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Diary of a Lice Infestation

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When my daughter said her head itched, I thought she had dandruff. But when I took a look at her scalp, I saw brown bugs crawling around. EW! Welcome to my Lice Nightmare.

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Momlogic's Julie: It started like any other lazy Sunday. The kids woke up before 7 (why, God, WHY?), and we were sitting down to a breakfast of chocolate chip waffles when my daughter said it...

"Mommy, my head itches."

Hmm. I thought maybe she had dandruff. I mentally made a note to add Head and Shoulders to the grocery list. But then she said it again: "It REALLY itches."

I took a look at her scalp and there they were ... brown little bugs crawling around. I shrieked. LICE!

In my eight years of motherhood, I've never experienced lice. Yes, there have been many notes sent home from preschool and elementary school saying my children's class had been exposed, but we had dodged the bullet up til now. Payback time.

Here is my diary of the next 24 hours:

10:00 AM Discover lice

10:10 AM Google lice shampoo. Get freaked out by the reports of kids dying after using it.

10:15 AM Call a friend whose kid had lice last year, take meticulous notes on what to do.

10:30 AM Call everyone we've seen in the last week -- including six sets of parents we were with on Thanksgiving, and two unlucky friends who had hosted my kids for a sleepover on Friday. Man, it sucked to make those calls.

10:45 AM Go to three pharmacies to find Licefreee!, a nontoxic lice-killing hair gel.

11:15 AM Strip all beds of pillows, comforters, and sheets. Remove any piece of clothing my daughter or son has worn in the last week. Bag up throw pillows and stuffed animals so the "lice will suffocate" (gross).

11:30 AM Begin the first of ten loads of laundry.

11:40 AM Leave a message canceling daughter's afternoon play date.

11:45 AM Hubby begins to vacuum couch and mattresses while I apply lice-killing hair gel to both kids.

12:00 PM Oh God, my son has lice, too. One is crawling on his forehead trying to escape from the gel-trapping shower cap. EW.

12:15 PM Begin to scratch head. Do I have it?

12:45 PM Start combing out my daughter's long, curly hair with the "nit comb." Takes over two hours. I never knew there could be so many lice eggs ("nits") on one head. Every time I comb out a dead bug, I about die. She cries every time I brush out a strand, and says it hurts. I bribe her with Popsicles and promises of presents, all the while praying I got 'em all.

2:30 PM Play date arrives. Oops, she didn't get the message. I mention the L-word and she slowly backs away. My daughter waves from the window. We're quarantined.

2:45 PM Comb out my son's hair. More dead bugs and eggs. My husband is still cleaning up a storm.

3:45 PM Now cleaning under every bed. Who knows where those lice are hiding.

4:45 PM Get a call from my friend -- her son has it, too. Oh God, we've infected our pals. Feel so bad.

5:00 PM Still itchy. Send hubby out for more lice treatment. Certain I have it, too.

5:15 PM Wash kids' hair again and slather with conditioner. Begin combing through again, per friend's instructions. More lice.

6:00 PM Send out for pizza. No way are we cooking in here. There might be lice in the kitchen! Continue sanitizing.

7:00 PM Apply lice treatment to my scalp. Must sit under shower cap for 1 hour.

7:45 PM Put the kids to bed. Realize they have no comforters or pillows. Scrounge up old sleeping bags and uninfected throw pillows for them to sleep on. Daughter cries for her fave stuffed animal. Sorry, babe, it's out of commission for 2 weeks.

8:00 PM My husband begins combing out my hair with the nit comb. What a turn on! Not only can he gaze at my gray roots under a bright light, he can search for dead bugs in my hair, too! Within minutes, he combs out the first one. It's official: I have lice. Spend the next two hours cringing as my husband "de-louses" my hair. I bet he never thought when he married me he'd be combing out lice out of my locks one day. How romantic.

10:00 PM Wash my hair, condition, and have him comb it out again. This sucks.

11:30 PM Email my bosses. Better work at home tomorrow. I'm in the middle of a full-blown lice infestation.

12:00 AM Nothing to sleep under. Freezing. In the middle of the night, cover myself with my winter coat, which serves as a makeshift comforter. Feel like a homeless person. With lice.

Yesterday was spent at the computer, working, while my husband ran around like a mad man going to the laundromat, cleaning every pillow, sheet, and comforter that we own. He's at the dry cleaner's now, dropping off every stitch of clothing that I've worn for the past two weeks. I'm getting ready to wash the kids' hair and break out the nit comb again. Then my hubby can do mine. Hopefully, we've got 'em. Because I'm freaking exhausted.

