Circle circle, dot dot – now I got my cootie shot. Remember that one? Head lice are the cootiest of cooties, as far as I’m concerned. I really thought I could get a shot that would keep me from getting cooties up until 3rd grade or so: specifically, lice. I was incorrect. However, I somehow managed to make it through childhood unscathed AND 8 whole years of motherhood before I had to face my fear. Then I was hit with not one, but two kids with lice. Oh yeah, and myself.
The most important and universal thing I can tell you, that will be useful in every single case is this; calm down. Despite the ick factor, annoying itch and possible secondary infection from all the scratching, lice are pretty much benign. Not only that, but you don’t want to make your kids feel like they’re gross or have done anything wrong. They haven’t. The thing about elementary school kids is that they all have cooties. I mean, they’re just lousy with them. (I had to work that in somewhere, I’m sorry.)
I won’t pretend to be able to tell you what will work for you and your family. I can, however, tell you what my experiences with several (too many!) treatment methods were. Lice are pugnacious little pricks and adaptable to boot. They’ve grown stronger over time and it sucks.
Lice aren’t nearly as easy to spot as I thought. The nymphs and adult lice are fast and prefer the dark so it’s easy to miss them if you’re just doing a quick check. The nits are tiny to start with and to make matters worse, they change color depending on the color hair they’re in. Awesome.
Once you’ve determined that your child (or you or whoever) does indeed have lice, there are basically 4 ways you can go about dealing with it. Don’t listen to people who try to tell you flat out that there’s a “right” way or a guaranteed fix or anything. Like most issues that need to be addressed as parents, you do what you think is best for your family. Also, don't listen to any nonsense about not having to comb out the nits. Who wants to walk around with a head full of the dead unborn? Ew.
Over the Counter
There are several different brands of lice shampoo, spray or crème you can get without a prescription. Nix is the #1 pediatrician recommended treatment. I bought one package of that and one of the store brand. I had more than one head to treat and have no bias against generic products so we used both. They both seemed to work about the same. Meaning, they didn’t.
I guess it worked to an extent, or at least didn’t make matters worse. The pack came with a crème rinse, a detangling gel, and a fine-toothed comb to get out any dead lice and nits. Nix gets bonus points for having a better comb, as theirs has metal teeth.
When we still had cooties after 2 treatments of the Nix/generic crème rinse, we decided to add something else into the mix. Several friends had recommended Lice Freee to me, saying that was the one thing that was able to get their kids’ lice under control after they had struggled for months without success. The Lice Freee wasn’t terrible, it wasn't all chemically, and I’m sure it works well for some people. I’m guessing it worked somewhat with us, but we were still constantly finding nits, at least 3 new ones a day. Also, it smelled very strongly of licorice; this probably isn’t a big deal for most people but I despise licorice and my daughter is super sensitive to smells.
There are probably hundreds of home remedies that have been passed along through the years to manage lice infestations. I tried 5. My poor babies. I put olive oil in the 4-year-old’s head. The 8-year-old (the one with the sensitive nose – poor decision on my part) got a vinegar rinse. That one actually seemed to make it easier to comb out the nits, but did nothing to the live ones.
I spent the night with coconut oil slathered on my head, covered by a shower cap. I've been blow drying like I was trying to bring back the 80’s. We’ve all had countless showers with tea tree oil shampoo. Again, I’m sure some of this stuff has worked for other people, but definitely wasn’t a solution in our house. However, the shampoo smells amazing so we're probably going to keep using that occasionally.
After months of treating and washing and drying and vacuuming and nitpicking and generally going insane, I gave up. We went to our respective doctors and were prescribed Sklice. Even with our insurance, we paid almost $300 for 3 applications of the stuff. I was nervous about using it on the girls because one of the possible listed side effects was DEATH, but I know they have to put that for pretty much everything for liability reasons. Still. Not fun.
So I treated the girls and myself with the magical potion, which looked and felt like glue, and breathed a sigh of relief. It was done. I took one last pass through the house, stripping beds and vacuuming.
Spent 4 blissful days living the delusion that we were cootie free. Then I happened to see, in the very FRONT of my head, right there staring at me from the mirror, a nit. Noooooo. No no no no no noooooo. Then I thought about it and was like duh, the stuff is still working, we must have just missed one. I decided to go through the girls’ heads once more just to make sure.
LOL JK about that whole “done” business
6 nits. 3 in each head. AAUUUUURRRGGGHHHH! After a desperate call to the pediatrician’s office, I finally had my answer. Deal with it. Seriously? I mean, she said it way nicer than that, but that’s what it boils down to. She said that I’m not the first mom she’s talked to who has encountered these RoboLice monsters. The only thing left at this point is just time and diligence in daily combing. Or shave our heads. And burn down the house.
I don’t want to leave you completely bummed out. Odds are good that your experience will be better than mine and will resolve much, MUCH more quickly. Even if it doesn’t, you can think of all those hours spent combing over and over again as quality time. Excessive amounts of quality time.