I Spent Years Dreading the Day My Daughter Would Get Lice — and Then It Happened

I had just escaped from my kids, handing them off to my husband to take a few minutes to myself before the chaos of bath and bedtime began. The calm didn't last long. Five minutes later, he entered our bedroom and announced that our daughter had lice. "Are you sure?" I responded, hoping, of course, that the answer was no. "Look for yourself," he replied instead. I did, and yep, that definitely wasn't a case of dandruff. Those were bugs crawling around on my daughter's head.

Her lice took me by surprise (though is anyone really expecting it?). Months before, when I got notes home from school about the cases reported in her classroom, or when her best friend's mom called to let me know her daughter and son, who had been in my carpool just that afternoon, were both lice-infected, I had braced myself for an impending doom that never came. I heard horror stories from my neighbor, mom to one of my daughter's classmates, about her whole family battling lice. At one point, she said, she was seriously considering shaving her own head just to ensure she'd gotten them all. 

My own scalp immediately began itching, though my husband couldn't spot a single nit (weeks later, that phantom itching still happens every time I even think about the word "lice"), and I began picturing the long, complicated, and annoying process that ridding our family and home of lice would entail. I'm glad to say that although it was pretty annoying (never have my washer and dryer worked harder), we were able to defeat the lice — it ended up only affecting my daughter, who luckily had a mild case — within 24 hours. Here are six things I learned about lice and getting rid of it that I never knew. If your house comes down with a case, don't despair. You can vanquish those annoying bugs quickly and thoroughly. 

Related:

My Toddler's Eardrum Ruptured and I Didn't Even Know It

  • Lice are only passed through head-to-head contact. Head lice don't crawl, jump, or fly. The main way they spread is from close, prolonged head-to-head contact, and to a lesser degree, they spread through items that come into contact with an infected head, like brushes, hats, and (at our school found out last year) the helmets used in gym class. 

  • You'll almost certainly know them when you or your child gets them. When friends and classmates of my daughter's got lice, I checked her head obsessively, wondering if I was missing something. I wasn't. She was clear. When she actually did have lice, she complained about her head itching, and when we checked, it was pretty easy to spot a few bugs (they're called a louse, are around two millimeters long, and are pale gray in color) crawling around on that head of hers. Because she's blond, the nits (tiny white or yellow eggs that attach to the hair with a sticky substance that holds them firmly in place) were harder to spot, but because of the bugs, we knew they were there.

  • Lice don't live long off a head. Head lice only live with the aid of a scalp to feed on (gross, I know). Once they leave a head, they're usually dead in a day, two tops, so don't feel like you have to fumigate your whole house. Instead, focus on the things that have come in contact with your child's head over the past 48 hours (beds, brushes, hats and hair bands, towels, and clothing are the big ones).

  • A laundry cycle will kill lice. Wash all bedding and clothing that's come in contact with the a louse-infested person in very hot water, then put it in the hot cycle of the dryer for at least 20 minutes, and you're golden. I continued to wash my daughter's pillowcases every morning for a few more days just to be safe.

  • Isolate or clean items that can't be washed. You can put items like stuffed animals in a bag or simply isolate them from your child and you can be assured that they'll be lice free in a few days. Simply vacuum rugs, carpets, upholstered furniture, and your car. Hair items like brushes, hair ties, and headbands, you can either wash in hot water, soak in rubbing alcohol for an hour, or simply toss. 

  • Don't be afraid to call in the professionals. When I texted my neighbor who was threatening to go bald the previous year because of lice, she directed me to a nearby "salon" that focuses solely on removing lice. While the service wasn't cheap (because of my daughter's mild case, we opted for the shorter comb out, which was still around $150). However, they were able to remove almost the 55 nits that were still inhabiting my daughter's head after we used special lice shampoo and spent three hours combing out her hair the night before. We also bought a far superior comb than the one that came with the drugstore lice shampoo we'd used. After that one service, the lice were gone, so in my mind, it was definitely money well spent. We followed their comb-out advice and kept checking for the next few weeks, but thankfully, not a nit was found.

Professional Lice Removal - Not as expensive as you think.

A professional lice removal clinic is a new concept for a lot of people.  We hear, “I didn’t even know there were places like this!” or “I couldn’t afford a place like that – it must be so expensive!”  You’d be surprised that you will actually save money seeing us!  Let me explain why you should let us help you in the unfortunate event you’re ever faced with this lousy problem.
 
