head lice removal

Erasing the Stigma: Nit Myths and Effective Lice Treatments

When your kids have head lice, it often throws family life into chaos: They miss school, you miss work, and you’ve got to do laundry and spend long, tedious hours picking nits (lice eggs) out of their hair. Perhaps you feel embarrassed and don’t want to tell anyone else, especially if your kids keep getting lice.

Head lice is incredibly common. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 6 to 12 million kids ages 3 to 11 get lice every year. Yet there’s a lot of misinformation, stigmas and lice and nit myths

Lice Symptoms & The Difference Between Lice and Dandruff

The primary symptom is an itchy scalp, and you may not feel it until you’ve had lice for several weeks. Once you’ve had lice before, the itching tends to occur sooner, Wong says.

Live lice are large enough to see with the naked eye but can be elusive. Nits, or lice eggs, are tiny, and some people confuse them with dandruff. The difference is that dandruff will flake away, while nits cling to the hair shaft. Wong recommends using a head lamp to check; the nits will reflect the light.

Ways to Get Rid of Lice and Nits

There are several effective lice treatments. Whichever one you use, you’ll need to repeat the treatment after 7-10 days, in case you miss nits and they hatch.

Wet Combing

Combing the hair to remove lice doesn’t involve any chemicals, but it’s not as effective and is a lot of work, Wong says.

Cetaphil Cleanser

You can also try coating the hair and scalp completely with Cetaphil cleanser, drying the hair thoroughly, and leave it on overnight, which smothers the lice. This method is appealing to parents who want to avoid putting toxins on their child’s hair and scalp. Here’s what you do:

  • Coat the hair and scalp completely with Cetaphil

  • Dry the hair

  • Leave it on overnight with a shower cap

  • Wash the hair and remove the nits

Rosemary and Tea Tree Oil

Another over-the-counter treatment with rosemary and tea tree oil claims to dissolve nit glue, but it doesn’t kill lice. Wong recommends using products to prevent infestations — tea tree oil acts as a natural lice repellent.

Combing Out Lice and Removing Nits

Regardless of which treatment you use, you’re still going to need to pluck lice and nits out of your child’s hair. Most combs won’t remove nits completely, so you might need to pull them off the hair. Wong says live nits tend to be very close to the scalp; what looks like a nit farther away from the scalp may actually be an empty egg casing.

Most parents agree that pulling off the nits is the worst part of a lice infestation. But “if they do all that work up front, it really makes it less likely that it’s either going to be persistent or recurring,” Wong says.

Removing Lice from Your House

Lice don’t survive for very long off humans. But to avoid spreading them or becoming re-infested:

  • Wash all bedding and sleepwear

  • Bag stuffed animals and soft items that can’t be washed for two weeks to kill any lice on them

  • Vacuum your furniture

What to Do If Lice Keep Coming Back

Does it seem like your child just gets lice again and again? There are several things that could be happening:

  • You never treated the lice adequately the first time.

  • Your child has treatment-resistant lice.

  • Your child keeps becoming reinfested, perhaps because of a friend or classmate with chronic lice.

In cases of resistant lice, Wong uses one of the prescription treatments. She also suggests trying tea tree oil to prevent lice reinfestation. But another effective treatment? For parents to talk to each other and talk to their child’s teacher, so they can detect other children who have lice and treat them.

“I think we probably would be able to control lice better if there wasn’t this stigma,” Wong says.

The Weird Way Lice is Spreading

We are talking lice and selfies, teens and how to get rid of head lice.

Facebook is always full of all kinds of interesting things. Today, I logged into find a friend posting to a group of us alerting us that her and her 2 daughters had come down with lice. A few of the girls in our group had been over this weekend (we weren’t there, unfortunately – now fortunately).

MY HEAD IS ITCHING JUST WRITING THIS.

If you have ever had to deal with lice, bless you. We once contracted the lovely head lice issue while on vacation. We only had 2 kids at the time. Our son, who had been growing out his hair – had to have his head shaved.

Me and my daughter spent every night for a week in coconut oil and olive coil hair masks. My husband spent many nights picking nits. It was awful.

Teens + Selfies = Lice

Well interesting enough – during my friends trip to the lice place – she learned an interesting thing. There were several teens at the lice treatment place and the lady doing her hair informed her that lice spreads between teens like mad. And the main reason?

Selfies and Lice

Teens take selfies all the time together. Think about the millions of Instagram photos where 2 or more teens are head-to-head posing for a selfie. If 1 teen has lice, the other teen or teens are sure to get this.

