Monday, October 31, 2011

How To Treat Lice Cheaply & Chemical-Free

In honor of Halloween I decided to post about the scariest thing I could think of, head lice.  I think the only thing scarier than head lice are bed bugs since, as I hear it, there is no getting rid of those little boogers.  Fortunately, there are ways to treat head lice all of which can be done cheaply and without using chemicals if that is important to you.  Happy Halloween!

Suffice it to say that it has taken me a few weeks to get over the utter shame and humiliation of being a victim of a lice infestation to be able to actually write about my experiences.

It all began on a Monday morning in September when I received a text from Georgia Boy that said, "[Bonus Son] has been sent home from school for lice.  Check Superman."  At that exact moment I was at a MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) meeting in the home of a friend where Superman and Sidekick were happily playing {in close proximity} with about 5 other unsuspecting children.  I let the full shame of the moment sink in before I grudgingly turned to my friends and told them about the text urging them to check their children when they got home.

When we got home I checked Superman and discovered that he had head lice too.

We were on full Head Lice Def Con 5 at our house.

I sent Georgia Boy to the store to pick up everything necessary for treating head lice and immediately called the pediatrician's office for information and help.  After talking to the pediatrician's office, reading information online, and the wisdom born of experience here is what I learned on how to treat head lice.

Hair - You will need 1) A head lice killer and 2) A nit comb.
RID and other chemical treatments are the most commonly used items to kill head lice.  However, you don't need to use these pesticides on your kids to effectively kill the head lice.  Head lice simply need to be smothered in order to be killed and then you can pick out the dead lie and any nits with a nit comb.  To smother head lice you can use Cetaphil face wash or olive oil.  I discovered from my peditrician's office that these remedies are as effective as any prescription remedy when used correctly.  

To use these remedies completely slather the child's head in Cetaphil face wash, let dry and wear for 8 hours and then wash out.  Do this one time a week for 3 weeks and the treatment is 96% effective.  I did this in the evening and allowed them to sleep all night with it in their hair.  Once the Cetaphil dries it isn't greasy so it didn't stain their pillowcases or bed sheets.  Another option is to use olive oil in the same manner and either wear it all day or sleep in a shower cap.  My kids were too young for this one so I used the Cetaphil on both of them and did the olive oil on me.  That's right, I rocked a greasy, shower-capped head.  Nothing like insult to injury.

Each day pick through your child's hair with a nit comb thoroughly and in good lighting.  The Cetaphil or olive oil will smother them but they key is continuing to be vigilant about checking for any new ones and removing the dead ones.  You will need to do this for a couple of weeks.  A regular nit comb will work well but when I sent Georgia Boy to the store I had forgotten what a complete bug-o-phobe he is and how he doesn't always stick to my *frugal* ways.  He came home with a $30 electronic nit comb called a ROBI comb.  It makes a humming sound when turned on and will beep when it detects any lie or nits.  It worked great but the directions say to use one per person and at $30 a pop is a bit steep for my taste.  If you're a huge bug-o-phobe like Georgia Boy it may be worth it to you to fork over the cash for a ROBI comb.  If not, a regular nit comb will do the trick.

Linens - Know that you will be doing a lot of laundry during these 2-3 weeks but stick with it and you'll be glad you did.  Begin treating your linens by washing and drying everything that you can.  This includes bed sheets (down to the mattress pads), pillowcases, slipcovers, blankets, stuffed animals, etc.  Anything that can't be washed and that you think may have come in contact with any head lice can be put into plastic bags and placed in a hot attic or garage for 3-4 weeks.  This will ensure that there is enough time for any live lie to die.  After the 3-4 weeks you can either wash everything or run them through the dryer to freshen them.  The good news is that head lice cannot live without a host so any that may have fallen on the floor or furniture are actually considered nonviable, dying or dead.  Without a host, the head lice will be dead within 48 hours.  This is good news because it means you don't have to go crazy trying to chemically treat your house or figure out a way to fit your sofa into your washing machine.  

I instituted a "no sitting on furniture" policy for 3 days and had the kids sit only on the floor.  I vacuumed once each day and continued to wash all linens, towels and clothes daily.  A friend of mine gave me a tip on the bed linens.  Instead of washing, making, and stripping the beds each day, I gave Superman a sleeping bag and pillow and had him sleep on his bare mattress.  This way I only had to wash the sleeping bag and pillow case each day.  After washing those items I would add the pillow to the drying cycle on high heat since our pillows weren't able to go in the washing machine.  

The key to treating head lice is consistency.  You don't need to spend a lot of money treating head lice and you don't need to buy any special kits or products.  Use the smother method to kill them initially and then stay vigilant through the entire life cycle of the nits to ensure that they are gone for good never to return!

Treat your children, wash all linens, bag anything made of fabric that you can't wash and comb through your child's hair with a nit comb several times a day.  Do all of this and you'll soon be rid of the little boogers and will wear your badge of honor proudly.  I survived Head Lice.  You will also have a new appreciation of the term "nit picker."

Happy bug killing, Cheap Mamas.


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