5 Lousy Truths About Dealing with Lice



We’ve covered all kinds of kid-related-illness in my house. Strep, RSV, croup, rashes, stomach viruses – the list goes on. But last week a brand new bug came into our experience – literally. I’m talking about head lice.

Go ahead – shiver. Feel a little itchy. Scratch the back of your head. Just the mention of those little critters is enough to give you the creeps, so you can imagine my thrill at finding them hanging out happily in my daughter’s hair.

And as I’ve talked about before, my kids are stellar at sharing, so you can guess what happened next. My one child with head lice gave us all the chance to experience it for ourselves. Fun times, I tell you.

Okay. I’m lying. It’s not fun at all. So, I’m going to give you the heads up on dealing with head lice. Maybe you can learn from this. Or maybe you’ll just laugh at my pain. That’s okay, too.

First up: Go ahead and prepare yourself for the dirty details.

microscope head lice
Gilles San Martin, Flickr

There are bugs. In your kid’s hair. They’re having a big ol’ party in there, laying eggs and sucking blood and generally being gross, cause that’s what they do. And you’re going to have to deal with them. Just like you learn to wipe the messiest butt with just a tiny gag, or catch vomit before it hits the floor, you’ll want to learn to dig in there and scrape every last trace of the lice out of the hair.

combing out the lice
studiobeerhorst, Flickr

Different treatments work in different ways, so if the treatment you use doesn’t destroy the eggs, you’ll want to be especially thorough when combing. Because if you don’t, 7-10 days later the eggs you may have missed can hatch and start the whole process again. There are a slew of products out there for treating lice. Some use pesticides to kill the bugs, others use non-toxic oils. Others suggest using mayonnaise or Vaseline. I’m no doc, so I won’t tell you what to use. But I will tell you to follow the instructions carefully, and thoroughly.


renaissancechambara, Flickr

If store-bought treatments are unsuccessful, your pediatrician can offer prescription treatments. These are expensive. Figures. 

boy with itchy head

If your kid attends school or other group events where other kids may have been exposed, it’s the right thing to do to call and let them know. It may be embarrassing to admit, but trust me – you aren’t the first mom who has made that call! Having head lice does not mean you aren’t clean enough or that you’re a failure. It simply means that you’re one of the estimated 6 to 12 million infestations that occur each year in the United States among children 3 to 11 years of age

school nurse lice

There’s no guaranteed way to avoid head lice. Teach your kids not to share brushes or hats, but remember that most cases come from simple close contact – hugging their friends, sitting close together, sleepovers and the like. There are products that claim to repel lice using essential oils; some suggest using hair gel at the roots; however, none of these claims has evidence to support the effectiveness. Basically, it’s just a cross your fingers and hope kind of thing.

Remember – it’s not fun, but it’s just another parenting rite of passage. Just ask your mom – chances are she dealt with this too.

{Related: 10 Sanity Saving Ideas for First-Year Moms}

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5 Lousy Truths About Dealing with Lice

Sara McTigue is a secret agent, cupcake chef, award winning author, photographer, and PTA mom. At least, that is how things look in her mind. When she isn’t testing the bounds of her imagination, she is a mom to three amazing and hilariously funny children, wife to a charming and handsome man, and thoroughly addicted to reading. With a BS in English Education and an MA in English Literature, words – and their ability to shape our lives and thoughts – are an everyday fascination. Af ... More

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  1. emi285 says:

    Uggghhhh! I never had them growing up…caught them for the first time when I was 20 when my 2 little ones brought them home from school :o. Horrible things to get rid of! I always shave and then treat my sons head, wish I could do that to my daughter :/

  2. Leora says:

    I am having the hardest time getting rid of lice. My daughter has had them for so long. I keep going through her hair but the worst part is now I have them and my 2 year old son. He won’t sit still for me to go through his hair and I have no idea how to do my own hair. If I washed our hair with the lice shampoo every week for about a month, would it eventually get them all? I can’t seem to get all the eggs out. Is there anything that kills them?

  3. grandma04 says:

    Lice is really not an embarrassment if you understand that lice actually live on trees and plants and they can get into hair by simply falling out of trees. You don’t know there is lice until the infestation has started. Peppermint oil in shampoo works well to ease the infestation. I always use a store product to start killing the lice and then follow-up two days later by shampooing the hair with the peppermint oil and shampoo mixture. T Tree Oil works well too, but it doesn’t smell as good as the peppermint oil.

  4. J. Brodrick says:

    it’s really not that embarrassing anymore. when i quietly told one of the other moms she said that my daughter was probably the only one in the class that hadn’t had it yet! anyway, i find instead of pulling the egg out all the way along the hair shaft, grab the hair and cut it close to the scalp and then squish (or my favourite!) burn the egg. you’re only cutting one hair at a time so they won’t go bald.

  5. KaelinRae says:

    Thank you. This has a lot of useful tips 🙂


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