By: Lynn Connolly, Project Coordinator
My head really itches!
Those words are enough to strike fear into every parent’s heart. You start the internal pleading: “Please don’t be lice! Maybe it’s just dandruff? Please don’t be lice!” But, when you look more closely you see them: Either a tiny live bug or some very, very tiny nits (lice eggs). Then your war on lice begins...
There are now quite a few “professional” services where you can take your child to have them get rid of the lice. Just search for “lice removal services” and your state. These aren’t cheap though, so here are some instructions on how to DIY it.
First, take a deep breath and remind yourself that anyone can get lice. Having lice is not a reflection of your child’s hygiene or how clean your house is. Then, get to a store for supplies. This is when I was very thankful for the big box store with late hours! There are a few different ways that you can treat lice successfully on your own. For all of them, you’re going to need these supplies
- A good light
- Disposable gloves
- A really good lice comb-From personal experience unfortunately, I found that a Terminator Lice Comb works best, but it might be harder to find in stores. They are sold online under different brand names. Look for one that has spiral threads around each “tooth” of the comb.
- A couple of clean towels
- Baby wipes
- A parting comb (the kind with one long pointed end to help divide the strands of hair)
- New hair elastics and clips if your child has long hair
- A shower cap, hair wrap or skull cap
- A TV, iPad or book- Something that can help you keep your child still for a couple of hours!
Option 1: The Cetaphil Method
Additional supplies needed:
- Cetaphil cleanser
- A bottle with a long spout (If your child has long hair). The type that is sold to be used with candy molds or a condiment dispenser are both great options.
- Cover your child’s hair with Cetaphil. The long spout can help you get down to the roots.
- After every hair is soaked, let it sit for 2-3 minutes and then comb out as much of the excess cleanser as you can.
- Blow dry their hair completely. This will take a long time but it helps “seal in” and suffocate the live lice.
- Put a shower cap, head wrap or skull cap on and leave the dried lotion on for at least 8 hours. It’s easiest to do this overnight.
- Wash with your regular shampoo 8 hours later.
- Comb out hair carefully (see below.)
- Repeat all of these steps two more times, one week later and then 2 weeks after the initial treatment for a total of 3 times.
Option 2: The “Nix/Rid” Method
“Nix” and “Rid” are two popular, commercially-available products for lice removal. These are stronger chemicals that kill live lice. Follow the instructions on the box carefully for the best results. While they are similar products, they each have different instructions.
Option 3: Prescription Treatments
Unfortunately, sometimes neither of the above methods work. This is when you might want to consider calling for the help of your child’s healthcare provider. There are a few different prescription treatments that are stronger than the over-the-counter options. Some of these kill the nits as well as the live lice so you don’t need to use a nit comb afterward. If the doctor prescribes one of these for your child, try visiting the company’s website before going to the pharmacy. Many of them have coupons available because the medicines can be expensive.
Tips for Combing Nits Out of Hair
The combing is the one of the worst parts of the entire process. It’s not hard or painful but it can be very time-consuming. This might be one of those times when you make an exception to your screen time limits! Here are a few tips that I’ve picked up along the way:
- Before you even start, make sure that your child has had a snack, a drink and used the bathroom.
- It’s going to be easier on your back if you can sit down too. Put your child on a seat or pillow that is lower than yours and spread a clean towel over their shoulders and your lap.
- Section your child’s hair into 4 or 5 chunks and only work on one section at a time. Use clips and elastics to keep the others out of the way.
- Aim a light at your child’s head so you can see easily.
- When working on a section, take very small sections of hair at a time. Make sure they are thin enough that you can see if there is a nit on a hair. Many people use a magnifying glass to help.
- Comb through the section a few times, wiping the comb on a baby wipe each time. The baby wipe can help you see if you are getting the nits off. Change the wipe out after every few swipes.
- Make sure that you don’t let the clean hair get near the hair that hasn’t been combed yet! If even one nit gets on the clean hair, it could hatch and your problem starts all over again.
Here are some tips on how to prevent the spread of lice to other family members and how to make sure they’re gone for good!
If you would like more information on this, or any other health-related topic, the Health Educators at the Learning Resource Center are happy to help. They provide trusted and reliable health information and connect people to local resources in the community. Connect with a health educator today!
Be well, be well informed.