Head Lice (Nasty Nits)

Getting lice used to be a shameful dirty thing. Now there are people that have adapted to normalizing head lice as just part of growing up. Making it sound like its a rite-of-passage that all kids must face in adolescence. I can relate to this in regard to teaching children to not "put down" lice victims, but I find no reason to adapt the attitude that it is a common occurrence.

I try teach my kids the simple common sense rules like not sharing hats, hairbrushes,combs, helmets, headbands, using there own pillows at sleepovers and personal space for hanging coats in public places. We are very fortunate where we live because even in the elementary school the children have lockers that separate that awkward coat and backpack contact that I remember from my childhood. Louse travels nicely from coat to coat in the winter. But even these measures being taken are not a guarantee on not getting lice.

Who can get lice?
Louse knows nothing of your bank account! It has nothing to do with being in a poverty area. As a matter of fact louse prefers a nice clean head of hair over a dirty scalp. That doesn't encourage me to allow my kids to become the dirty kids at school. It only opens my eyes to the fact that they could at some point be infected by lice. 

I remember being in hair school and learning about lice in great depth! I remember itching through the whole lesson. The stories that are shared while in school for hair are epic and will always make my skin crawl just the mere memory of them. The stories you get in hair school are the most dramatic skin crawling best of the best!!! And the lesson I learned... I never want anyone to feel dirty or belittled from having lice. My first lice client I quietly informed, refunded and didn't discuss with any of cosmetology peers. I followed cleaning protocol. I did panic a little and sprayed myself with hospital grade cleaner.... but I tried to handle it respectfully and professionally. It is your responsibility to make the decision now how you want to react if you kids ever do encounter lice. I would never want my kids to feel like they were dirty little people.

What are lice?
First you need to understand a little more about lice. These insects make there home on human hair and feed on human blood. The life cycle including feeding and reproduction occurs on the human host. Lice will lay on average 5-10 eggs per day on the scalp attached to the hair follicle. The scalp temperature is perfect for the full lice development which occurs in 6-10 days. The baby lice is born and immediately starts feeding. After 10 days it is fully matured. A mature lice will live for 3-5 weeks. Lice has no hobbies other than eating and laying eggs... EVERY DAY!!! Louse can become a real problem real quick!

Lice does not have wings and despite a common misconception Lice CAN NOT JUMP or fly! Meaning lice must attack its victim host with direct contact (Or climbing from coat to coat on that nice full public coat rack you just put your favorite jacket on). Lice can live off the head for about two days at which point it will die from starvation. Head lice eggs will not survive off the scalp because of the lack of the warmth for gestation from the scalp.

What are the signs we have lice?
RULE 1!!!! If you suspect lice do not go to your salon professional to diagnose it. We are not licensed to diagnose lice. All we can do is inform you that it is suspected and refer you to your doctor. It is a medical condition/issue not a stylist concern. Start at your doctor if you need more advice or help in diagnosis.

Take a deep breath and keep calm. Lice is not life threatening. Its annoying! Nothing more and nothing less. Lice is uncomfortable and makes you feel a bit violated! Especially if you are a cleaning enthusiast (like me). Finding out you have lice means you have your work cut out for you, but its totally something you can do!

Most people won't know they have lice until they can see them. However, if you are experiencing persistent itching of the scalp you may want to have a look. Watch for inflamed scratch marks or what looks like a rash especially around the boarders of the hair or the hair line. Head lice is more common in girls that boys.

Adult head lice are brownish in color and nymph lice (babies) are reddish or transparent in color. Nits are usually more easily seen and are often found behind the ears, along the neckline and in the back of the head in the occipital area. Hairspray, hair gel or dandruff should not be mistaken as lice.

How can we get rid of lice?
Without getting overly passionate about cleanliness with this topic I will just say upfront that there is no such thing as being too clean. That of course comes from a self proclaimed cleaning enthusiast! Yes I have a cleaning problem and as soon as I find a class to help me with my over cleaning I will just have to continue loving how clean and sanitized my house (and family) is. (I don't really want help.)

Step one is going to be how you want to get ride of lice from the source. How you want to treat the hair/head affected by lice. Your options here are an over-the-counter treatment cream rinse or shampoo. These usually consist of an initial treatment followed up by a second treatment in 7-10 days.

Another option is the suffocation method. This was the older more natural method that you can read about. You can apply mayonnaise generously to the hair and cover with a close fitting shower cap for 8 hours. In that time the lice will be snuffed out and suffocate.

There is a nit combing process that is also out there where you physically remove the lice from the hair. This is a long process and I don't love anything about it. I mention it so you know there is another option out there. You are more than welcome to google it and get the details on this one.

Your next big step is going to be your clean up of your environment, your home. You are going to want to wash bedding and any recently used items in hot water. If it can't be washed or dry cleaned (stuffed animals, etc) tightly seal it up in a plastic bag and do not remove or open the bag for two weeks. If it is winter time throw the bag outside in the cold (In a garage) to deep freeze and kill the lice. For my tools if they are infested or touch someones head that is infested by lice we throw them in the freezer for three days. I assume it would be the same with items in a bag in the cold outside.

You can clean your brushes, combs and hair clips by soaking in the medicated shampoo or barbacide for ten minutes and either putting them in your freezer bagged for three days or heating in hot water for (130 degrees  F) for ten minutes.

You will need to clean carpet floors and furniture by vacuuming. The use of an insecticide spray is not recommended.

