Kids have head lice? Don’t panic (and only panic a little over fleas)

Last night, I dreamt we had lice. I was dismayed, and awfully grateful to wake up and realize it was just a dream. But even in my dream, I was grateful that it was just lice, and not fleas.

Yep, “just” lice. I say this because I know how to treat lice. Short version: You slather the infested head and hair with Cetaphil skin cleanser and blow dry it until it’s completely dry. This suffocates the lice. Do this once a week for three weeks. That’s it. The long version is here, but it’s not much longer than what I described.  It works.

Head lice are awfully upsetting, but as vermin go, they’re eminently conquerable. They have to have a blood meal at least every 24 hours, or they die, and most die sooner than that without a meal (unlike fleas, which can enter some kind of vermin stasis for months and months, and then spring back to life long after you thought it was safe). They only live on heads (so you don’t have to wash every freaking thing in your house; just pillowcases and hats, if you’re being thorough). They are killed by heat. And with the Cetaphil method, you don’t have to worry about letting harsh chemicals seep into your child’s brain, which is already sufficiently scrambled.

I was skeptical about the Cetaphil method, so I also did nit picking with the kids who had the most hair. I don’t know if it was necessary, but it certainly didn’t hurt. I took the advice in a book about lice (which, boy, if you think I’m milking a simple idea to get a blog post out if it, here is a woman who wrote an entire book, when she could have just said: “OLIVE OIL”) and took the nit picking as an opportunity to spend some time with the kids. I know it sounds nutty, but how often to do you sit there for an hour with your child’s head on your lap? I bet it’s been a while. You just surrender to the idea that you’re gonna be picking nits for a while, and you relax into it. It really is kind of soothing. Tell stories or listen to music. Or, be all upset and just get it over with, your choice.

Either way, you can manage this. Lice are beatable.

Oh, and fleas? I know what to do about them, too! You use Precor IGR, which is a flea contraceptive. It doesn’t just kill live fleas, it makes them sterile, so they can’t lay more eggs before they die. It’s the eggs that get you, when you use pesticide. Precor is safe to use around pets and kids, too, and you can treat your house preventatively. It’s basically magic.

One last word of advice: Don’t look at too many photos of the insect you’re trying to kill. That’s how they get in your dreams. And I don’t know what to do about that.

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Image by Harry Rose via Flickr (Creative Commons) It’s not a picture of a louse. It’s a picture of a flower who believes in you! You can do it!

7 thoughts on “Kids have head lice? Don’t panic (and only panic a little over fleas)”

  1. Yay! Thank you so much for posting this. My “no need to stress” advice was not well received recently on Facebook but you are much more eloquent and funny 🙂

  2. Knock on wood, but I think my kids are immune to lice. Just this year, I’ve had at least four notices come home from school that a case of lice is in the classroom. My guess is that I’ve gotten that notice maybe a hundred times in the last 26 years of having children in classrooms. Out of eight kids, there hasn’t been a single case ever. This might sound like a funky theory, but last summer when I was literally being eaten alive by mosquitoes (all of the fish in our lake died in the drought so the mosquitoes are breeding like fiends) my husband maybe had 1-2 bites to my fifty with almost zero swelling. I’m thinking that because he is 20 % South American Indian, maybe people from the rain forest evolved to resist some of the worst little blood suckers? If mosquitoes kill more people per year than any other creature, does it make sense that natural selection helped some populations that evolved in areas dense with them, develop some kind of natural defense? A few of my kids had big reactions (swelling as big as an egg) to their first bite, but now are pretty much left alone.

    Meanwhile I’m still walking around with constellations of blotches on my legs and ankles. Some of them are still itchy!

  3. Mine is bed bugs. “At least it’s lice and not bed bugs! Phew!”

    We have never had them, but my workplace battles with them on the regular, so it’s something that hangs over us all.

    1. Yes. This. We had bites for MONTHS.

      Then we got rid of them, only to get some bites again…but those turned out to be chiggers. “Whew”

      DE (diotimacus earth) can also help with little creepy crawlies, but its kind of a mess. Good for areas where you don’t care about messes like back rooms and for animals (or to keep fire ants out of animal feed).

  4. Don’t even *think* about them too much. All somebody has to do is mention lice or fleas and I start itching. Thanks for that. 😉

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