Head Lice: What to Do If Your Child Comes Home With Them

| September 27, 2013 | 11 Comments

combing for liceThere are many wonderful things about the fall season and for children, the return to school. But there is at least one thing about the back to school season that is not so wonderful… with the return of fall comes the return of head lice. If you’ve never been through a lice infestation, the first time that you receive that call from the school or find the little pests in your child’s hair yourself can be a nightmare. However, try not to panic. Head lice are no fun, but they are treatable. Here are some tips for preventing and dealing with an infestation.


  • Prevention. If it’s at all possible to avoid an infestation, that is what you want to do, believe me. A lot of this will depend on your child. First and foremost, be sure to teach her not to share combs, brushes, hats, or anything else that touches the head, with other children. This is a major way that lice are passed from child to child. Another trick you can try is spraying your child’s hair with hairspray before sending them off to school – lice don’t like hair products, apparently. If your child has long hair, sending her to school with her hair done in a braid or bun may help deter the pests. Also, you might try adding a few drops of tea tree oil to the shampoo bottle, as this is a natural deterrent.

  • Treatment. The accepted treatment for head lice is usually a medicated shampoo that can be purchased over the counter. Rid and Nix are major brands that usually work well. Generally you will have to treat the hair at least twice, because the shampoos do not necessarily kill all the eggs (nits). Following the treatments, you will have to go through your child’s hair with a fine tooth comb (both Rid and Nix provide these with their treatments) and comb out any bugs and nits. For particularly stubborn infestations, your child’s pediatrician can prescribe a stronger formula medicated shampoo. Also, any bedding, stuffed animals, and clothing that have been in contact with the infected child will need to be washed.

  • Alternative treatments. If you’re skittish about medicated shampoo, you can always simply manually remove the bugs with a fine tooth comb. It’s time  consuming, but the truth is that manually removing bugs and nits with a fine tooth comb is going to factor in to any head lice treatment, so if you want to skip the shampoos, it’s ok to go directly to this step. There are numerous other “natural” treatments – and I personally have had success with the mayonnaise treatment – but these are not guaranteed and are not typically recommended by pediatricians.

Remember that head lice are not a reflection on cleanliness (lice typically like clean, untreated hair). While aggravating, lice are a common enough occurrence among small children. Your best bet is to not panic: Do what you need to do to get rid of the problem and try your best to avoid a reinfestation while remembering that lice don’t carry diseases or cause health problems. It’s not the most fun part of parenting, but your child isn’t in any physical danger if she comes home with head lice.

Comments (11)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Jenn Sprung says:

    OH those nasty little bugs- we try to avoid pesticides here!
    The following is an alternative treatment for head lice based on a recommendation by Dr. Moshe Ipp, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto.
    Mix a solution of 50% mineral oil (less odour than vegetable oil) and 50% white vinegar
    Test the mixture for skin sensitivity by applying it to a small patch of skin on the arm and observing it for 15 minutes
    Soak the hair with solution and cover it with plastic for approximately one hour Plastic can cause suffocation. Do not leave your child unattended.
    Thoroughly rinse the hair with several applications of regular shampoo. Do not use conditioner or a shampoo that contains conditioner.
    Make sure the mixture does not get into the eyes. If it does, wash the eyes with plain water for 2-5 minutes.
    Use a comb soaked in vinegar to remove the nits from the hair shafts
    This treatment may be repeated whenever necessary as side effects are unlikely
    The theory is that the vinegar loosens the nits from the hair shaft, and the oil helps with combing out the nits as well as suffocating any live lice that may be present. For us, this worked so much better than 2 of the really expensive over the counter lice treatments!!

  2. Karina Lee says:

    great post

  3. gina valley says:

    Just reading the title made me itch! Lol!

  4. Cindy Merrill says:

    Here is a tip I learned on a Thrifty & Free site, When your child has lice: After a shower or bath, smear the entire scalp with a thick layer of mayo. Cover this with a rubber swimming cap. This has to remain on the boy or girl overnight, so wrap their pillow with a soft towel.
    First thing in the morning, shampoo hair, twice. Then use a mild conditioner. Kid should be lice-free. Wash the child’s bedding and towel ASAP soon afterwards.

  5. Nataly Carbonell says:

    I always make sure my girls go to school with their hair tied in a bun, NEVER WITH THEIR HAIR DOWN. One of my girls got lice once in Kindergarten and it was a frustration getting them off ;/

  6. essijay says:

    timely post! the mother of the neighbor girl just came knocking on my door a couple days ago saying my kid has lice “really bad” – which i found odd because i’d just had him checked a week prior (hair stylists found nits in MY hair, but no lice, so she assumed i got em from my kid, but he didn’t have nite OR lice!) – then i found out the real issue: neighbor’s mom loves the drama and just wanted to see my kid upset – she told him that i’d have to shave his head and it made him cry. who the hell does that to a 7 yr old autistic kid anyway? wanted to create a little of my own drama! sigh.
    anyway, none of the kids will play with him now because she started on this whole lice thing – so i’ll have to take him to the doctor’s office anyway. so stupid. and people wonder why i’m an introvert that spends 15 hours a day online – cuz i don’t like dealing with people. period.
    /end rant/

  7. Melanie says:

    Eww, I hope my daughter never gets lice! Thanks for the tips. It’s good to know it’s a problem that can be fixed!

  8. KyLee Mills says:

    great article… made me itch…lol

  9. Nena Sinclair says:

    Thanks for the great info! So far, my kids or myself have never had them, knock on wood!! I feel all crawly now! Ugh!

  10. sheila musselman askins says:

    lice! ugh lol my daughter got it in 1st grade and i went nuts..lol i dont like the idea of putting chemicals on her so i researched natural fixes..the mayo and bag trick really helped to smother them and help the nits to come out easy with a nit comb. Then i read about using coconut shampoo and conditioner. For whatever reason the coconut keeps them away..and most said to use Suave..which is in my budget..cheap lol and i love Suave anyways lol so i been using it on her hair since…hopefully it will keep them away lol

  11. April Yedinak says:

    Both of my girls picked up lice at VBS. One back in 2005 and the other just this summer. The first time I used conditioner and a fine tooth comb to treat it. I had to go through their hair every day for a week an then every other day for another week, but they were eradicated without chemicals. This last time I had researched and found a treatment touted in a medical journal- hairdryers. Either one of the bonnet ones or a regular, with high heat cooks the bugs and nits, combined with a few good combings, works really well.

Leave a Reply