Losing the Lice: My Quick “how to” Guide

Ha ha, well I lured you in, did I? Well unfortunately, reading my guide is the only thing quick involved in the process–but you want to get rid of your lice, don’t you? So here is my promised entry on how I waged my battle with the lice (note: they aren’t just lice, or my lice, they are “the lice” which apparently inflicts 22 million people every year). I imagine this will be a fairly dry entry and I only post it to help others out there dealing with the lice.

So, here you are, like me. You just found some nasty critters crawling around in your child’s hair. You run to the internet to see if the bug you see is a louse. Turns out, it is. You then discover that you have some of these same bugs running around your own head. Your first impulse, like mine, is probably to run for the nearest drug store for that harsh shampoo (what is called again? Rid? Nix?) that will kill the suckers with one fell swoop. You want the lice out of your house by tomorrow. Sigh. It is a nice, dreamy thought. But don’t do it. Almost all sources out there acknowledge that most lice have been completely resistant to both Rid and Nix (and the various generic forms of these products, as I used) since 1995. Plus, the pesticide used in these products is 4 times the amount used in Raid. Don’t be stupid like me. Don’t put it on your kid or yourself (yeah, especially if you’re breastfeeding, like me–double whammy for your kid).

If you’ve already used these unfortunate products, which are for some strange reason, still on the shelves at your nearest drugstore and like me, you find live bugs still wandering happily around your hair, what should you do next? Well, there are a variety of homeopathic products you could try like Licefree, an enzyme foam (from Fairytales) sold at your local beauty salon, or–my favorite and the only product for sale at Wholefoods–Quit Nits. Quit nits is guaranteed to kill all bugs and nits. But it comes with a booklet of FAQs with the question “What if my kid gets reinfected from school 2 days later?” and the answer “Because this is nontoxic, you can just use it again.” In all truth, I think that this is a misleading FAQ, deliberately trying to get you to think that if you find more signs of lice, it is surely coming in from the outside. Not true. The problem is that this product is not 100% effective by any stretch of the imagination. And, for some reason, it caused my throat to swell up. I thought I was going to die in the middle of the night when I used it.

So, after trying all over-the-health-food-counter products, you find you still have lice, then what? Well you start frantically searching the internet to see how others have dealt with this pestilence.

Some people promise that it was a combination of mayonnaise (smother the lice) and tea tree oil that worked form them. Others will tell you that shampooing with T-Gel finally killed all of the bugs. And then, of course, there are the various assortments of olive oil and/or coconut oil and various essential oils from lavender to rosemary to geranium (do you know how bad geranium oil smells?). Still there are others that insist that you find neem oil (after searching in 5 stores, I finally found it). Neem oil is supposed to disrupt the mating practices of the louse and his girlfriend.

All of these things may help. They may even kill some of the live bugs, but near as I can tell, nothing gets the nits (or eggs). The only way to get those is to have someone look through your hair and pull out the hair strands that have the nits stuck to them. And then, can your really be sure you got them all? For all it takes is one male and one female left standing to hatch and start the whole miserable process all over again. Happily, though, while you have these dormant nits, you are at no risk of infecting others. Only the nymph or adult bugs engage in inter-head commerce.

The only real thing that you can do, is to comb your hair with a metal nit comb nearly every single day for 21 days (the full life cycle of the louse). Meaning, at day twenty-one, if you’ve been combing everyday (or nearly everyday–you can take a break here or there), you should have combed out all of the various stages of the nits, from hatchling to maggot to nymph, before that magical moment when they start having sex and begin to create a whole new crop of nits that are glued to your hair with the resiliency only otherwise demonstrated by Cher’s career.

Note, the combing process is time-consuming. It is best if someone else can do your own hair. I was stuck mostly combing my own hair, which isn’t always that effective. Anyway, this will take over your evenings for the better part of a month. I don’t see any other way around it though. Also, conditioner can help make the combing less painful from a snarl standpoint. Still, with all of this combing with a metal comb (it’s like combing with a comb made out of nails) and using all of these many products on your head, you’ll probably end up with the most dry, flaky, oozy, sore-filled head of all times. And you’ll itch like crazy and this will make you imagine bugs crawling around your head at every second of the day. And you’ll start to feel like a mad woman. And you’ll say, “aha! I now know why Brittney Spears shaved her head. It was not drug-induced madness, it was the lice.” And you will run after your husband with a clippers and ask him to do the deed. For it made it ever so much easier to rid your little one of  the lice when you buzzed his head.

At this point in time, go out and find some lovely shampoo and conditioner made with neem oil to help condition your poor head. The only problem with neem oil, other than being a bit hard to find, is that it sort of makes your head smell for days like cold french fry grease. On the upside, it is supposed to repel any further lice infestations. They apparently hate the smell of cold fries as well.

So, it’s been more than 21 days and I haven’t seen a live bug in a few weeks. I still comb every couple of days. I also comb out all other members of the household, just to make sure. The lice has been a nasty, nasty chapter of my life. I hope that this nightmare doesn’t reoccur. But if it does, at least I know now that there are no “quick fixes.” This is an area where you just have to take the long, arduous route.

  1. You might be surprised at how often other household remedies such as mayonaise work. It smells and you have to leave it in your hair overnight but it works quite well.

  2. I am still catching up on blogs – oh, my – what an ordeal! My mom used to use RID, but I have heard that it isn’t really effective anymore. And there is the pesticide issue! I am SO glad you managed to get rid of the critters. Thank goodness for good nit combs. Both kids start school in two weeks… I hope we never see lice, but I know it is a distinct possibility!

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