SELFIES DO NOT GIVE TEENS LICE — UNLESS ONE OF THE TEENS ALREADY HAS LICE.

All About Head Lice

Okay, I write this NOT to freak out about selfies or teens. I’ve been there, done that with lice – it is SO not fun people. If there is a lice outbreak that you know about in your area, I recommend you suggesting to your teen to hold off on the selfies or to watch who they selfie with. LICE is SO not fun! AND JUST IN CASE you have a case of lice (ugh, prayers)

WHY SCHOOLS ARE MOVING AWAY FROM “NO-NIT” POLICIES

When kids get lice, two of the most commonly asked questions parents ask are, 1) why wasn’t I notified that lice were found at my child’s school? And, 2) why aren’t kids with lice sent home from school until they are lice-free?

The majority of schools have moved away from ‘no-nit’ policies that require students to stay out of school until they are lice and nit free.  The recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) have all stated that no-nit policies should be discontinued.

The past decade has seen a significant shift in the medical and educational communities about how to deal with head lice. Doctors, nurses, and teachers now recognize that head lice do not represent a serious health threat and a case of head lice does not warrant missing valuable school time.  Also, while some schools will notify the parents of children that are found with head lice, most schools don’t warn other families because of the panic and blame that often take place.

The policy changes are designed to help keep children from missing class, shield children with lice from embarrassment, and protect their privacy. The CDC lists the following reasons for the change in policy:

  • Many nits are more than ¼ inch from the scalp. Such nits are usually not viable and very unlikely to hatch to become crawling lice, or may, in fact, be empty shells, also known as ‘casings.’

  • Nits are cemented to hair shafts and are very unlikely to be transferred successfully to other people.

  • The burden of unnecessary absenteeism to the students, families, and communities far outweighs the risks associated with head lice.

  • Misdiagnosis of nits is very common during nit checks conducted by nonmedical personnel.

According to the AAP, “Most cases of head lice are acquired outside of school.” That’s why “the AAP continues to recommend that a healthy child should not be restricted from attending school because of head lice or nits (eggs). Pediatricians are encouraged to educate schools and communities that no-nit policies are unjust and should be abandoned. Children can finish the school day, be treated, and return to school.”

The reality for most school districts is that the effort involved in keeping schools entirely lice-free would be a futile use of their limited resources. The CDC estimates that there are 6-12 million cases of head lice in children between the ages of 3-11. This means that at least 1 in 5 students have lice at any given time. In the early stages of a case of head lice, many children display no symptoms as nits, and adolescent lice, don’t bite and don’t cause the itching sensation that indicates the presence of head lice.

Keeping a school lice-free would require constant checks of the entire student body, which is unrealistic and unnecessary for a condition that is not considered a health problem. That’s the conclusion that the CDC, AAP, and NASN have come to, and many school districts are following these recommendations.

No-nit policies were developed because traditional lice treatments can take several weeks to be effective.  The first treatment is designed to kill live lice but doesn’t kill eggs, or nits. Since nits can hatch over ensuing weeks, combing and nit-picking are required with traditional treatment.

Can Lice Swim?

Who knew? Lice can swim— or at least they can survive under water. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), studies “show that head lice can survive underwater for several hours but are unlikely to be spread by the water in a swimming pool.”

Head lice hold tightly onto the child’s (or adult’s) hair and essentially hold their breath when under water. Contrary to some people’s’ opinions, chlorine does not kill head lice.
It is also important to know that head lice can be spread when children share towels, washcloths and any other items that have been in contact with the hair of someone who had head lice. In addition to towels this applies to other bathing accessories like hairbrushes, combs, curlers, etc.

So bottom line – it’s a myth! It is highly unlikely that your child got ukus from the swimming pool.

Siblings and Head Lice: Tips

April 10 is National Siblings Day, and we are using the day to call attention to the fact that siblings are often the channel used by head lice to spread.

“The closer in age siblings are, the more likely it is for them to spread lice to one another.”  “That’s because they are likely to spend more time together and share rooms, hair accessories, and clothing that might carry hair with lice.”

According to a study of Norwegian school children, an infested sibling increases the odds of a child contracting head lice by 36 percent. In some school districts, if a student is found to have head lice, any siblings at the school are also checked.

Lice spread primarily through head-to-head contact. When siblings share a bed or bedroom, and one has head lice, others are likely to get lice, too. Lice don’t fly or jump, but if a louse is on a shaft of hair that falls on a jacket or hat or hair brush, it will crawl onto the next head it can find in a matter of seconds.

