Tell lice to get lost

It's either cry or laugh..we hope you laugh

Our first encounter with lice happened a few years ago and, thanks to not being part of the mainstream educational system, we have only caught these creepy-crawlies twice since. Nevertheless, if your kids don’t live in a bubble, and if they have any contact at all with other children, odds are that some time or other, they will have lice.

As of now we’re battling these nasties again, with the drawback of Israel having a huge aversion to anything that includes washing or combing hair. Naturally, sometimes there is just no choice, and so I find myself facing, on top of lice, a screaming, thoroughly unhappy kid.

I’ve tried several over-the-counter remedies, and read many tips for home treatments – including smothering your hair in anything from mayo to olive oil to Listerine (by the way, if anyone has a good strategy to share, I’ll be most happy to hear it). I came across this article, which not only made me almost choke on my cup of tea with giggling, but also contains some really great tips on thoroughly de-contaminating your children’s heads and your home.

I think a huge factor here is how serious the people around you are about treating lice. When I was a child, back in our “Old Country”, lice was considered something to be treated ASAP. Once your parents found some on your head, they freaked out and you were isolated and kept at home (no seeing anyone) until there was no sign of lice or nits and every strand of hair was squeaky clean. Think children spent most of their time in neat little sterile boxes? Nope… hardly anyone ever had lice, because they were always treated on time. Lice were associated with terrible unsanitary conditions, such as in concentration camps or prisons. In Israel, the attitude is comparably very lax.

I’ve actually met some parents who have despaired of ever getting rid of lice completely, and settle on keeping their population down (just so they won’t crawl all over the child’s face and become a public shame). Their children always have lice, and they rationalize by saying “so what? Everyone has them!” The Israeli Ministry of Education isn’t very helpful, with its guidelines which forbid teachers and daycare workers from checking kids’ heads (so as not to “shame” anyone), and which declare that no child will ever be sent home because of lice, even if they are live, multiple, and untreated. If one of your children’s friends has head lice, it doesn’t take much to get an infestation. If left uncontained, it will spread to every person in the house.

By this time, I have given up entirely on over-the-counter treatments containing dimethicone, as they include a warning that one must not use them if pregnant or breastfeeding. Moreover, the cost of these does add up. So here is my preferred strategy at the moment:

1. Buy the biggest, cheapest container of hair conditioner you can find.
2. Wash your kids’ hair (and your own, if needed) with conditioner until quite sleek and easy to comb.
3. After going through the clean, wet hair with regular comb, take up lice comb (always have one in your parenting emergencies arsenal – metal, not plastic!). Remove all lice and nits you can find. Don’t obsess, though; a single treatment won’t cut it anyway.
4. Next day, repeat process with washing, conditioner and combing. Be tenacious, and keep at it as many days as necessary until you don’t find a single louse. It usually takes up to a week.

Tips:
* Once in every couple of weeks, do a lice check just in case. You never know, and you don’t want an infestation to go untreated.
* Sometimes, shortening girls’ and women’s hair is necessary in order to make thorough combing feasible and not tortuous, but there’s definitely no need to go to extremes and shave heads.

20 thoughts on “Tell lice to get lost

  1. First, that’s gross that the state of Israel doesn’t encourage lice removal. I don’t understand the mentality of having lice being shameful IF it’s also perfectly okay for a child to have it. That seems hypocritical.

    Second, I only remember having lice once as a kid and it meant staying home from school that day and going to grandma’s for the NIX shampooing (since my parents worked). It was an uncomfortable day and I couldn’t imagine putting a child through that ordeal for an entire week because of the health warnings for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

    Of course, if I were pregnant or breastfeeding, there’s a simple solution for that: a husband who is more than capable of giving the child the treatment.

    Again, It’s too bad that the state doesn’t want to protect children from the discomfort of lice. I assume I was caught with it during a regular lice inspection at school since I was old enough to be combing my own hair. I don’t think my infestation was so bad that it would have been seen, but I have no memory of the diagnosis, just the treatment. I know that in elementary school we had a few letters go home due to lice being found, but I don’t think that the shaming about it was particularly prevalent. Now kids have episodes of Arthur and I’m sure many other shows that actively destigmatize things like lice and autism and all sorts of things, so that when something like a lice infestation happens, most kids today rally around the affected one, instead of shaming them.

    With as educated children are today about such things, I’d assume that not treating it would be the bigger issue for their psyche. If I were you, I’d address the school board about the problem. I wouldn’t send my kids to a school with a lice population that wasn’t actively being taken care of. As a student who plans to become a teacher, I also would refuse to work in a system that doesn’t care about lice. Eww!

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    • A few clarifications:

      1. The state, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, etc, are obviously all for treating lice, but there are no ways to enforce parents to do that, and there’s a legislation that says that kids shall not be kept from school due to lice, which is preposterous. By gaining one day of school, they are exacerbating and perpetuating the common problem.

      2. We homeschool, but as I said, as long as one’s kids don’t live in a bubble, and other kids are teeming with lice, the result is to be expected. Ew.

      3. Washing a kid’s hair daily for a week isn’t a very big deal. You pop kid in the shower, wash their hair, then sit them in front of a movie and comb. It takes about 20 minutes.

      4. If dimethicone is considered unsafe for pregnant women, at the very least it can’t be healthy for children.

      Finally, I flat out refuse to buy expensive treatments because someone else is neglectful in getting rid of their kids’ lice.