Let’s use the example of an average family of four.  One of them has lice. Statistics show that in a family where there is one case of lice, there is an 85% chance of another family member having it too. Because the mere mention of head lice elicits a panic like no other, families often run to the pharmacy and buy enough lice kits to treat a small country!  Well, they at least buy one for every family member – just to be “safe”. Over the counter lice treatment kits are $25-$50 each, depending on the brand.  So this family just spent $75-$200 right off the bat. 
 
If the family consulted a doctor for help with head lice, they had to pay for an office visit which is roughly $250. If a prescription lice treatment is recommended, this family will pay $150-$310 for one prescription.  Not only are these products filled with pesticides, but lice have become resistant to them due to the evolution of “Super Lice.” One prescription, Malathion, comes with a warning to not go out in the sun after treatment because your hair could start on fire.  Yes, it is true!
 
Larger Than Lice has only been in business now for three years. At this time, we’ve helped thousand of families. I know of only ONE family that successfully treated their head lice at home. Of the families that we’ve met that were unsuccessful, they struggled anywhere from 3 weeks to 2 years with trying to become lice free. This is some serious business people here!  These families have missed countless days of school, work, after school activities, sports, social events, and the list goes on and on and on. Feelings of frustration, depression, anger, fear, stress, and repulsion can all affect the family dynamic during this time. I wouldn’t want anyone to go through this for one day, let alone 3 weeks to 2 years!  It sounds absolutely horrible!
 
So what is the solution?  At the first suspicion of head lice, or any potential contact with head lice, call US - Larger Than Lice!  Let me tell you what we can do……we will SUCESSFULLY treat your family the first time and GUARANTEE to keep you lice free for 21 days!!!  A priceless peace of mind not to mention the freedom to not spend unnecessary hours cleaning what you don’t need to clean! 
 
SO back to our scenario, our sample family of four treated everyone in the family, just to be safe @ $25-$310 per person.  Mom missed 3 days of work trying to treat the family and clean the house.  Our sample Mom makes $40,000/year, so she lost $500 in wages.  Doctor visit cost $250.  The family most likely threw away every brush, comb, hair ties, and even pillows thinking this will help make it all go away.  Replacing these items could cost anywhere from $50-$300 + depending on how frantic things got. What’s the total? Over the counter lice kits for every family member:  $75-$200, Doctor visit: $250, Prescription lice treatment kit:  $150-$300 for each person positively diagnosed with head lice. Missed wages:  $500, Replacing items thrown away:  $50-$300 + Trying to tackle head lice on their own cost our sample family at minimum $872 - $1300. Because most families end up dealing with head lice for so long, this sample cost could go much higher.
 

  • At Larger Than Lice, our average treatment time is 1.5- 2 hours per case of head lice.  We only treat clients that HAVE head lice.  As mentioned above, 2 out of the 4 family members likely have lice.  ($150 - $250) In addition, we are available day, evening, and weekend hours so no missed days of school, work, after school activities, sports, or social events!  So, our sample family spent around $400 for our services.  As a bonus, we provide education and counseling on treatment and prevention free of charge. The family learns what needs to be done at home – nothing needs to be thrown away!!! And let’s not forget about our amazing 21 day guarantee!  If head lice are found at either the 15 day head check or the 21 day head check, we treat again absolutely FREE! 

In summary, Larger Than Lice is a professional lice removal clinic with THE best certified and trained staff in the New York metropolitan area! Letting us treat your head lice will actually save you money!  The relief, joy, and unwasted time we can provide is priceless!  Just sit back and relax because you're in the best hands with Larger Than Lice!

 

De-lousing the house

Parents frequently ask us at Larger Than Lice how to remove head lice within the home. If I can only count how many times I, or one of our Lice Specialists have arrived to a home only to find ten, twenty, thirty garbage bags full of “household things”. One family even went as far as removing their curtains, just in case. On top of all that, countless numbers of laundry loads have already been done. No wonder head lice becomes such a stressful event for many parents. I almost feel bad telling the families that all this cleaning is just excessive and not necessary at all. That’s right. Excessive cleaning is not at all required when you, or your child has a case of lice.

The reason? Head lice live on the head. They do not live on inanimate objects. They have no interest in leaving one’s head to go wander around on the living room couch, or kitchen floor, or roam the car. A human host is the only place they want to be, the only place that they can potentially survive a whole month while they feed off of the blood of an individual. Typically, a louse that has fallen off the head is not healthy and is in the process of dying. Once they are away from their feeding source, a louse can only survive up to 24 hours. And let's pretend as though a healthy louse has fallen off and has found its way onto the couch- it will not burrow or sit around and wait for another human to sweep it off its feet and place it back into a new head. The chances of getting a displaced louse back into one’s hair are as small as finding a needle in a haystack, nearly impossible.

