It is distressing to find head lice on your child. But bear in mind that, other than itchiness, these creepy crawlers rarely pose any health threat. Nor do head lice indicate that your kids are dirty or your home unsanitary. It simply means head lice have reached epidemic proportions among elementary school children in some communities.
Head lice are a royal nuisance, though. Getting rid of them takes patience, effort and vigilance. And like it or not, you will need to become a nit-picker.
Manual Lice Removal?
In theory, you could probably eliminate the lice without using an insecticidal shampoo or lotion. However, this would require an even greater investment of time. For eight to 10 days running, you would need to use a lice comb and slowly go through the child’s hair, section by section, from root to end, cleaning lice and nits (eggs) out of the comb between each pass.
Whether you use the insecticide or not, you will also need to launder the child’s bedding, towels and clothing in hot water, or have them dry-cleaned. Items such as pillows or stuffed animals that cannot be washed should be sealed in airtight plastic for at least two weeks. Combs, brushes and hair ties or clips should be soaked in very hot water for 10 minutes. Vacuum all rugs, carpets, mattresses, upholstery and car seats, and then throw away the vacuum bag.
If you decide to use an insecticidal shampoo, first check with your school or doctor to find out which products are effective in your community, because the lice sometimes develop resistance to specific insecticides. These products contain potent chemicals, and you want to avoid a second treatment if possible.
Use the insecticide prudently, exactly according to directions. Apply it in the sink, not the bathtub, to keep the chemical out of contact with your child’s skin. Some experts advice rinsing the hair in vinegar before treatment and again several days later, because the vinegar dissolves the “glue” that holds the nits on hair shaft.
Be a Nit-picker
You can also try dipping the nit comb in vinegar before each pass when nit-picking, which is the next step. For 10 days following the treatment, you will need to do a daily check to remove the tiny white or grayish nits. Some lice shampoos come with a fine-toothed comb for nit-picking. If not, you can buy one at the drug store or use tweezers. This is probably the most tedious part of the process, but it is essential to prevent re-infestation.