“Lice can’t live anywhere but on a human head,” Desmond said. “It is a matter of survival to get on the nearest head.”

Lice can be aggravating, but you can work your way through this nuisance. Here's How:

It’s the time of year when kids gather in school. They’re building friendships, sharing curiosity and… yep, sometimes swapping head lice. It can happen in any school with any kids. Personal hygiene and home or school cleanliness has nothing to do with head lice or their spread.

If you have children, you may already be familiar with head lice. Head lice infestations are common in pre-schools and elementary schools. They can spread around to everyone in a household, regardless of age.

 Getting Acquainted with… Head Lice

Head lice are small parasitic insects. They live on the scalp. They like the areas behind and around ears and near the neckline at the back of the head. Sometimes they can be in the eyelashes or eyebrows, but that’s uncommon.

Lice start as eggs, or nits, that are tiny. Nymphs hatch from eggs. Nymphs look like a small version of the adult. The adult louse (singular for lice) is about the size of a sesame seed. It has six legs and is tan to light gray.

Females are bigger than the males and can lay about six eggs every day. An adult louse can live up to 30 days on a person. They live only a couple of days when not on a person. Lice feed on human blood to live. 

How Do Head Lice Get Around?

These bugs cannot hop or fly. They typically crawl from person to person when head-to-head contact is made. It’s less common but they can also move from person to person when clothing, hats, scarves, combs, brushes, towels or plush toys are shared. 

What Are the Signs of Head Lice?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says a person with head lice may notice:

  • A tickling feeling of something moving in the hair. That happens because there is something moving in the hair. (You’re right, that’s a little gross.) 

  • Itching. This can be caused by an allergic reaction to a louse bite.

  • Irritability and trouble sleeping. This can happen because head lice are most active in the dark. 

  • Sores on the head caused by scratching. The sores can become infected by bacteria found on the skin. (Saying “ewwwww” now would be totally understandable.)

OK, Let’s Bring Up Some Good News

The good news is: Head lice are not considered a medical or public health hazard by the CDC. And they are not known to spread disease. 

Dogs, cats and other pets do not seem to help spread head lice. That’s another reason to love your pet. 

For the most part, head lice are spread by simple contact between people. If you can avoid close contact, you can reduce the risk of spreading the little pests.

Cases of shared sports helmets spreading head lice are rare. The feet of head lice are adapted to hang onto hair, but they tend to fall off surfaces such as plastic, metal, polished synthetic leathers and such.

Prevent Re-infestations

Immediately after treatment, the person you’ve treated should put on clean clothing.

Gather items such as hats, scarves, pillowcases, bedding, clothing and towels used by people with lice. Gather things they used in the two days before treatment

Wash the items in water 130 degrees or warmer. The items should be in the water at least five minutes. Then dry on a hot air cycle. 

If an item can’t be laundered, it can be dry cleaned or sealed in a plastic bag for two weeks. 

Soak combs and hairbrushes in water that’s at least 130 degrees for five to 10 minutes. 

Vacuum furniture and floors. This can pick up hairs that may have nits attached. 

There… that’s probably all you’d ever want to know about head lice. Oh, there’s one more thing.

Other Types of Lice

Along with head lice, there’s also:

  • Pubic lice. Also called crabs. They’re found in the pubic area, and sometimes on eyelashes, eyebrows, under arms and on chest hair. They’re rarely found on the scalp.

  • Body lice. They live and lay their eggs (nits) in clothing seams. They crawl to the body to feed. 

Listerine Lice Treatment: Why It Doesn't Work

The Rundown

First of all, don’t use Listerine as a treatment for lice. Just don’t. It may be an appealing alternative due to its price when compared to the price of lice shampoos and treatments, but that’s because it’s not a lice shampoo.

To be classified as a lice treatment, products must go through extensive testing by the FDA and other regulatory agencies, submitted in clinical trials, and proven to be consistently effective. Listerine has not done that. It is a mouthwash, not a lice shampoo.

The Ingredients

Listerine
Active Ingredients: Alcohol (30%)
Other ingredients: Eucalyptol, Thymol, Menthol, Methyl Salicylate

Suffocation vs. Dehydration

The reason Listerine doesn’t work to eliminate lice is that different chemicals treat lice differently. The active ingredient in Listerine is alcohol, and alcohol-based alternative lice treatments (like Listerine) predominantly rely on suffocation to eliminate lice. This is a good step, but far from an effective, permanent solution.

