Nitpicker Confessions and Head Lice TipsSeptember 5th, 2012 | Posted by in All Posts | Common conditions | Health | Parenting
Mom, you know I can’t stand mayo.
That recent comment from my daughter reminded me of one my most maddening mother rights of passage: fighting head lice.
Now 20, she was 6 when she caught head lice. We struggled with them, off and on, for four long, crazy-making months.
In a desperate move that I’m not particularly proud of, I turned to a home remedy and covered her head with mayonnaise in an attempt to smother the lice. She sat there with Hellman’s on her head for 30 minutes.
In case you’re wondering, it didn’t work. In addition to careful and repeated use of an over-the-counter treatment, what finally got our situation under control was being very diligent at nitpicking.
Every day for three weeks, I put on a Disney movie, sat her down with a very bright light and combed through every inch of her long hair in search of the tiny eggs. Each day, I found fewer and fewer nits until several days passed with no new sightings. We were finally in the clear!
Millions of children get head lice every year and September is lice awareness month. The good news from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is that while head lice are inconvenient, they cause no medical harm and can be effectively treated.
Here are some tips from the AAP:
- The most common symptom is itching, especially behind the ears or at the back of the neck.
- To check for lice, seat your child in a brightly lit room. Part the hair and look closely at the scalp for crawling lice or nits (the eggs). Live lice are hard to spot because they move quickly and avoid light. Nits look like small white or yellow-brown specks and are firmly attached to the hair near the scalp.
- A variety of lice-killing shampoos and cream rinses can be found at your local drug store. Most contain a chemical called permethrin. As with any over-the-counter medication, discuss any questions you may have with the pharmacist or your child’s pediatrician, and follow all package directions.Treatments may not kill all of the eggs. A second treatment may be needed in 7-10 days. Call your pediatrician if you think your child still has live lice after two treatments.
- Use a fine-toothed comb to comb out the lice or nits. Comb through in small sections, wiping the comb on a wet paper towel after each comb-through. Careful removal of nits may help prevent your child from being misdiagnosed with an active case of lice and ensure live eggs are removed.
Some parents choose not to use chemical treatments and use the “comb-out” method only. Damp hair can be combed out with a fine-toothed comb every day for two weeks. This approach often fails, the AAP says. In my case, what passed for “nitpicking” the first go-round was terribly insufficient, so if you choose to go this route, my advice is to be very diligent.
The AAP notes that home remedies like petroleum jelly, mayonnaise, tub margarine, herbal oils (I tried that one too!) and olive oil have not been scientifically proven to work. And the AAP cautions NOT to coat your child’s hair with dangerous products like gasoline or kerosene or use products intended for use on animals.
If your child has head lice, all household members and close contacts should also be checked and treated if necessary. Be prepared – lice or not, your own head will itch. A lot. My head itches now, just writing about this!
Above all, don’t panic. Head lice will not cause any serious health problems, and they are no reflection on your housecleaning or your child’s hygiene. Take it seriously, work quickly to treat your child and prevent spreading, and know that this too shall pass.
See more tips from Children’s Hospital about dealing with head lice.
Have you dealt with head lice? What advice do you have for other parents?