It's back to school time and that means it's time for the news to remind us that Super Lice are resistant to most over the counter products. Well, this is not new news because I heard the same thing last year when our girls got infected with lice.
We discovered these horrid little stinkers on my oldest daughter at a rest stop in Illinois while on the first few days of our summer family vacation. The timing couldn't have been worse. We then found them on our three year old and my own very long thick hair.
We arrived to my in-laws a few days later with the embarrassing news that three of us were infected with lice and they couldn't have been more welcoming. We then spent the remainder of the three weeks doing weekly over the counter lice treatments and combing wet hair to remove nits and live bugs. It seemed like we had made progress. We did one person each night on a rotation for about an hour and by the time we left Texas we thought we had it under control.
We came home and soaked all our brushes nightly in bleach water and gave each person their own brush so as to not cross contaminate hair. Then right before school was back in session, we had another outbreak. It's hard to determine if we got them all the first round, or if we got reinfected.
This time I happened to be at the kids pediatrician and with much red face embarrassment admitted our predicament and asked if she had any advice. I love our pediatrician for her frank response. She assured me there was nothing to be embarrassed about, lice is not an indication of uncleanliness and it happens to everyone, including her own daughters. Then she gave me the advise that actually finished our lice debacle - Listerine.
* Buy a very secure shower cap that is double lined (not the cheap ones you get in a hotel)
* Get the biggest container of Listerine that you can find
* You will need old towels to absorb any liquid that escapes the shower cap
* Do not use the cheap little lice combs that are found in drugstores, go to a pet store and get a proper dog/cat flea and tick comb, it's got a sturdy handle and long metal prongs that work better for combing through nits and removing dead lice post treatment.
Hang one's head over the edge of a bathtub and soak hair with Listerine, squeeze excess liquid gently from hair and then coil the hair around to the back of one's head, then put the shower cap over wet hair for one hour.
Listerine makes one's head feel tremendously cold, so make sure the room is warm and when dealing with a small child and tears, have a favorite movie ready. A towel should be wrapped around one's neck to catch any liquid that escapes the shower cap. Put an extra towel on the couch so they can watch a movie in comfort.
I won't lie and say it's an easy treatment, it's very uncomfortable but to have all live lice killed in one treatment is better than what you are going to get with over the counter products so I'd say it's worth it.
After one hour, rinse the hair. You should see dead lice inside the shower cap and running down the drain as you rinse out your child's hair.
The next step is careful combing through the hair to remove any dead lice and begin to comb through all the nits. You will probably not be able to remove all nits (small white eggs that are attached to the hair) in one sitting. It's hard on the little ones to sit more than an hour and it's hard on an adults hands to work meticulously. One further step we've tried is a 15 minute vinegar shower cap. It's even more traumatic than the Listerine though because the smell is stronger. The benefits are that vinegar will loosen the eggs attached to the hair so I only recommend this if you are having trouble removing the eggs. We have one daughter with very fine hair that required removing the eggs with our fingernails because the comb didn't budge them. All nits need to die or be removed from the hair, I recommend doing nightly combings until you are sure the head is 100% clean and to prevent any risk of re-contamination. We continued this for 2-3 weeks until we were positive the girls and myself had clean hair.
The last step is to wash everything their hair has come into contact with: stuffed toys, bedding, vacuum your couch and floors, and don't forget the car seats. Here is a great article on cleaning after lice. Lice can only live up to 48 hours off a person so if it's an option, leave your house for 2 days.
It might be necessary to take a day off work or school to ensure child starts the day with the Listerine process and then spend the day cleaning the house and working on hair. The more you can get in front of the battle, the shorter the duration of dealing with lice will be. If taking a day off is not possible, then I suggest to do it on a weekend.
Once you know your child is infected, please make sure their hair is pulled back and braided if possible to keep any fly away hair from brushing against another child if they are in school for the duration of time it takes to get rid of the lice. Dealing with lice is a huge burden on any parent so it's important to make sure the lice is not spread because maybe that parent will not deal with the situation as well and you risk getting reinfected yourself.
If you are reading this and dealing with lice, I am so sorry for what you are going through. It sucks, badly, but once you've made it through, you can move on and put this horrible business behind you. I'm happy to answer any questions you may have that are related to our experience.