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      • I don’t live in Israel, but the people I know from there- relatives and friends- are just as meticulous about hair washing and hygiene as anyone else.
        In my children’s school, they now recommend saturating the hair with margarine, letting the child sleep with it all night- you can cover the child’s head to protect the bed linens- and then combing it all out the next day and rinsing thoroughly. I think the margarine chokes the lice.
        Anna, I’m sorry you are going through it- hope it’s over soon!

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      • Karen, I hope nobody got the idea that I mean to say people in Israel are careless about their personal hygiene! It’s just this lice thing which isn’t taken as seriously as it should, IMHO, plus the fact that in most of the families both parents work full-time and there isn’t anyone to stay with a child off school to treat lice.
        Yes, I know a margarine/oil treatment is supposed to kill lice. I tried olive oil on my son. It felt so yucky, however, that I just went back to conditioner and combing. There’s nothing to replace thorough combing.

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  2. my friend Jenny ‘s daughter got them , and as she is a” clean freak” anyway , and a elementary teacher , she was so upset and crying , was Very ill at the time , gave me ALL her linens in the WHOLE house and told me to take them to the laundry and wash everything in hot water with bleach and dry HOT then put them into large plastic bags and stored them in her garage for 3 months…she scrubbed her home from top to bottom shampooed her furniture and rugs and went over her daughters hair with the nit comb obsessively . in 24 hours she was WELL, from her illness ! LOL she said she thinks she worked up a high fever in her cleaning rampage and killed all the germs in her body !! the lice however took longer to kill.

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    • Karen, I never bothered with washing linens or clothes specifically to get rid of lice, and we still got rid of them just fine. Lice do need to live on someone’s head, otherwise they don’t survive long.

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      • I agree , my friend was obsessed at that moment , I think she was ready to burn the house down and start over HA HA HA , it may have been the fever she was suffering from that kept her from thinking clearly , but I was being a good friend and followed orders !!!

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  3. Wow. I hadn’t even thought about anything like this. Here you aren’t allowed in school for 3 days if you have lice and must provide proof that lice are gone to return (medical examination, typically or treatment at a professional lice cleaning salon). I know that they’re hard to get rid of and easy to catch. I’m sorry that you have to repeatedly deal with this – uncomfortable and unpleasant.

    I too grew up with the stigma of head lice being associated with poor hygiene. I think we’ve all learned quite a bit since then but the stigma still remains, making it hard to treat sometimes. Best wishes for a reasonable solution.

    Lea

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  4. I got lice when I was in boarding school; one of the other girls in my grade brought them from a weekend at home. None of us in the dorm knew what was going on. Carole would sit on her bed and scratch at her head with both hands, but we girls didn’t think anything of it. We were in the fourth grade – 9 or 10 years old. All I remember was having some stuff on my head that burned like mad – unless you were combing or brushing your hair. We probably pretty much cured ourselves with that.

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    • Ouch! By the way, I don’t believe in the Ministry of Health stance that lice don’t spread disease. Any blood-sucking creature can potentially spread disease, even a mosquito.

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  5. Lice prefer clean hair. You can buy special lice prevention spray made from essential oils or you can just use hairspray. My neighbor’s girls kept getting lice at daycare (as well as scabies, yikes!) My neighbor started spritzing their heads in the morning and they stopped getting it.

    We were told here that overuse of the chemicals has actually led to lice that are resistant to those chemicals. I’ve heard the mayonnaise or hair conditioner thing, but I heard you are supposed to wrap their hair in plastic cling wrap after you apply it so that the lice suffocate.

    My kids haven’t gotten lice yet, which I’m very grateful for. My 6 year old keeps his head nearly shaved, though. He just prefers it that way. My 2 year old has just been lucky so far, I guess. I am paranoid about it and since the 2 year old is a boy, I do plan to shave his head on the front porch before allowing him in the house if he does get lice!

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    • Yes, I’ve also heard that lice have become more resistant. I don’t like to use chemicals because you can’t count on them anyway. You still need to comb, and just combing, diligently, will do the job.

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  6. Kids around here seem to get lice outbreaks fairly rarely compared to there. My oldest 4 haven’t had more than a couple of cases back when they were little, so not sure if the stuff is still available, but definitely worth looking up. It’s called LiceRx and is/was made of essential oils that dissolved the glue for the nits and inhibited feeding and growth. Still needed several treatments to be rid of them, but it was nontoxic and a great conditioner. The bottle also said dipping the nit comb in cider vinegar helped unstick the nits too. Worked wonders for us. For prevention, add some drops of tea tree oil to your regular shampoo or conditioner. It repels them. Good luck!

    Sherri

    Liked by 1 person

  7. We went through a terrible ordeal with lice when my daughters were younger. One daughter had very thick but very fine hair and we seemed unable to ever get all the nits. I tried everything, over the counter treatments, herbal treatments, mayonnaise and we just kept passing them around. this is what finally kicked them for us:
    https://www.liceguard.com/products/robi-comb-electric-lice-comb
    It has a 9 volt battery and you comb the hair every day for two weeks. there is a weak current that zaps the bugs and nits. The tines of the comb are plastic tipped so that you don’t feel the electricity. Once I started using this, I quit washing linens etc. I just used the comb and our problem was finally over.

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