I'm mentally preparing myself for calling the school to warn them of my kids' lice outbreak. This time, when the note is sent home saying the class has been exposed to lice, I can feel the shame of knowing it's my kids' fault.

Good times.

Do you have any lice tips for this lice-infested mom? Comment below.


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913 comments so far | Post a comment now
Mary Joseph December 2, 2008, 7:01 AM

Most kids pick up head lice in school.
I found a product that is being used throughout Europe for the past 8 years. Invented by a mom and it is PREVENTIVE!!
It is called a Bug Bag and all your child has to do is hang her coat in it every day. No chemicals. You buy it and your child will use it for YEARS to come. It is recommended by the Dept of Health over there and is used in 50% of the schools.
Go to www.bugbagusa.com to read more and Good Luck!!

Jennifer December 2, 2008, 2:39 PM

I am going through the EXACT same thing right now. Just got the kids to go back to school. Still doing laundry. Slept with no comforter and froze all night!

A couple of tips I got:

I tried a natural Tea Tree treatment which worked well.

The metal combs work the best, the plastic ones are useless.

Buy “Neem” shampoo from a natural foods store; the smell is supposed to gross out the lice.

Chopsticks, outside light and finger picking is the best way to get those last few stragglers.

Good luck and wish me luck!!!

ashley December 3, 2008, 8:18 AM

UUGGHH!!! My son brought home lice from head start. The thing is, he wasnt’ itching and I didn’t see anything when I washed his hair every night. I was itchy. I was 8 1/2 months pregnant and living with my husbands grandma because our house was being remodled. I itched for 2 weeks just thinking it was a pregnancy thing and then at work one day I saw one jump onto my shirt. So that night I checked and sure enough my son had them. We were back home then so we had to de louse both houses and my hair was so long and thick that it took weeks and many many many treatments to get rid of them. It was the worst experience of my life. If it ever happens again everyone is getting shaved bald!!. Everytime I itch I make my husband check my hair. I think I’m traumatized.

Anonymous December 3, 2008, 2:55 PM

In a home magazine there was an article about lice it said to blow dry hair close to scalp that the heat helps kill the live lice. I had it when i was young and i still blow dry the kids and my hair 3 to 4 times a week now that my kids are in school!

Tamara Regan December 3, 2008, 5:51 PM

I went through this with my oldest son and daughter 2 years ago. I used a pesticide free “de-louser” shampoo, and spent a combined 8 hours combing through hair. It was horrible! Two months later my daughter picked it up after going to a Chuck E. Cheese. I had read online that hair color will kill the live lice and helps kill the eggs. So, we gave it a go with a color that was close to her hair color (brown) and had just a touch of red to make this terrible event a little better for her. It worked! I was actually surprised! It killed the bugs and she was actually excited about getting to “change” her color.

martina mitchell December 4, 2008, 12:00 AM

If you want good up to date information about head lice go into licesolutions.org or if you are in the bayarea contact licepatrol.org You do not need to do all that laundry and cleaning, Headlice only live for 24hrs of the host.

Scott December 4, 2008, 4:23 PM

Been there, done that. :)

The shampoos only work with mild success. After lots of failure, and hiring professionals, (and experimentation), found that the only thing that works is to smother them. We used olive oil, but you can use other things instead. Saturate, add shower cap, let sit overnight, wash with dish detergent.

Do every two days for the first week, then once in a while to get new hatchlings after hatching but before making new eggs. Three weeks total should do it.

Oh, and don’t worry too much about the stuffed animals — they can only live for about 36 hours without blood.

Good luck!

Anonymous December 4, 2008, 5:54 PM

We contracted chemical-resistant lice when i worked as a teacher on an Indian Reservation. We kept getting reinfected for a long time (6 months), and tried every possible treatment. What finally worked was attempted entirely by accident:

Slather your head with a LOT of hair gel or mousse, then a heavy coating of hairspray (completely saturate your head). Leave it on for at least 2 hours. When you wash your hair, you will see the dead ones fall out, and it will even kill some (but not all) of the nits. Reapply once a week for 2 weeks to kill any new births.

Remember that they can’t live very long away from our bodies, so anything that hasn’t been touched/worn for a few days should be safe. Good luck!

