10 fast facts you need to know about the little buggers if lice visits your household
“Mommy, a bug crawled out of my hair,” my ten-year-old daughter said. I took a peek at her hair and saw nothing. Probably a fruit fly, I thought. After all, no one in our family had ever had lice. Then I saw an itty-bitty bug crawl out of her hairline onto her forehead. Yikes! It was lice. Or, a louse to be exact. And so, despite my thinking that it couldn’t happen to our family, we began our journey with head lice.
Our family wasn’t alone, either. Between 6 and 12 million children ages 3-12 years get lice each year in the U.S. according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Here’s what I wish I had known before my daughter got lice. Knowing these 10 facts would have saved me a lot of panic and stress in the days that followed. My hope is that these facts will help you and your family if and when lice visits your household.
- A louse is one bug, lice are multiple bugs, and nits are the eggs. Delousing is the process of removing lice from a person or objects.
- Transmission only happens via head-to-head contact. Lice don’t jump, so you won’t get lice just because someone in your family has it. My daughter likely got lice from an affected friend when they put their heads together on the bus to watch a video on a phone.
- Having lice does not mean your child is dirty. The lice do not care whether someone has squeaky-clean or dirty hair. They hang on any hair shaft and feed on tiny bits of human blood. (Yes, that’s gross.)
- Your pets won’t get lice from your affected child. That’s because lice are species-specific. In other words, human lice need human blood, so your non-human cat or dog is an unsuitable host.
- Lice don’t spread disease or present any physical danger.
- Head lice can live on a human host for around 30 days. Once they are off the host, they will not survive longer than 24 hours.
- Special shampoo will kill the lice immediately. However, the lice have left their nits or eggs on the hair shafts and these can hatch into new lice. You must pick the nits off, usually every 2-3 days for a couple weeks. Nit-picking is tedious, but necessary.
- The better the nit-picking comb you use, the easier nit-picking will go. The first time I picked nits out of my daughter’s thick, shoulder-length hair, it took me 90 minutes. That was using the tiny comb that came with the box of lice shampoo that most first-timers run to the store to buy. I eventually went back to the pharmacy and sprung for the deluxe nit-picking comb. It was wider, with thicker prongs placed closer together, and made working through her hair faster and easier. My advice, this isn’t a time to go for the economic option.
- There is help… Louse Calls (561-376-1066) is a Central Florida head lice removal service that offers a non-toxic treatment and will pick all nits out of your family’s hair and walk you through the process of how and what to clean to ensure your house is lice-free when they leave. Don’t be deterred by the cost … their expertise, and nit-picking skills — not to mention the peace of mind you receive using their service in the comfort and privacy of your own home — is well worth it.
- You don’t have to wash everything, the heat is what kills lice. Place items that have been in contact with head lice in a dryer on high heat for 25–39 minutes. Vacuum or use a lint roller on items that can’t be dried. Don’t forget about car seats! Place hairbrushes and accessories in a sealable bag and put them in the freezer for 48 hours.
Don’t be embarrassed! It is a fallacy that head lice like dirty hair. Lice know no boundaries and like to live in a clean environment. Lice can affect anyone. Not telling friends and your child’s school about the infestation only helps lice continue to thrive and be transmitted back and forth from person to person.
I was in a complete panic when I first realized that my whole family had lice. I wanted to crawl out of my skin, and I had no idea where to begin! I texted a friend, and she gave me Louse Calls’ number. I had no idea a service like this even existed. I called and [the owner] Amy immediately put me at ease. She told me that [the technician] Charlotte would be at my house within the hour.Heather Reneau, Publisher of PLAYGROUND
After sharing my experience on Facebook, many of my friends have come forward commenting about how Charlotte also came to their rescue. It was the best money ever spent, and she took care of the problem within a few hours.”
Tips from Louse Calls:
- To avoid re-infestation, remind your children to avoid sharing hairbrushes, hats, jackets, etc. and close hugging with their friends. Using hairspray or a natural spray repellent (tea tree oil and water mixture) will help also.
- Many over-the-counter lice treatments have pesticides and require several treatments, exposing your family to potentially harmful chemicals. The only 100% guarantee to eliminate head lice from your household is to physically remove all lice and nits from the head.