  • Remember that lice are not living in your environment, they are living with you!

Don’t get me wrong, there are some things that need to be cleaned and laundered, but the list is very minimal. Laundering the bedding, any recently used towels and bathrobes is important. Same goes for all recently used hairbrushes and hair accessories. Bagging, laundering or drying on high heat should be considered for any stuffed toys that reside in your child’s bed. That is it. Use the rest of your energy on properly eliminating head lice and nit picking. Being meticulous is essential if you want to rid head lice for good. Removing every single nit is crucial to being lice free so make sure that no nits are left behind, which is exactly what Larger Than Lice are experts in.

When Larger Than Lice dispatches a Lice Specialist for an in-home lice removal treatment, you can rest assured that every single live louse and viable nit will be removed – in just one visit. After one lice treatment, and minimal laundering, you can rest at ease and be confident that your home will be lice-free.  

Mutant Lice Resistant to Treatment Found in 25 States

Head lice are freaky enough as-is, but new research has discovered there’s a strain of mutant lice that is resistant to over-the-counter treatments — and they’re found in at least 25 U.S. States.

Kyong Sup Yoon, PhD, an assistant professor at Southern Illinois University, presented his findings Tuesday at the American Chemical Society’s National Meeting & Exposition.

Yoon and his team collected lice samples from a large number of populations across 30 states in the U.S. They discovered that 104 out of 109 lice populations had high levels of gene mutations, which make them resistant to pyrethroids.

Pyrethroids are a group of common insecticides that includes permethrin, the active ingredient in the most common head lice treatment products sold at drug stores.

That means if you or your child contracts head lice, there’s a very good chance that the widely available treatments won’t get rid of it.

“It’s kind of alarming,” Yoon tells Yahoo Health. “A ton of products is not working.” It’s worth noting that Yoon’s study is ongoing, meaning these mutant lice may be in more than 25 states.

It doesn’t look promising for the rest of the untested states, based on Yoon’s findings: Michigan is the only state so far to have a population of lice that is still largely treatable with common over the counter treatments.

While the news is shocking to most people, he says it isn’t to the research community, which has known for years that pyrethroid-resistant lice were proliferating.

  • But how did this happen?

It’s much in the same way that antibiotic resistance occurs or can occur, Yoon says. When a product is widely available and even overused, it can create a new problem. Most head lice treatments are available without a prescription, increasing the chances that they will be overused.

In this case, super lice formed a drug resistance that spread as they procreated. “Permethrin is a great chemical because it’s very safe to use on humans, but we lost it because of the lack of resistance management,” says Yoon.

Luckily, this doesn’t mean that you or your child is doomed to a life with a head lice if it’s contracted. 

Pharmaceutical companies have developed some lice-battling products that don’t contain permethrin, Yoon says, but many are only available with a prescription.

There are also a number of home remedies that are inexpensive and non-toxic, Jake Deutsch, MD, founder and clinical director of New York’s CURE Urgent Care, tells Yahoo Health. Those include using essential oils like tea tree, clove oil, and nutmeg oil, as well as vinegar.

But, if you prefer sticking with a more traditional louse-killing treatment, Sklice, Ovide, and Natroba, are good options, Deutsch says.

If you or your child contracts head lice, don’t use an over-the-counter treatment (unless you live in Michigan), Yoon says: You’re likely wasting your money. Instead, call your doctor.

How Do We Get Head Lice?

In most cases head lice are transmitted from one human to another, primarily through head-to-head contact. While most references report them as most commonly found on children ranging from ages three to eleven, never research shows the largest number of cases are found in children between the ages of nine and sixteen. 

  • Head-to-head contact is the most common way to transmit head lice.

While it is possible to pick up hitchhikers (an abandoned strand of hair with a louse still attached), it is suspected that less than 2% of all active cases are actually contracted in this manner.

Lice eggs, or nits as they are commonly referred to, also are of little concern as they cannot reattach themselves to a new head of hair. Furthermore, it should be noted that majority of abandoned nits are damaged and never reach the stage of hatching, thus reducing the chances of exposure through this means. Even if they do manage to hatch, they require blood almost immediately or will starve to death.

  • A nit "louse egg" is attached to the hair shaft with a fixative glue. It is a cement-like substance will not dissolve and prevents nits from falling off the hair.   

