A normal day our porch looks like this:
Our lives are full of wonderful, fantastic, national children that live in the village area behind our home. But a village life is a community life and these kids share everything: beds, clothes, brushes, fevers…and lice. As my children are invited into their lives they are also invited into this sharing. So, it was only a matter of time until we became the receivers of these pesky little head bugs.
First of all, don’t freak out. Learn from me. I am normally a fairly laid back lady. I have had three babies overseas, moved numerous times, and have had sick children in a developing world hospital. However, nothing prepared me for the freak out mode I would exude at the sight of lice in my child’s hair. I was a stressed out mess. I searched the Internet and that only added to my freaked-outness. Over a few days I realized that this lice thing can be taken care of and it wasn’t as big of a deal as I thought.
Let’s dispel a few common myths about lice and attack this thing head on!!
MYTH #1 “Lice can live in your couch and pillows and toys.”
Lice need blood…human blood. Eggs can’t hatch without a warm human head and lice can’t live without something to eat.
Action Step: Remove plush toys, hair bows, brushes, pillows or anything else that has come in contact with your lice-infested child’s head and put it up for 48 hours. (Wash if you like. I only washed blankets and I only have a cold water machine). Put it in trash bags if that makes you feel better. I just moved our stuff to the garage. Pillows and favorite toys can go in the dryer (if you have one) to kill the lice. Lice can’t withstand heat of over 130 degrees.
MYTH #2 “Lice jump.”
People get lice from having head to head contact or sharing an item like a hat with live lice (remember the 48 hour rule). Your child cannot get lice simply by looking at a person with lice, even though at the beginning of our lice trial I acted like that. Actually, only one of my girls had lice and this picture was taken two days before I found the first louse.
Action Step: Kill the living lice on your little bundle of joy’s head. There are several ways to do that. I researched on the Internet and then asked many moms who have lived through this wonderful experience. Here are the three most popular solutions to killing the live lice.
1) The Listerine-Vinegar Solution: Listerine for 30-45 minutes. Wash with shampoo. Next, 50/50 water and vinegar solution for 30-45 minutes. Wash. The Listerine contains ingredients toxic to lice and the vinegar destroys the “glue” that holds the egg (nit) to the hair shaft.
2) The Olive Oil/ Mayonaise / Coconut Oil Solution: Saturate hair with one of these items. Put on a shower cap, plastic wrap, what-have-you and leave on all night. Wash in the morning.
3) Topical pesticide lice solutions: I would be careful if you choose this method. I did some research and spoke with an American pharmacist about the medication available here in country. It is highly toxic and he said he would not use it on his children mainly because there have been cases of this medication even killing babies. Be careful people! There is real irresponsibility on the aisles of drugstores in developing countries.
MYTH #3 “Any white speck in the hair is nit.”
If the spec moves when you touch it, it’s not a nit. The nits will need to be pulled out with the tips of your fingernails or a comb in order to come out. If the nit is more the 2 cm from scalp, it’s not a live nit. This is most likely a shell case that has already hatched.
Action Step: This is the most important thing. Separate out sections of the hair and look strand by strand. I used a comb to vertically separate small sections (inside the larger sectioned separated hair) and then I did it horizontally. The easiest way for me was spraying with leave-in conditioner and then combing down the hair and holding it tightly against the head. This made the little bitty nits “pop-out” for me to see and then I just removed them with my finger tips. Time consuming? Yes, but highly affective.
You can also use a lice comb. Comb each section three times. A friend says use hair conditioner, lots and lots of hair conditioner, to lubricate the sections of hair you are combing. Do this several days in a row until you see no more nits.
I did two Listerine and vinegar treatments and then one olive oil treatment. And spent a few days searching for nits.
Final Tidbits: Bring a lice comb from the States. This would have been so helpful to have in the beginning. Also, when in doubt ask a local friend whether what you are looking at is a nit or lice or dandruff or sand. Most likely they will know. The teenage girls that live near our house were an invaluable resource.
I also am going to try tea tree oil to see if that helps prevent lice from invading in the future. I’ll let you know how that goes.
Overall, lice are a pain in the behind but so worth it to have my children be part of the community that surrounds us.
Happy Lice Hunting!