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Got Lice? Don’t Panic!

Shannon Phelan, owner of Sixx Cool Moms Approved Business Great Seneca Yoga and mom of two thick-haired teenage girls who both had lice in elementary school, shares her experience with eradicating lice. Wine is optional – lice comb is not.

Got Lice? Don’t panic!

Facts: They don’t fly. They don’t jump. They literally only walk. They are usually spread from HEAD-TO-HEAD contact or contact with a brush or comb with hair on it that has a louse or nit. They cannot live off of a host for long.

Determining if you have it:

You can’t just look and see them (unless it is very, very bad). The first sign is itching. Of course, we are all sitting here itching right now convinced we have it! Sorry, the word LICE makes everyone itch! That being said…some people feel NOTHING. Here’s a step-by-step guide for what to do next:

1. Get a lice comb. I prefer the Nit Free brand or LiceMeister lice comb. Do not listen to old wives’ tales about mayonnaise and olive oil or any of that other crap. You’ll just wind up smelling like salad and still have nits. The only way to get rid of lice is to comb them out with a lice comb. If you have none, call a friend who you remember judging when their kid got head lice. Beg profusely to borrow said lice comb. Time is of the essence!

2. Gather supplies: spray bottle to thoroughly wet hair, conditioner (any kind), paper towel cut into little rectangles to wipe the comb, a regular comb (clean it and rinse in boiling water before using), new hair ties and clips, towel for your lap and towel for around the infected person’s shoulders, trash bag for the paper towels, glass of wine – oh, wait – that’s for later!

3. Find a well-lit spot – ideally bright daylight, but a desk lamp will do if you discover this at 4am by a small child awakening you from a deep slumber…

4. Give the child (okay, we all agree that adults don’t randomly get this and that it’s likely the kid who brought this craziness into your house, right?) something to do – a game, a movie, a book, anything!

5. Wet the whole head of hair thoroughly. I mean, dripping-just-got-out-of-the-shower-wet. Rub conditioner through the hair and comb with normal comb to get out tangles.


6. Take the lice comb and starting from the very top by the forehead, go straight back all the way through the hair. Wipe the conditiony goo on a paper towel – wipe both sides of the comb. If you see black bugs, you have a winner! (Well, depending on how you look at this). If you see nothing, comb whole scalp (tines at an angle – we’re not trying to rip their skin off!) so that the comb goes deep into the hair and can trap the lice, if there are any. Wipe the lice comb on a piece of paper towel after each swipe. Also go up from the bottom, carefully checking behind ears and at the nape of the neck. Find nothing? You are paranoid. I understand and do not judge you for screening! Better safe than sorry! Alternatively, if you have found bugs or little brown bits that look suspicious during this screening, you have found lice and nits. Now what!?!

7. If you have a partner to help you, tell them to start the laundry. Strip sheets, pillow cases and wash in hot water, dry on high heat. Teddy Bears they sleep with go in dryer (in a zipper pillow case) for 25 minutes. Don’t freak out. If you have a cloth couch or cloth seats in your car, vacuum them, but again, don’t freak out. Also, any hooded jackets should be washed! Boil hair ties, put any pretty bows or unwashable items in a zip bag in the freezer for a few days. Wash towels in hot water and dry on high heat.

8. Meanwhile, continue combing with the lice comb. Once you find no more, section the hair and go through, section by section, combing up and to each side so you get every single hair. Keep wetting the hair and adding conditioner as needed. I also would treat using Lice Happens Foam. I am not affiliated with them, but I have used them for over 12 families that I have helped, not including my own, and I swear by it. It cost $25 plus shipping, is not full of chemicals and it stuns the live bugs and loosens nits. Spray the foam all over and massage into scalp. Joke with the kid about how this is a spa treatment. I keep a bottle of this on hand and it is great to have (and not have to wait for it to be sent to you) when lice happens (see what I did there?) One bottle can treat a family of four.

“I can’t see nits, so how can I remove them?!?” Trust the comb. You don’t need to see them. Just. Keep. Combing.

9. You’re tired, kid is tired, take a break. Put hair in a bun, threaten their life if they put their head near their sibling or you, and go relax. Place the lice comb, regular comb and any hair ties you’ve recently used in just-boiled water to make sure if there are any it will kill them – clean brushes (or toss them). Recharged, start on another victim or do another round on the first kid. The foam stuns the lice, but they still run. It will take several sessions to get them all out. It may take a few days to be completely rid of every little nit. Just keep combing. Do not be discouraged. Do not give up. They aren’t getting reinfected. What is happening is that there are still nits – be vigilant!! Remember they live on the head, so keep combing! Do not wash hair for a few days. The foam is still working. Lice love clean hair. Keep it covered in conditioner and foam for a while.

10. Treating yourself for lice. Since my husband is, um…, NOT a detail person and took a look at my hair and said, “you’re fine, I don’t see anything”, I have trust issues and have learned how to treat myself. Bring the comb in the shower and condition hair and comb your head thoroughly. Also, do it upside down. Ta-da!

11. Continue to do a thorough comb through for at least 12 days. Yes. TWELVE DAYS. Your kids will get used to it. They don’t want to be habitat for insects any more than you do. Think of it as bonding and quality time.

12. What about school? Do not send your child to school until they have been nit-free for 24 hours. Check each morning before school and if you find a nit – sorry, keep them home for a good combing. People who send their kids back too early are likely the reason the rest of us get it. (Not that I’m blaming!!!)

Preventing getting lice again:

Lice don’t like peppermint or tea tree oil. I like Fairy Tales Spray and it smells amazing. Just a few squirts every day before school (and keep long hair in buns if possible). Remind kids not to share hats or have head-to-head contact. Buy separate brushes for each member of the family. Same with hair ties. Once every two weeks, during a shower, run the lice comb through your hair and your kids’ (always wash the lice comb and rinse in boiling water between users!)

I hope this helps you – I paid a lot of money the first time my kids had lice and I would like to provide you with peace of mind free of charge. Once you master this skill, please pass it on to your friends. They may need some support and love during a very stressful time and you’ll be able to say, “it’s okay, I understand, I know what to do, I can help.”



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