Lice Invasion (And 10 Ways to Avoid the Nasty Buggers)

Just when I think I’m getting back on track with this blogging thing, a phone call paused everything.

Thanks to a huge outbreak at her school, Mia had lice, which meant that virtually everything in our house had to be washed, dry-cleaned or bagged. The carpets were vacuumed at least once a day, linens and towels changed and washed, blankets on couches switched out, pillows and coats and backpacks spun in the dryer. I was afraid my washing machine was going to spontaneously combust with the sheer volume of laundry I was feeding it.

And then there were the lice treatments, picking through hair for hours, olive oil rinsed out with apple cider vinegar, more picking through hair. (I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Mia has thick, curly hair, which made all that much more fun. Hours, I’m telling you. Hours.)

Mia's hair

Hair brushes and combs were soaked in rubbing alcohol. The house (and all of us) routinely sprayed with a mixture of water, tea tree oil and eucalyptus oil (more on that in a bit). We cut the boys’ hair with Zach’s clippers. We cleaned and washed and vacuumed, and every night we collapsed with the feeling of blood-sucking bugs crawling on our scalps. There were tears and a few meltdowns. Reinforcements (aka my mom) were called in. THANK YOU, MOM! And because I wanted to make good and sure these buggers were outta here for good, I kept this up for over a week.

I think you have to go through this process to really understand how it derails your life temporarily. But that’s the word to focus on: temporarily. And because I don’t ever wish this nuisance on anyone, I’ve compiled a list of the top ten things you can do to prevent lice from making tiny little nests atop your head. Though I can’t guarantee them to be foolproof, I’ve become quite the expert, and these tips really will help.

1. Don’t share hats/headbands/barrettes/brushes/scarves/helmets/towels/sleeping bags, etc. We’ve all heard this one. Now I’m taking it to heart.

2. Put your hair up! I’ve been putting Mia’s hair in a ponytail or pigtails or pigtail buns. Braids work too.

3. Coconut oil and olive oil kill lice. (Something about the fatty acids, I don’t know. I don’t care for the science of it all, just knowing of their powers is enough for me). Tons of shampoos and other hair care products contain these oils, some specifically for kids. We’ve been using a coconut shampoo from Whole Foods.

4. While coconut oil and olive oil kill lice, tea tree oil, eucalyptus oil and rosemary oil help to repel them. After some research, I bought tea tree oil and eucalyptus oil at Whole Foods, mixed about 10 drops of each in a spray bottle with water and went to town. I think we covered every square inch of our house with the mixture. (Don’t forget mattresses!) I even lightly spray Mia before she goes to school, along with her coat, hat and backpack.
*Warning: This stuff smells funky, like diesel fuel. Zach calls it a “man smell”. Don’t worry, it dissipates as it dries.

5. Everyone should change their clothes when they get home, especially kids. I enforced this rule after the boys were born when Mia went to preschool, then I relaxed. Now it’s an ironclad rule in our house, and over a week later I don’t even have to remind her. She comes in, drops her backpack, takes off her coat, and runs upstairs to change clothes and wash her hands.

6. Routinely wash linens, towels, blankets and loveys in hot water.

7. Contrary to popular belief, lice like CLEAN hair. Go greasy. I still can’t believe that we found ONE louse in my hair because a) I have a lot of hair, perfect for tiny bugs to burrow in and make a home, and b) I lay in bed with Mia every night, her arm draped around my neck, her face thisclose to mine, the strands of our hair definitely entwined. I think I wasn’t infested because I use a lot of product in my hair. Lice hate product, so use it. Don’t be shy.

8. Routinely clean things that regularly come into contact with your child’s head (see #1. Also, headphones, carseats, highchairs, etc.)

9. Check your child’s hair once a week. Do your research so you know what you’re looking for. Google pictures of lice and nits (try not to gag). Check the entire head, but know that they love to hang out at the back of the neck and behind the ears.

10. Go over #1 with your child before sleepovers, parties, camp, field trips, etc.

Know that you will have to put your life on hold as you expel these buggers. You will be overwhelmed (the first 1-2 days are the worst). You might have to call in reinforcements. You will get to the point where you accept this as the norm, and it will be hard to draw the line. When is it okay not to vacuum the carpet or change the sheets? Did I already wash this in hot water? Should I wash it again? It will suck, plain and simple. But it is temporary, and you will get through it, and eventually, you will get back to life as you know it.

Mia & Wyatt

Now that you know more than you ever cared to know about lice, we can get back to regularly scheduled programming.

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5 thoughts on “Lice Invasion (And 10 Ways to Avoid the Nasty Buggers)

  1. Multifarious meanderings says:

    I found your post as I was looking for a picture to illustrate my new post on yesterday’s experience with my daughter and her unwanted visitors! Thanks for the useful tips, I’m off to find some tea tree oil and eucalyptus tomorrow 😉

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