An adult louse rarely leaves the security of a warm, generous host unless it has already identified a newer and more desirable environment to move onto. Since head lice feed every three to four hours they are unlikely to willingly leave their food supply. It´s also worth noting that lice prefer round shafts of hair because it´s easier to wrap their claw like feet around it.

  • The hair of African-Americans is generally oval, a shapeless maneuverable and thus less desirable to the louse.

Lice are also found curly hair less appealing. It´s important to remember that although the shape of certain hair shafts reduces the risk of getting head lice, it does not make the person immune. With an increased number of interracial children, hair textures are changing, resulting in more cases of head lice among select racial groups than previously experienced.

  • Lice are more commonly found on girls than boys, presumably because their mass and longer length offer more secure and attractive breeding ground.   

Additionally, girls tend to be more physically affectionate than boys, resulting in more head-to-head contact. Longer hair, often found in girls, becomes a bridge of opportunity, offering a mode of transportation from one head to another. The risk is increased if the child´s hair is loose. The smaller volume of hair on most boys allows for more sun exposure, causing the sink to have a tougher texture and thus be a less inviting feeding ground for lice. Since head lice are lazy, they tend to look for a head that requires less work to obtain their needed food supply. I can't emphasize enough that while these reasons allow for more cases of head lice to be found on the gender and among certain races than others, it's no guarantee individuals in the less likely groups will be immune from them.

  • How can we prevent lice? By checking your child's head every week, you will help prevent lice infestation in your home. Head lice will survive for only 24-48 hours once they are not on the host (head).

What Are Crabs (Pubic Lice)?

"Crabs" is the common term for lice found in the pubic hair of humans. Crabs is a parasite infection medically known as Pediculosis pubis or pubic lice. Barely the size of a pinhead, lice are organisms that live only with the help of another organism, called a host. There are thousands of types of lice, some of which have developed an attraction to humans. The official name for the organism responsible for pubic lice is Pthirus pubis. Other lice that often infect humans are Pediculus humanus capitis (head lice) and Pediculus humanus corporis (body lice). The term "crabs" seems to come from the microscopic appearance of the pubic louse. The pubic lice organisms are visible to the naked eye in affected areas. The lice are typically seen attached to hair in pubic areas, but may sometimes appear in other areas of the body where coarse hair is present (such as beard, chest, armpits, etc.).

The pubic louse is distinct morphologically (somewhat rounded with three pairs of legs on either side of the body from which it takes its descriptive name) from the head and body louse. The female lifespan is slightly shorter (three weeks), and she produces fewer eggs per day (three) than her counterparts. The eggs attach to the base of the pubic hair shaft for approximately six to eight days before hatching.

A new case study in The New England Journal of Medicine tells a torrid tale of an unnamed 65-year-old man who showed up at a dermatology clinic complaining of an itchy crotch. On examination, the man didn’t appear to have a rash or any lesions, so the doctors investigated his pubic area with a hand-held dermoscope.

The first bit of evidence they uncovered was a nit firmly implanted on a pubic hair. And then came the culprit itself—a freakishly agile, crab-shaped parasite moving from hair to hair like it was nobody’s business.

For the dermatologists, it was a classic case of pubic pediculosis—also known as “crabs.” This happens when the pubic louse, Pthirus pubis, infests a person’s hairy nether regions.

“Pubic pediculosis is usually sexually transmitted but can occur after contact with fomites [materials that are likely to carry infection] such as clothing, bedding, and towels used by an infected person,” write the researchers, who work out of Mexico City’s General Hospital. “The condition most commonly affects teenagers and young adults. This patient reported that he had had no recent sexual contact, and no other sexually transmitted infections were identified on screening.”

The doctors prescribed the oral drug ivermectin, and after two weeks the itching was gone. Which is all fine and well—but what about the psychological scars?

Three things you probably didn't know about crab lice.

Crab lice (Pthirus pubis) aren’t crabs at all—they’re parasitic insects that feed exclusively on human blood, and their bites can cause intense itching in their hosts. Often, this itching happens in the pubic area, which is why they’re also known as “pubic lice”—which, it turns out, is actually a misnomer.

  • They’re not just spread by sexual intercourse.

Although sexual relations are the most common way to pick up these particular passengers, any prolonged close physical contact can do the trick, including breastfeeding or sleeping in the same bed as an infested individual. A few reports have suggested that crab lice can tolerate being away from a human host for as long as 36 hours, which opens up the possibility that the lice could hang out on previously used towels and sheets to wait for a new host.

  • Their closest cousins live on gorillas.

