that works better!
– You can, for a hefty sum (money well spent in my opinion), hire a nitpicker to come to your house and treat everyone.
– You can take your brood to a “lice salon” where they will be treated on site.
– OR (and this is the better option) You can get the Nit Free Terminator Lice Comb (trust me, there is no acceptable substitute, order it now so you have it on hand), get a bottle of peppermint extract oil, and a bottle of thick white coconut conditioner, and do the treatments yourself.*


5) I’m sorry. Your kids can’t go to school with lice.
But that doesn’t mean you have to keep them home forever. You just have to keep them home until they have no live bugs.

6) I know. It’s gross. Get over it. You’re a parent. Gross comes with the territory.

7) Everyone deals with this. Yes, everyone.
Trust me. Even if they haven’t told you about it. It’s less of a stigma than you think.
Rich neighborhoods, poor neighborhoods, private schools, public schools, elementary schools, high schools, college… it happens everywhere.

8) Yes, you have to call people and tell them.
– You must inform the school. It’s a rule. And a kindness. And if you don’t tell, people won’t know to check their kids, and in a month you’ll be reliving this whole nightmare again. It’s like Groundhogs Day the movie, only this time it’s a horror flick.
– You must call the mom of the kids your cherub just had over for a playdate. And the one to whose house he went last week. See a) for reasons why.
– Telling people won’t turn you into a pariah. I promise. People will be awed by your honesty and bravery.
– Making these calls is going to suck. Have a glass of wine or a piece of chocolate handy for your reward.

9) You can protect your kids from future outbreaks… to a certain extent
– If hair is tied back in braids lice have trouble attaching themselves. Nice tight hairstyles are your friend. Loose hair is not.
– Hair ‘Product’ like gel seems to be a deterrent, but it’s not foolproof.
– However, lice hate the smell of peppermint and tea tree oil so consider rubbing a little peppermint essential oil* on your hands and running it through your kids’ hair before styling. (It smells better than the tea tree oil.) I put a few drops in my kids’ detangling spray. They hated the smell at first, but they got used to it… eventually.
– Trader Joes has a great shampoo conditioner line called Tea Tree Tingle which has both tea tree and peppermint in it. It’s a much cheaper alternative to the expensive “lice repellent” products available on the market.
– Teach your kids to be smart: don’t share hats or hair accessories, put jackets in cubbies, lockers, or backpacks.
– Check their heads once a month or so. If you catch that first louse you can save yourself a ton of trouble.

10) It’s not your fault. It’s not their fault. It just happens. 
Lice is a fact of life. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. You didn’t do anything to attract them. Did I mention it’s nothing to be ashamed of? So don’t beat yourself up. Deal, clean, and move on. Then buy yourself a really nice purse to reward yourself for getting through it all.

* How to effectively treat your kids at home
Slather the oil and the conditioner through the hair. 
Section out the hair into quarters and clip three of the quarters. 
Raking the comb tightly across the scalp, comb through ALL of the hair, section by section.  No, it’s not pleasant. Yes, it’s necessary to ‘rake’ so that you get the nits lying close to the scalp.
Wipe comb on a paper towel after every pass through the hair until you see no more bugs or egg sacs on the paper.
Repeat daily for a week, every two days for the week after that, and every three days the week after that. 
This is a good way to do a “Lice Check” on your kids when you get word that they might have been exposed.)


NOTE: While you can run out to Whole Foods to get peppermint essential oil, I highly recommend getting your peppermint essential oil from Young Living, whose Seed-to-Seal promise ensures that the oil you use is the most pure available. If you have any questions about essential oils, please feel free to leave a comment below or to email me at jessica.rosenberg@yahoo.com.


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10 responses

  • My oldest just started kindergarten.
    Lice is up there in the things I don’t look forward to, but know will probably happen this year.

    Pinned this for future referece!

  • Erin Ingram

    Loved this! I didn’t know there are options other than the RID you see in stores. Thanks for the info! I am buying some pepperment oil tomorrow! I have 3 kids, 11, 7 and 1, and I have had to deal with it 4 times thus far! It. Is. A. Nightmare! I check them regularly but rarely catch it in time. I preemptively treat everyone when someone in the house gets it.

  • Anonymous

    For girls use a straightener, the high heat will fry them extra crispy. My friends oldest got them and they could get rid of them. So I asked if I could try something. I used my Chi for three days straight. Between that and the comb, and the Cat Shampoo with lice killer, they are all gone and stayed gone so far. 🙂

  • A hair straightener can’t get to the nits at the base of the hair. There’s just no way, so it’s not an ideal solution.
    A great comb and some diligence works a million times better.

  • Anonymous

    My twin girls got it bad from school in 2011. Trust me All of the RID and stuff I bought at pharmacy did not do the trick, not even the Rx medication from their Dr. I DID NOT KNOW about the peppermint (i will keep in on hand). I tried the mayo, olive oil, I even dyed their hair to the closet color I could find (but come to find out they have clear hair dye) and that helped. and EVERY home remedy possible. I found the most effective treatment was “kerosene” yeah i know its HARSH I just brushed it in their hair (made sure it was soaked) and they “lice” just fell out. Then I would sit 8hrs per kid and pick/pull the nits out. Have never had a problem since then. I tied their hair back in braids and let them know not to hug, share hair brushes, ties, hats and ect.

  • Anonymous

    I agree it’s neither of your faults. I am the only of three children who has ever had it. Neither if my parents had it either. So I disagree with everyone getting it. I got it twice. I highlighted my hair and a girl took my brush out of my gym locker when I was changing. I did two treatments. I got it a second time from the same girl (she never took she gym clothes home). I rehighlighted my hair. Did a mayonnaise treatment and three lice treatments. What I thought was ironic was that the girl came to the locker room and said, “I could never get lice. I’m not that unhygienic.” I wanted to call her a buggy idiot but…

  • anonymous

    I have four kids and they have all at one point or another gotten lice. All of the over the counter lice products do not work even a little. I have found that you just literally have to go strand by strand hand picking nits and dragging a lice comb through for live lice. This takes 8+ hours. I also use a hair straighter on very very small sections of hair from the scalp to the ends until all the hair is straight just in case I’ve missed any. I use tea tree shampoo from a beauty supply store and will mist tea tree oil on their hair and clothes daily.

  • Anonymous

    Lice do NOT jump!
    I love your post, great job, but it is only a myth that lice jump. If you stand next to someone, at the store, etc. and they have lice, you will not get lice. However, if you hug that person, now you are exposed to lice and yes you can get lice. Close contact.

    • SL

      Spot on. Unlice a flea.. They can NOT JUMP. Transfer from hard brushes, coats…
      They will crawl, but no jumping.