Lice Are Out There

April 12, 2013 by Michelle

I’ll be honest with you.  Just typing the word “lice” made my skin crawl a little and my head start to itch.

scratching your head for lice

But no, we don’t have lice in our house right now, and knock on wood, we haven’t had them with the wee ones yet.  And I do say yet, because those little critters are everywhere.  I had lice when I was in second grade, and I still remember the nastiness that was getting rid of lice.  I never want to get lice again, and I know I’m not alone.

The other day, I received the following email from a friend of mine who has children younger than the wee ones.  And fortunately, she doesn’t have lice either.  Yet.

I have a mom question for you ladies and I was hoping you could give me your opinion. {My son} has gotten 2 notes home from school informing parents that a couple cases of lice have been found in the school. The first note came about 3 weeks ago and when I called the school they said it wasn’t in his class, the cases were isolated and I had nothing to worry about. Then Thursday he got a second note and when I inquired they said there are additional cases but none in his class.
Where/when I grew up no one in our school had lice and it was never an issue. A friend of mine who grew up in my current neighborhood a generation after me said they were always checked for lice and every year there were cases. Her mom works at a school here and said that school has cases every year. She didn’t think it was that big a deal. I’m horrified and don’t want to send {my son} back to school until it’s settled out or the school does head checks on everyone. Am I over reacting? Is lice so prevalent these days it’s treated as no big deal? What’s it like in other parts of Chicago and the country? Thanks for your feedback.
{My Friend}

So… yay for her that she never had lice in her school growing up ever.  I’m honestly impressed by that.  And the quick answer to her is that, yes, she’s overreacting.  There’s no reason for her to hold her son from school until the school is lice free or until they’ve done head checks on everyone.  It isn’t so much that the school and people treat lice as no big deal as it is that lice are a pain, but they aren’t as contagious as many people think.

No, you don’t want to share a hat or comb or…anything with your friends at school, but that’s pretty much policy anyway.  You don’t want to put your head on their shoulder (as girls are wont to do), but the lice don’t typically jump from person to person the way it’s depicted in cartoons.  And unfortunately, lice is rampant – and always has been.

We get notices a few times a year that lice in in one child or another’s classroom.  We simply don’t get them when it’s somewhere in the school because something would probably be going home constantly – and when it’s in another classroom, the likelihood of bringing them home with my child is minimal.  When we get them, we take a couple precautions that are common sense.  Little Miss’s hair goes into a ponytail instead of being worn down.  And we alter our shower schedule.

Lice happen to like clean hair.  They’re mildly finicky like that.  So we’ll make sure to shower on Saturday instead of Sunday (we don’t wash hair every night) and may try to stretch it a little during the week if we can, too.  We also have a conditioner that naturally repels lice that we will pull out and use so even on clean hair days, hopefully my children will not be the first choice for the lice.

Our school has a policy, as most if not all do now, on lice.  When lice is discovered, students are sent home.  They must be treated, but may return to school after treatment, though they must be checked by the school nurse before they can rejoin their classmates.  And the nurse will periodically check an infested child after treatment to make sure they’re all gone until the lice infestation has cleared.  Any students or other close contacts with that student will also be monitored by the nurse.  But you don’t stay home for the ten day lice cycle, nor are other students removed from the classroom.

How to Prevent Lice (as much as possible!)

  • Use tea tree oil and place a drop under the ears and at the back of the head.  It repels lice
  • Don’t share anything with others (although it is fairly uncommon for them to spread from object to object, it happens – the lice have feet that are meant to hold onto human hair, so they typically crawl from person to person)
  • Use a shampoo or conditioner that contains herbs that naturally repel lice.  Chemicals are not your friend.  Personally (nothing sponsored here), I love Fairy Tales, which uses rosemary, another scent lice hate, and they’re organic

Lice True and False

  • Lice is not a cleanliness issue, nor is income a factor – lice simply don’t care, although they do like clean heads
  • Lice can’t fly
  • Lice can live up to 30 days on your head, but only 1-2 days without a meal (e.g., on a hat or carpeting)
  • If the nits are more than a quarter inch from your scalp, it isn’t likely that they’ll turn into lice.  More likely, they’re either hatched and gone or they won’t survive
  • Nits take a week to hatch, so a second treatment is necessary 7-10 days after the first treatment
  • Lice don’t eat from pets, so your pet will never get lice
  • You should never treat anyone for lice without first having a diagnosis confirmed.  Treatments are generally pesticides, and you don’t want to absorb them into your skin if you can help it
  • Lice are repelled by many oils, including tea tree, anise, geranium, citronella, lavender, mint, and rosemary

Fortunately, I wasn’t the only person who received that email and responded to it.  My friend has been talked off the ledge, and her son is back at school, although she has shaved his head to ensure he doesn’t get lice – something you certainly can do, but it definitely isn’t necessary.  No one wants lice, but… they aren’t as bad as they could be, and there is plenty to do to prevent lice.

Have you or your family had lice?  How do you handle it?

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  • Kari

    You can get lice ANYWHERE, not just school so make sure she knows that.
    My daughter got it from a movie theater.
    Restaurants, theaters, even public transportation can give you lice.
    It is awful but you have to live your life.

    • Michelle

      That is SUCH a good point, Kari, and I didn’t mean to minimize it. Yes, you can get lice anywhere, not just schools… It’s out there, and it isn’t the end of the world, and amen to living your life – there is SO much in this world where that philosophy holds true.

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