Everything You Need To Know About Lice

Even though we've received several notices from our children's schools over the years about head lice, I always thought it wouldn't happen to us. Until it did. A few days before Christmas, all of our kids and I contracted lice. Since then, I've talked with two pharmacists, one pediatrician, four teachers, three lice technicians, and countless parents. I've learned more than I ever wished to know about head lice, but the one positive from all of this is I can share my knowledge with all of you and hopefully help other families.

How you catch lice

Lice is spread from head to head contact with an infected individual. They can't jump or fly, only crawl from hair to hair. That's why lice occurs most commonly in children, who tend to love rough play, hugs, and have no sense of personal space, ha!

"Lice love clean hair!" and "Lice thrive in poor hygiene"

Neither of these statements are true! I've heard them both, but the truth is LICE LOVE HAIR. PERIOD. It's not a sign that your child is dirty and you're not safe if you're super hygienic. We bathe our kids every single night and wash their hair daily, which is more than I wash my own hair. Nothing really matters when they hug their friend who has lice.

Preventing lice

I wish I knew about these preventative tips sooner, and now I take every precaution after having had lice! Here are a few tried and true ways to prevent lice.
  • Keep hair tied back! Long or short, it needs to be pulled back. Lily's always had shoulder length hair and I never thought it would be a problem, but it's best to wear hair tight to the head in buns, braids, and up in sections. One long ponytail is no better than wearing hair down! 
  • Warn your children to never share hats or scarves with their friends. It's no coincidence that lice tends to break out in the winter months when kids are all wearing so many layers around their hair. 
  • Peppermint, tea tree, and lavender essential oils might deter lice as they don't like the smell, but today's "super lice"  are resistant to these gentle methods for extermination. 
  • If one of your children has lice, it doesn't have to spread. Wash their sheets and pillow case immediately and put anything that may have touched their head in a plastic bag for 24 hours. You can also put any hair accessories and brushed in a plastic bag in the freezer for 24 hours.
If you have lice

If you find out that you or your child have lice, you need to notify the school and any other friends your child has been in contact with for the last month. Lice can be in your hair without symptoms for up to a month, so it's possible they've infected other friends without knowing.

Treatment varies, but even after talking to pharmacists and doctors, the over-the-counter products didn't impress. One pharmacist warned me that most people come back to do several treatments of the already costly pharmacy treatment - making over-the-counter at that point more expensive to having your lice treated professionally. The comb that over-the-counter treatments comes with is light-years behind the one we purchased through our professional treatment (it was $25 and will last us years). I combed my hair with the over-the-counter comb and found nothing, and then used the professional comb and we saw quickly that I had many eggs in my hair. Grossed out? Itchy yet? I know, I'm sorry!

Professional treatment for us was the best option. It was $85 + tax per person plus we bought the $25 comb and needed to travel to the clinic which wasn't very close to our house. It also came with a 30 day guarantee which gave a lot of piece of mind. By contract, over the counter treatment is about $40 per person, with strong likelihood that you'll need to repeat several times, and obviously no guarantee.

We used The Lice Crew here in Montreal (they're all over Canada), but I have also heard great things about Wendy The Lice Fairy who even offers in-home treatment. We came across Lice Clinic of Canada in our research, but at $185 per person, it wasn't in our budget.

The good news!

The good news is, lice isn't a sign that your child is dirty, that you're a bad parent, or that your home is a cesspool - all things I was temped to believe at first! Lice truly can happen to anyone. My friends who home school picked up lice at church. My friend caught lice before even having children from coming into contact with an infected individual. Before us at the lice treatment clinic was a family who's children went to one of the most expensive private schools in the city. Lice is extremely common and you shouldn't feel ashamed if and when your child encounters it. I loved hearing Jennifer Garner talk about how she and Ben Affleck had lice and they still went out (and she met George Clooney with live treatment in her hair!!!!!) Haha! Really, stars, they're just like us, eh?

I hope this helps if you or your children end up with lice. It was seriously a brutal week, but in the end, it's a normal part of living in society and having kids. You'll survive!

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous19.2.18

    I've been reading some of your posts about the lice that hit your family. I had lice when I was 14 and spent hours with RIT and a flea comb but thankfully I noticed them while they were still just eggs so I was able to save my head from shaving it, but that was really scary for me. I got it from wearing wigs at a summer camp. I loved your post all about shaving your daughter's hair by the way. Really great questions that you answered throughout it!