Studies comparing DNA from the three species of human louse with the lice that infest other primates found that the crab louse’s closest relative is the gorilla louse. Head lice and body lice belong to a completely different genus of lice and are more closely related to the lice that live on chimpanzees. But researchers don’t think that humans picked up crabs from screwing gorillas. It’s much more likely that we got them by eating gorillas. Lice are very sensitive to body heat, and it’s possible that way back in the distant past, some gorilla lice abandoned a cooling dead host for the warm human that was butchering it.

  • They don’t just live in pubic hair.

Crab lice certainly prefer the pubes, but their short, thick legs are just as well adapted to hang on to any coarse hair on the human body. They’ve been found in armpit hair, beards and mustaches, eyelashes, and eyebrows. They’re not big fans of densely packed hair, so they’re rarely found on the scalp. But if your scalp hair is sparser than average, as in people with curly locks, they might make an exception. Take home message? If you have a head louse infection, you only need to treat your scalp. A crab louse infection means all bets are off. Treat all of your hair. All of it.

 

How Do I Prevent my Kids from Getting Head Lice at Camp?

Practice Prevention - Lice Away

With kids getting out of school this week and camp season fast approaching.  It is time to give consideration to head lice prevention.  The following tips will help you avoid head lice this summer and if you happen to get head lice there is help readily available.

Educate Yourself and Your Children about Lice Prevention

  • Pre-camp registration forms explain your camp’s policy on head lice. They may include some identification and treatment tips so parents can pre-screen children and treat children before putting them on the bus to camp.   Let your children know the things that they can do to avoid getting head lice and how to recognize the symptoms.  Use tools such as educational coloring books, a reputable website, pictures and educational hands outs.
  • Get a quality head lice comb so you can check the hot spots once a week.  If you check ahead, you avoid the spread.  Take a peek once a week is a great preventative measure that parents can take.  Don’t be fooled by knock off and copy cat combs with short tines, plastic or poor tolerances.  You can expect to pay $15 to $20 for a quality lice comb, but these will last you a lifetime and can be sanitized between uses for multiple family members.  Finally a quality lice comb has the proper tolerances with long tines that go through the thickest of hair and do not break or tear the hair.

  • Keeping hair up and away from other people’s heads is the best thing that you can do to avoid getting head lice.  Sharing hats, combs, brushes, towels, and other hair items are not advised.  Also avoid sleeping on someone else’s pillow or using their blanket.  Pay special attention to sharing sport wear and head gear.  If you need to share headgear such as a helmet, use a hair bonnet under the helmet.  Keep in mind that you may also get head lice from car and bus seats and couches.   Do a visual inspection of the head rest and wipe or blow off the surface before use.  There are some cleaning products available and hair sprays that will leave a scent on the hair and these can help repel lice.

  • Ask Camp Directors about the Screening, catching a head lice infestation early is key and it helps to avoid spreading it to others in the camp and creating a severe infestation.   Ask your camp director if they provide help and if they are screening campers and staff as they arrive to camp.  Screening is the best method of keeping lice outbreaks to a minimum.  Keep in mind that all campers and staff need to be checked and that checking must be done on dry hair and within at least the first week of arriving at camp.  – Check-A-Head and avoid the spread.
  • Report, Re-check and Treat, Don’t send your child to camp with lice and report it if you do find head lice.  Others need to be told so the campers in the cabin or at home can be checked.  Follow the camp policy on head lice.  If your camp treats campers on site, ask if they use pesticide and make sure follow up is being done.  Most head lice treatments are pesticide based.  Some children are sensitive to this and may not be good candidates for its use.  Speak with the camp about the treatment options.  There are many natural treatment options available and the best tools a camp could have on hand are high quality lice combs.   Treat the camper and then re-check the others in close proximity or in the same cabin.  Keep checking for a two week period and always follow up.
  • The Environment, Head lice will die within 24 to 48 hours without a blood meal.  It is best to tell your children to keep their sleeping environment to themselves.  Sharing pillows, blankets, towels and any head gear may result in lice transmission.  There is no need to spray pesticide or to wash pillows and mattresses.  Focus on items that have had close head to item proximity such as pillow cases, sheets, hats, brushed, coats, etc.  Never spray an insecticide on bedding in cabins as the toxic residue will linger for several days and may cause some campers have breathing issues or other reactions. Remember the most important thing about head lice is to practice prevention and to catch it early so it can be treated in a timely and effective manner.  Most camps will experience head lice, but the severity of it can be reduced when everyone works together.