Martin December 9, 2008, 9:23 AM

The incidence of ‘super lice’ that can’t be killed with the regular insecticidal shampoo is increasing. I think it is best to go with nontoxic treatments.

Check out super-lice.com

PDWClinton December 9, 2008, 11:40 AM

This is just anecdotal and not scientific, but I stayed at my daughter’s house for WEEKS helping with her newborn twins and never got the lice that she has been fighting for the past three months. She, her partner and his two boys have had two to three repeated infestations despite many treatments — I think we’re dealing with SuperLice here that are now resistant to the chemicals. The babies didn’t get the lice because they have very little hair, and I believe I did not because I color my hair. I have read other posts on the internet claiming that hair color is a preventative… I’m just telling you of my experience.

Barb January 13, 2009, 9:37 PM

Hey, chill out people!! It, like every childhood condition, will pass. Here’s what happened when my kids had it—my husband got it and he goes overboard on all personal hygiene things. He even convinced himself he had it in his eyebrows and moustache, and we ended up having to go to the ER when he got the pesticide in his eyes!! It is twenty years later and I still laugh!! Probably because I never got it. But reading this makes me itch…..

3kidzmom January 15, 2009, 11:03 PM

Okay, so we just experienced what I believe was the lice infestation of the decade. Three kids, Kindergartner is where it “started”. Several weeks and over the holidays of constant cleaning, laundry, etc. As a Mom I think I felt like I was inadequately cleaning or something. I was like a possessed woman, doing all of the things I could find online, buying all of the lice “stuff”. I don’t know for sure what killed them - the listerine, the vinegar, the NEEM, the Olive Oil, or a combination of all. What I do know for sure is that one of my kids had them, I dilligently checked the other two and nothing, we went thru the cycle described above, and finally…nothing no nits no lice. Then one of the two that didn’t have them before on a random check had lice. I was exhausted by this point and narrowed my process down to coconut shampoo and conditioner - nothing fancy, the cheap stuff Suave I think, and guess what? Wash, Rinse, comb through, pick out nits, and nothing, three days later nothing, start all kids using these products and nothing. There are websites that say Coconut oils actually prevent lice, I don’t know for sure but I will keep using them until it’s proven otherwise… Once again sane mother in Iowa.

linc59 March 26, 2009, 4:52 PM

When ever those onimous notes come home, and even before, you can use lice treatment or Rid shampoo periodically to help prevent lice. Usually it’s the louse itself that goes from one child to another during normal contact. So it is much easier to kill the actual insect then to search through everything for eggs and way less gross!

Tell your children how important it is not to share combs,brushes,ribbons, barretts,coats,hats,scarves and yes even pillows! Bring your own to sumber parties and then wash the pillow case as soon as you get home along with your clothes and pajamas since lice often fall off into covers and sheets. Again getting the adults before they leave eggs. About 24hours or so.

Rachel March 27, 2009, 5:31 PM

The biggest thing, they will come back, you have to keep hair spray in your childs hair, becuase they will reinfest each other. There’s always the one kid whose parent doesn’t care. You also do not have to wash everything, certain things can go in the dryer for twenty minutes on high heat, nothing could live threw that. also, give your child a little hair trim. it makes it easier

cash advance December 12, 2009, 12:46 PM

Hello!!! www.momlogic.com is one of the best informational websites of its kind. I enjoy reading it every day. Keep it that way.

Sarah January 15, 2010, 5:55 PM


One of the most difficult thing about dealing with a head lice infestation is that you need to do a comb out every day, not just the first time you discover it! that is very time consuming and a real hassle but the reason people keep getting re-infested is because they treat it once or have a professional lice removal service treat it once and they think they are done. That could not be further from the truth as there are the newly laid eggs that are microscopic and cannot be seen with high magnification. They need to incubate a few days to be able to be combed out as they can slip through the best nit combs teeth. People do not want to grasp this and many never do any follow up treatment hence the re-infestation of classes in elementary school. all it takes is one nit! it is crazy how difficult it can be to get rid of. We finally learned the hard way and now after 2 times we get it. We do thorough comb outs with a metal nit comb every night when we have it for a full 7 days.

We found a great product that worked in conjunction with comb outs by Lice Logic. They make a shampoo called Peppermint Logic and it is enzyme based and non-toxic. Love the fresh smell and so do my children! BTW, the chemicals like Nix, Rid, Kwell do not work, stink, and are very poisonous so try not to use. No point and they end up fortifying the lice and making them even more resistant.

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