Lice Knowing You

Louse photo via WebMD.com

You’re going to feel itchy reading this. I’m scratching my head writing it.

Don’t worry, it’s psychosomatic.

We don’t have lice and you probably don’t either. Or you don’t have lice and we probably don’t either.

In any case, our preschool held a session called “Lice Knowing You” on a Thursday evening, put on by a Northwest lice clinic of the same name. As you can imagine, dozens of us six of us showed up. So it was an intimate evening with head lice. I thought it would be packed….

Let’s clear one thing up to start. There are three kinds of human lice: head lice, body lice, and pubic lice. We’re only talking about the head lice here. Unless you are a refugee or sexually promiscuous, you don’t really have to be concerned about the others. At least not in preschool.

Some facts about our parasitic friends:

  • Lice hold on to hair follicles for dear life, and live on heads even after shampooing, swimming (they hold their breaths for a long time), and blow-drying. Those suckers attach themselves and hang on.
  • Also, they crawl. They don’t jump, run, or hop.
  • But they’re not that great at crawling. They only go about 9 inches in a minute. They really just want to toddle around on your head.
  • However, if you look for them, they scooch away pretty quickly because they hate light, so that makes them hard to detect if you’re doing a lice check at home.
    • What?! You say. How in the heck and I going to tell if my kid has lice?? Great question.
    • To check for lice, always do it with wet hair. Divide the hair into three parts: bottom, middle, top. Start at the bottom and comb down with a lice comb. The lice will be hanging out at the top by the time you get there. Isn’t that gross?? This is about 80% accurate in telling if someone has lice or not. So you can always go into a clinic for a check.
    • When you are doing a comb-out, you are not looking for the lice eggs (or nits), you are looking for the actual bugs. If your child has lice, you will see bugs. You won’t wonder if it’s a bug or dandruff, you’ll be like, That’s a bug in my kid’s hair!
  • Lice are spread through head-to-head contact.
  • Hair texture doesn’t matter (straight, curly, White, Black, Asian, you name it): Head lice are equal-opportunity hair nesters.
  • Longer hair does tend to get lice more easily because there’s simply more of it for the little buggers to grab onto and live in.
  • Your pets can’t give you lice and you can’t give it to them. Pets have their own parasites. I think it would behoove the lice to cross-pollinate, but we can just be grateful they don’t get in on the pet action.
  • In fact, head lice don’t live anywhere else on the human body, and they die within about 24 hours of being off a head. That means:
    • They don’t get all up in your linens and furniture and pantry. If they happen to fall off, they’ll only be searching for another head because they’re on the 24-hours-to-death clock if not on a scalp (99% of lice will be on you and your family’s heads–1% will be in your house, near death).
    • If a little licey jumps off your head (unlikely) you can just wipe it up and throw it in the trash. There is no need to burn it, or drown it, or freeze it, or smother it in bacon grease. It will die on its own.
    • If you are still worried about your bed sheets and baseball caps after discovering someone in your family has lice, just get treated and go away for the weekend. With no one in your house, the lice will die. You get a vacation and a lice-free house. This seems like the major upside of getting lice: mandatory weekend away.

Treatment

  • Things that DON’T work
    • Mayonnaise
    • Bacon grease
    • Kerosene
    • Cetaphil
    • Burning your scalp with tea tree oil
    • Buzz-cutting (it will make it much easier to comb out the lice, though)
  • Things that DO work
    • Combing out lice using a good quality lice comb over wet hair.
    • Spraying essential oils (in the right balance) as a deterrent.
    • You can go in to a local clinic and get a check $15, and you can also go in for treatment (basically a professional lice comb out) that comes with a month-long guarantee of being lice-free.

Public disclosure: These are notes from the lice seminar, for the benefit of other parents and interested parasite voyeurs. Lice Knowing You gave the presentation, and I appreciated Janet’s candor and willingness to answer all of our questions. Her company seems great, but I am not affiliated with them, I have not used them before, nor am I receiving anything for posting about them.

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10 responses to “Lice Knowing You

  1. There are lice clinics?! Who knew?!

  2. You’re right. I’m totally itching now. Here’s hoping that I never need to refer back to your notes here!

  3. Thanks for all the info. We had a successfully treated case of nits at our school recently and are keeping an eye out at home but nothing so far. Totally gross to think about, really. But I’m one of those people who are just like, “oh, it’s fine” and haven’t actually read more info on the topic, so…. this was an enjoyable format, and I can dig that.

    • I know–you don’t want to go searching online because you’ll just be grossed out AND the Internet medical wormhole generally leads me to thinking that we have cancer or some sort of debilitating disease. Glad you guys have been fine!

  4. Thanks for the info! I am amazed that they only survive on heads and don’t live for more than 24 hours off of it! Awesome!

  5. Oh I can relate to this one alright…That’s why my boys had crew cuts after Kevin got ’em at preschool…They didn’t get them after that. 😉

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