This is the second article we’ve written recently on lice. If you missed the first one that included lice facts, treatment and tips you can view it here.
My head is itching just thinking about lice, and for those of you who know me, that may seem funny since I don’t have a whole lot of hair! I have two kids currently in the Boulder Valley School District and we just got the 3rd letter this year that one of our kid’s classes has lice again. I can tell you as a pediatrician of almost 15 years this has become a massively growing concern for my patients (as well as our family personally). Our office receives weekly, frantic phone calls that one of our patients is on their 2nd or 3rd case of lice and just can’t get it to go away.
In my experience, there are two main reasons that our patients are having a much harder time getting rid of lice. The first is the significant and, in my opinion, disturbing reality that lice have become increasingly resistant to the standard over the counter medication. Unfortunately, now that the bugs are more resistant, there is not much that can be done—except to make more powerful (and usually more toxic) new medications.
The second reason is re-exposure. As far as re-exposure, this part IS completely in our hands. I am quite aware (and shocked) that both the Denver Children’s Hospital and Boulder Valley School District DO NOT recommend keeping children with active lice at home. This policy may have been established with the best intentions—to ensure continuity in student attendance and to be considerate of parents’ work schedules, however, the consequence is that more children/families are being infected and re-infected. Lice are simply getting harder to treat. Isolation until effective and proven treatment is attained is, in my opinion, the mainstay to eradication and the protection of our children, families, teachers and community.
I also want to share that we have had wonderful results, personally and professionally, with a line of natural and non-toxic lice products (for lice treatment as well as for lice prevention) that we carry at Mindful Pediatrics. We have seen countless cases where these products (along with implementing the tips below) resolve cases of lice that resisted standard lice treatments 2-3 times.
In addition to proper treatment (of the infected individual) we need education about prevention for those individuals around them. This is really a scenario where “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. We recommend using safe and effective treatments that decreases the risk of other individuals (in the classroom and in the home) getting infected in the first place! Our youngest child (who is in preschool) had a few cases of lice last year in her school and many of the families used these products for prevention (including our daughter) and the problem was resolved amazingly fast. We have personally seen how knowledge, prevention, and diligence can help to avoid and/or quickly resolve an outbreak.
Oftentimes people who have never had lice can’t imagine how difficult it can be to get rid of. It takes only one infestation (at your home or watching a friend go through it at theirs) to realize how time-consuming and traumatizing it can be for the entire family. We’ve seen many people whose entire house gets infested and it’s a nightmare. Please hear our words of experience—take this seriously and act early!
Other steps that we encourage our patients to take include:
- Wash clothes, hats, towels, blankies, stuffed animals, and jackets DAILY. (Limiting how many items your child comes in contact with will clearly save you time. Let them chose a few items and set aside the rest in plastic bags until the infestation is gone.)
- Vacuum all areas as often as possible: couches, car seats, chairs, carpet.
- Bag stuffed animals, backpacks, sports helmets, etc. that cannot go in washing machine for 5 days in a PLASTIC bag.
- If you have essential oils like tea tree, thyme, eucalyptus at home, put a few drops of each in some water in a spray bottle and spray on everything: clothing, hair, furniture, bedding, etc. Lice do not like the smell of these essential oils. (We also carry a version of this you can purchase.)
- Freeze anything that cannot be heated: brushes, combs, barrettes, headbands.
- Annoying—but you must wash bedding DAILY! If not, your child may continue to re-infect themselves. Wash on hot and/or dry on high for at least 20-minutes.
- When classrooms have been infected badly, we’ve had patients need to send their child to school with a big plastic garbage bag to store their backpack and jacket for the day. We’ve seen people taking the best measures at home and their child just continues to be re-exposed daily at school, bringing it back home!
- Comb out the nits! Treating the head is not enough! You must be willing to comb through the hair and remove the eggs before they hatch. This takes time, attention, diligence—and a good nit comb!