Natalie and I were inseparable. As 9-year-olds do, we shared secrets, sleepovers, and sesame seed sized insects in our hair.
You know, LICE.
I was there on that hot July afternoon when Natalie’s mom discovered lice in her daughter’s shoulder length strawberry blonde hair. A quick look at my brown bob and it was official: we were both infected. She flew to the phone, and as she instructed my mom what to buy at the pharmacy, she barked orders for Natalie and I to strip down and sit in the bathtub. We were all OHMYGAH WE’RE DYING! and burst into tears.
Natalie’s mom was handling The Girls Have Bugs situation much better than my Mother who showed up with a look of horror plastered on her face and enough bottles of Rid to de-louse all of the Duggars. Twice. Cringing, afraid to make eye contact with let alone touch it, my Mama scrubbed my scalp raw in that bathtub.
A common misconception about lice is that only “dirty” kids get it. I promise you that my Mom was far too helicopter-ish when it came to grooming; a “dirty” kid I was not, and neither was my pal. But we were active outdoorsy kids who did things like go on Girl Scout camping trips and share awesomely bad 80’s headbands.
It was summertime when Natalie and I discovered our lice; thankfully we didn’t have to worry about infecting anyone in school. But, hey, know who’s in school right now? My children. Your children. So. Many. Children. Apparently, lice is considered most common among pre-school to elementary aged kids, AKA: the exact ages of my kids. According to the CDC, there are between 6-12 million cases of head lice each year in this country, which makes me want to burn down my house.
Don’t be like my Mom and freak the freak out every time your kid scratches her head. There are distinct characteristics of lice that set it apart from a regular itchy head:
- The American Academy of Pediatrics describes head lice as pale and gray tiny insects, 2–3 mm long
- Lice feed on tiny amounts of blood from the scalp and if they are not on a person’s scalp, they can usually only survive about a day
- Head lice live about 28 days
- They lay their eggs close to the scalp and multiply quickly, laying up to 10 eggs a day *GROSSSSSSS*
- It only takes about 12 days for newly hatched eggs to reach adulthood TWELVE DAYS, you guys
- This cycle repeats itself every 3 weeks if lice are left untreated
Now you know what to look for, but do you know what to do with it if you find it?
No, running around in a circle, mentally burning your kid’s pillow cases is not the right answer.
Over-the-counter lice products as safe and effective when used according to the Drug Facts label instructions, the The FDA says so. Certain ingredients are must-haves if you hope to get rid of lice. If you want to keep those little buggers hanging around, you can ignore this part.
- Active, effective ingredients: Permethrin and Pyrethrum Extract
- Permethrin is commonly found in the OTC product Nix or Piperonyl Butoxide
- Pyrethrum Extract is most commonly found in Pronto or Rid.
- See the graphic below for specific usage details
If you’re like me and your kids have just started school or participating in activities that could potentially expose them to lice, there are a few really important tid bits we need to keep in mind:
- Sometimes there no signs of itching upon initial infestation (is there a better word for that? The word even makes me itchy). Which means the first time a kiddo gets lice, a few weeks could go by until we realize it and then there is LOTS OF LICE!
- Although the OTC treatments help, it’s REALLY important to do daily, thorough COMBINGS to keep pulling out nits, etc.
- If we’ve followed the directions of OTC treatments two or more times and STILL have lice, these things need to happen:
- work with your kid’s classroom teacher or school nurse to get rid of lice because somewhere other than home may be the infestation station (WAAAA!)
- talk with your pediatrician. Call in the big guns, you guys.
Good luck and Godspeed, fellow lice busters.