Tuesday, July 2, 2013

How to Check for Lice and Nits (& how we get rid of them)

The minute I hear someone has lice (especially if we've been in close contact with that person/family), my head starts itching! So, if after reading the post title, your head has started itching, don't fear - it's probably nothing....but if you're concerned, here's how we check.

You need a rat tail comb...and some time.  And if you find anything, you need stuff for your treatment method of choice....

after Nix and Rid failed us last time around, we tried a home remedy before we went to get a Rx from the doctor or the homeopathic method that cost twice as much...and it worked! 
Needed supplies and instructions at end of post!

A few notes:

  • I think it's easier to check dry hair. 

(Dandruff/dry scalp sticks when it's wet, making nits and dandruff harder to tell apart. and light shimmers off of wet hair, making little 'white' reflections or spots...it just takes longer to look)
(I needed my kids to wash the "lice shield" spray out of their hair because it leaves little white dots that make checking for lice take much longer. So two of my kids have wet hair in videos.)
  • Wash hands well before/after checking anyone's hair and between each head.
  • Warn others.
After you get over the shock and embarrassment (which is unwarranted but inevitably comes when you find lice in your kid's hair), be nice - tell those you've been with lately so they can check and find it early.

If you don't want to watch the video, I have pictures/text below you can read through for the same idea.

(*I didn't have the foresight to take a video when I first discovered the nits - and thanks to my friend that informed me to be on alert we found it so early that I only found 4 nits in 1 child...but after having multiple friends/family ask how to check I decided to make a video/post to help - because explaining over the phone just wasn't helpful.)

First, section the hair into 4 sections - I have the child hold the part I haven't checked yet and let that hair that I have hang free. Also, I start at the front and work my way around the back and to the other side.

Then, for each section, I hold it up (combing it smooth upward). Then, I run the pick of my rat tail comb about 1/4" up from the bottom (or the last horizontal part made) across behind the "up" hair.
I bring the comb/pick with small amount of hair up to where I'm holding the rest and separate it (gently) and bring the small amount back down to hang loose - checking the new part for anything that looks like lice or nits.

Lice are blackish/grayish/clearish. They move along the hair, trying to get away from light.
Nits are white or whitish/clearish and STICK to the strand of hair. (I have seen one stick to two strands before.) It will not move and won't slide down the hair if you try to move it with fingers. (Fingernails, maybe...but even then, you're more likely to pull out the strand of hair getting it off.)

Our Treatment method: 
(I found online over a year ago when my girls got lice for the first time - 2 of the 4 had it)

So, we use:
Listerine (or off-brand orange/yellow mouthwash)
White Vinegar
2 shower caps
2 spray bottles
towels (at least 2)

Wrap towel around shoulders.
Using a spray bottle, saturate hair with listerine/mouthwash. Cover with shower cap. Let sit for 2 hours. (We did only 1 1/2 this time and all cleared, but original directions said 2.)
This step kills lice.
(A friend of my mom's uses mayonnaise on her girls' hair - also suffucates them, but has to sit longer and crusty to wash out later. Listerine burns if there are any cuts/scratches in the head though!)

Wash hair with shampoo.

*You can use this next step even after a chemical treatment - like Nix or Rid.
Wrap towel around shoulders.
Using another spray bottle, saturate hair with vinegar. Cover with shower cap. Let sit for a while. (Original said 2 hours again, we did 1 this time and it worked just the same...not sure how low you can go with the time on this one?)
This step breaks down the "glue" with which lice attach the eggs to the hair strand.

Wash hair with shampoo. Comb through hair (regular tooth comb is fine).
Fine tooth is great, but we can't get ours through the hair without ripping out the hair - nit or not!

Use checking method above for going through hair.
Remove any nits found - they will slide right out now that the "glue" is gone.

(Suggestion - style hair back into braids or other tight style to keep it from flowing freely until you're sure you got them all!)

For the next few days (or weeks depending on how diligent/paranoid/still in shock you are):
Keep checking!! If you find more bugs, you'll want to re-treat because you missed a nit and it hatched. If you find more nits...get them out (of course), but you can choose whether to re-treat or keep checking.

We keep our "infected" children quarantined in 1 room until they have been lice/nit free for 2 days and we replace bedding everytime we find anything!
(Plus a bunch of other stuff!)

Other stuff: 
Starting in the bedrooms - we wash all bedding. (Comforters or things that are hard to wash - dryer for 20 minutes on high heat.)
In fact, we also wash all other blankets lying around the house and usually everyone's bedding, not just infected person.

All stuffed animals in dryer for 20 minutes on high heat.
Dolls with hair that might not survive that get bagged for 4 weeks.

All hair accessories, brushes, combs, etc. get 1 of 3 treatments: Bagged for 4 weeks, soaked in bleach water, or put through dryer for 20 minutes on high heat. (I try to use little disposable elastics - pack of 500 from Dollar Tree - during treatment/checking until they are cleared for a few days.)

All carpets vacuumed. If you can vacuum the couches/chairs, do. We also don't sit on any upholstered furniture for a few days until we're in the clear.

We used lice shield shampoo and/or leave in spray for a while after 2 of my girls got lice last year, but everyone hated the way it smelled and it's $7 a bottle for either!

A friend of mine uses tea tree oil drops in the shampoo regularly to protect against lice, but I didn't want to have to remember to add drops to some shampoo when I used it.

Then, I read coconut oils work also. So, I had been buying a conditioner with coconut oil in it (smelled good, $5/bottle, but conditioner use is slower).

When I discovered my oldest daughter had nits, I thought, well, I guess that coconut oil idea is false...but then I realized, of the 3 girls that have a significant amount of hair, she was the only one not using it. So is it coincidence she didn't pass it on to the others? I don't know....but for her, I think after 2 rounds of lice-fighting, I think I'll insist she use the stinky expensive shampoo.


Thriving Mama said...

It's so great that you've posted it! You make it look so easy. It's not easy the first time through, learning on your own.
Have you found, too that lice really like the areas behind the ears and at the nape of the neck? The way you've sectioned makes it really easy to check there.
Love this post!

cara said...

I like the way you section the hair to check. Way smarter than my disorganized method. Could you not get a picture of the not you saved? I was hoping for that.. thanks for the awesome tips!

cara said...

I like the way you section the hair to check. Way smarter than my disorganized method. Could you not get a picture of the not you saved? I was hoping for that.. thanks for the awesome tips!

Rodriguez said...

My cousin recommended this blog and she was totally right keep up the fantastic work!

Head Lice Shampoo

Anonymous said...

We have been fighting with this for a few weeks now they keep coming back ni do everything you mention so I don't know what I'm doing wrong I wash everything dryer bag all of it so I'm not sure why it keeps coming back. My son has alot of dry scalp do not sure if he really has any I can't tell. Should he test his hair anyway? I'm really getn tired of washing blankets n stuff...HELP!!!!