7 Important Things to Do When You Find That Your Kids Have Lice

Envision that you’ve been running around like a crazy person, tackling work, caregiving, and parenting demands. Your husband heads out of town for the weekend and you are sitting down by yourself for the first time (late in the day, around 3:30pm), excited to enjoy a cup of coffee while catching up on email. And then about two seconds after your rump hits the chair, you get a call from preschool to notify you that your kid has lice.

UGH! This happened to me last Friday and as I scurried into go-mode and benefited from the cool, calm, and collected response of various people -- and the nervous OMG YOU ARE DISEASE RIDDEN energy of others -- I realized that there is way more to dealing with lice than nit picking (as important as that task is). My friends at Alpha Mom have a great article on lice facts and fiction and the CDC FAQ on lice is very helpful (included are pictures of the three forms of lice -- nit, nymph, adult -- so you know what to look for), but today I wanted to focus on 7 important things to do when you discover lice, most of which go beyond actual treatment advice (of which there is plenty).

1. Remain calm. I know it’s hard not to freak out about lice, but freaking out will not help you. Lice happens. It can happen to anyone and is a result of head to head contact (read: snuggly kids are more susceptible). I’m a little shocked that we made it through 10 years of parenting (including day care from babyhood) before dealing with lice!

2. Let go of the stigma. Clearly, people have a thing about bugs and it has led to major stigma when it comes to lice. But being ashamed about it isn’t going to help it go away, and in fact, may perpetuate the problem (see below).

3. Go public. Related to #2, after discussing with Laurel, I made an explicit decision to be public about the lice on social channels, both as a means to debunk stigma and also as a first pass, blanket way to let my school parent friends know. I received plenty of public support, and also private messages from parents who said that my sharing inspired them to check their kids and, well, one of them also found lice and was commencing treatment. So, think of your public statement as a form of lice control!

4. Do direct follow up. I also directly followed up with the parents of anyone my kids had had playdates with recently. Luckily, no lice findings, but I felt better knowing that the kids were checked over to control spread.

5. Know your limits. I decided to tackle the lice myself, mostly because it would have cost a TON of money to get Laurel, Violet, and my long hair treated. Also, I knew I had the patience and meticulous nature to tackle it. However, if you feel this process will drive you insane and you have the financial resources, get professional help! Nitwits is a well-known option ($130/hour) and friends also have recommended the AirAllé heat treatment ($200/treatment) and Lice Aunties.

6. If you’re treating at home, keep it simple. For treatment recommendations (both for the person and home), see the CDC guide for head lice treatment. There are lots of product options out there (I regret buying the kit that came with gel and spray, both of which are not useful) but at the end of the day, the most important tools are a lice comb, bright light (a headlamp has been so, so helpful!), and your own fingers and perseverance. For the final stretch, we also started using a hairdryer and Jon picked up some non-toxic egg killing spray at Walgreen's (verdict is still out on whether this is useful). We have been checking repeatedly through the day and found that after the first few days, the comb wasn’t catching everything (at a point where we were just finding a handful at each check). So we have going through the hair in tiny sections, pulling off remaining nits by hand. They really stick to the hair so we have needed to slide them off the hair with our fingernail.

7. Take care of yourself. At the end of the day, lice is a major pain in the rump. The first day I was physically exhausted from poring over my kids’ heads for so many hours. It’s important to take care of yourself; I did that in the form of a colossal brunch after day 2 (where we had removed almost everything). I also plan on going on a J. Crew bender, given that I saved so much money on nit picking services! :-)

Have you dealt with lice? Was it embarrassing or difficult to communicate with other parents about it? I'd love to hear your stories in the comments below.

Image credit: Wikipedia