This process should all take place the same day you start treatment on the scalp. Daily inspection should happen for up to two weeks after the initial treatment begins and the process for elimination (the cleaning) should happen any day live lice are found on the host scalp.

Can I prevent lice from happening?
Yes you can certainly try! Please keep in mind that lice happens. I know that's not what you want to hear, but its the truth. There are some great measures you can take to try and help prevent lice from attacking your house and interrupting you life, but even with all the prevention you need to know that lice can happen to anyone! But I highly encourage doing these things to avoid getting lice.

  • Parents shouldn't rely on other people to watch out for lice. Check your kids head a couple times throughout the year. Sometimes itching is not a side effect of lice, so watch for it before it becomes a huge problem. Like all things early detection makes resolution of a problem less painful!
  • Talk to your child about not sharing items such as hats, helmets, scarfs, towels, hair accessories, combs, sleeping bags etc.
  • Take your own bedding camping or to sleep overs. Especially your own pillow.
  • Girls can wear there hair in ponytails or tight braids or buns making it hard for the scalp less accessible to the lice.
  • Use of products such as mouse, gel or hairspray provide a protective layer on the hair making it harder for the lice to attach to the hair. 
  • Using  Head & Shoulders shampoo every couple weeks or at least once a month is a good idea. Its not approved as a method of ridding the hair of lice, but it is proven that the Ph level of Head & Shoulders shampoo is equivalent to cleaning products and provide an atmosphere unsustainable to life of lice. Its not healthy for daily use, but if I ever get that call that there was a lice outbreak at my school I will be using it for my kids daily for a while.
  • Avoid public coat racks or any place you are placing items that your wear close to your head in a pile with other peoples items.
Lice detection is not the end of the world. Take a deep breath, attack and wipe out those nasty nits! Hopefully this is never your problem (or mine), but if it is I hope we take a moment to remind our children its not there fault, we stay calm and don't loose our cool (Anger. fear or frustration is easily misinterpreted by children.) and that we take the time to teach our kids to not make fun of those with difficult or uncomfortable situations they might be dealing with. We all have to live in this world together nasty nits and all, we may as well not make it any harder for anyone than we'd want it to be for ourselves.


  1. This is great information! Unfortunately, I have had to deal with lice several times with my kids while we were living overseas in an area where lice is simply "no big deal". One of the best and safest solutions I found was the Nuvo treatment. http://www.nuvoforheadlice.com/index.htm I have no affiliation with this doctor, I just found his methods to work really well for our family and thought it might help someone else as well. Cheers!

  2. Ugh...this came almost in time! My little princess, with thick red tresses down past her waist came home with lice last week :( We suspect it was spread from a class play, where all the costumes were thrown into a pile together at the end of each daily performance, or from sharing headphones in the computer lab at school. Needless to say, her 2nd grade teacher was politely informed how those simple mistakes cost our family time and $$ to treat. I too am a horrible neat freak, and we are a very "clean" family. It wasn't easy, but a day of good hard work and all was well. Luckily my husband, myself and her brother were all spared and due to me doing head checks on her at least twice a month I think I caught the little buggers just a few days after infestation.

  3. also, some kids do not itch and can be unwilling host that pass it on without knowing at all

  4. Tea tree oil acts as a lice repellent, there are quite a few shampoos, conditioners and spray in conditioners (in the UK) which are available to use as preventative. I used to use Tea Tree Shampoo once a week on my girls and they didn't get lice for ages, I stopped using it and they came back! My youngest has a school mate who seems to be particularly susceptible even though Mum is very vigilant so we get the head lice letter home regularly. I also work in school with 7 year olds and I use Tea Tree shampoo regularly as well as a preventative!

  5. Good article, although I kept scratching my head while reading it! I just had to deal with this for the first time as a parent. We soaked our daughter's hair in Listerine and left it on for 30 minutes and then used a lice comb to get the bug and nits out. It seemed to have worked. We are living in a developing country now, so I knew the chances of getting lice would be high even with all of the precautions we use...it just takes one day or one encounter. Thanks for the idea of Head & Shoulder and the other comment on Tea Tree Shampoo...time to go buy some to use weekly.

  6. Lice MD is a good OTC suffocation product that is inexpensive and NON-MEDICATED so you may use it twice a week. Suffocating the live adult lice and nymphs is fantastic, but if you don't comb out the nits, they're going to hatch and you have to treat again until you have successfully killed each hatched nit and prevented the nymphs from growing into adulthood and laying more eggs/nits. The best comb on the market is the Nit Exterminator comb. I keep mine in the shower and we "comb through" with conditioner once a week whether we think we have lice or not. It's a lifesaver. Tea tree oils and other sprays made with essential oils can deter them from visiting your scalp. Prevention is everything. My daughter won't share hats, brushes, ANYTHING plushy or soft that's touched another person's hair she won't touch to her own. I also love to tell adult shop employees who wear hats from their own inventory at kids' stores "that's how you get lice" and they just blanch and take the hat off.

  7. While lice is annoying, it is not as bad or gross as it sounds. I've had it about three times... :) Maybe that has something to do with the fact that I live in the Amazon Rainforest, though.

  8. Greenbug for People is the best. It is 100% effective in killing head lice - and the nits - in one, simple application. No combing! Plus it is EPA exempt, food-grade safe so no worries using it. After using every option known to man, Greenbug for People is the best ever!

  9. I learned a few things here and never thought about public coatracks. Like at church! Ugh!

  10. I've used Olive Oil instead of the mayonnaise, seems to work well for my Princess...


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