Head lice in the egg stage have a protective, waxy coating that acts as a waterproofing agent and allows them to continue their evolution into live nits. (While Listerine may loosen some of the eggs, it’s not enough.) The alcohol in Listerine deprives the eggs of oxygen in order to suffocate them; however, it can take 8-24 hours for suffocation to occur. In that time, the lice eggs can lie dormant and the Listerine wears off. As a result, the affected party will need almost constant Listerine treatments over the course of several days to ensure the lice eggs don’t hatch. In addition, any live nits and eggs will still have to be combed out with a special lice comb.

Method

Why, then, do some people swear by Listerine? The secret may be more in the act than in the ingredients. Many articles that identify this particular method as a solution also call for the use of a lice comb and vinegar. It is more likely the act of combing out the lice with a lice comb, combined with the vinegar, that eliminates the lice more than the active ingredients in Listerine themselves.

Remember those breakfast cereal commercials on Saturday mornings for Apple Jacks that said “part of this complete breakfast,” then showed the sugary cereal alongside four apples, three bananas, two eggs, and a grapefruit? You got the feeling the cereal wasn’t really the main contributor to the “complete” part of the meal.

When it comes to lice treatment, Listerine is much the same as Apple Jacks. It may work as “part of the complete breakfast,” but it is not the key ingredient, or even beneficial to the lice treatment diet. In much the same way the fruit and veggies end up doing most of the work to make up the complete breakfast for the sugary cereal, the lice comb bears the bulk of the responsibility for delivering results on behalf of the Listerine.

The Many Hidden Costs of Head Lice

Professional lice removal can be expensive, especially when multiple family members in the home are affected. However, procrastination in the form of attempting to rid yourself or your family of lice via home remedies is the single highest cost many families experience.

By the time families reach out to us, they have often already spent hundreds of dollars and have nothing to show for it.

There are many hidden costs to home lice treatment that many families simply don’t think about, and waiting too long to get professional lice treatment can mean spending more than double the typical cost of professional lice removal.

THE POTENTIAL COSTS OF HOME LICE TREATMENT

Dry Cleaning: $$

Lice co-pollinate up to 90% of the time in any given household; however, they are unable to live for more than 24 hours in the environment outside of a scalp. In other words, they cannot easily spread from the scalp to clothes, furniture, or other household accessories.

Not knowing this, we often see families rack up huge bills for dry cleaning in an attempt to eradicate what they thought was a house-wide infestation!

As we say, “don’t burn your house down” just because you find lice; simply doing the laundry with an all-natural detergent will do the trick.

Over-the-Counter or Home Treatments: $$

Put simply, these do not work!

New strains of “super lice” have built a resistance to traditional over-the-counter treatments. Applying Nix or any similar product to the scalp and hoping for the best is not going to solve the problem; in fact, it may make things worse by providing a short-lived, false sense of security that ultimately results in reoccurrence and the spreading of lice to others.

Nannies & Sitters: $$$

Want to know what is really great about head lice?

It always happens on a day when your schedule is completely free, with no obligations or responsibilities!

Ha!

Actually, head lice are one of the top three reasons kids miss school each year.

When receiving a call from school or daycare demanding to “pick up your child immediately,” many parents are caught completely off guard and wind up having to hire a nanny or babysitter to pick up and watch their child for the remainder of the day.

Even if lucky enough to find someone in the spur of the moment, costs accrue quickly. Hundreds of dollars, even! Couple that with failed home remedies and what was originally a one-day ordeal quickly turns into two, three or more.

Cha-ching!

Buying New Stuff: $$$

Upon discovering lice, you may have an urge to throw away every sheet, towel, and pillow throughout the household in an effort to eradicate lice. You are not alone! We have spoken with hundreds of families over the years who have thrown away perfectly good sheets, towels, pillows, rugs, and even furniture!

The best advice we can give is don’t panic! (And don’t throw away perfectly good household items.) Call Larger Than Lice and we can walk you through the process of getting rid of lice and nits without moving everything to the curbside bin.

Missed Work: $$$$

Can’t find a sitter? Family and friends not particularly thrilled about the prospect of looking over your lice-infested child while you head off to work?

Sounds like a missed day at the office!

Those of us with school-aged children know how hard it is to balance teacher planning days, holidays, sick days, and inconsistent school schedules with busy work schedules. It requires a lot of understanding by the boss and your fellow coworkers. For that reason, unplanned days off due to a lice outbreak can be especially stressful for working parents. Not to mention the lost pay or vacation days spent staying home.