Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Head Lice Advice

There is NO shame or disgrace in getting lice.

Gasp!  You have discovered lice!  Nooooooooooooooooo!  Say it isn't so!

Lice are annoying. Removing them is tedious and time-consuming; there is no magic cure.  But it is doable.  I have condensed a LOT of verified information off the internet, as well as included what I have learned by trial and error.  

Before you panic, print off this post to reference as you go through this realistic elimination process.  There are nine different sections:

YOUR BEST WEAPONS-- A Robicomb, your eyes and fingernails, hairspray, and a blowdryer.
Other handy helps-- Tea tree oil (TTO), head lamp, comb or nit comb, water spray bottle, seam ripper, shower cap. . .
IMPORTANT FACTS-- Knowing the enemy; its life cycle, how it spreads, & how to get rid of it.  Also, the equally important task of delousing & maintaining lice-free linens, bedding, carpets, furniture, and vehicles.  This sections is also helpful for dispelling many lice myths.
TREATMENT-- A combination of using a robicomb, some TTO, manually removing nits one at a time, and then a follow up of how to keep hair up, off the neck, and impermeable to lice/nit transfer while your family is in the process of eliminating the lice infestation.
Manual nit-picking technique--Most critical part of the process.  Day one of this technique will be the most tedious & thorough, but also give you the greatest satisfaction.  This technique is not only worth every minute, it is crucial.
RULES OF THUMB--Who to notify and why, when and how to appear at public functions, and how to treat non-affected family members.  A MUST-READ!!!
Why I recommend against store-bought treatments and some natural treatments--Why I wish I had this post from day one, and what I learned during a very steep learning curve of trying a lot of other things first.
How the Robicomb works
Miscellaneous-- Extra links, pointing out that I am not compensated for promoting the robicomb or TTO, my own testimonial of my method, and an invitation for input that can better this post.

 --Robicomb.  Worth.  EVERY.  Penny.  Just under $30 at a local CVS, Walgreens, or one of the stores listed here. (See "How the Robicomb works" section for use; use on DRY hair only.)

  --Your eyes and fingernails.  Visually inspecting an affected head and manually hand-picking out individual nits, one at a time, is the BEST removal process and defense against re-infestation, whether or not you decide to use a store-bought and/or natural treatment.  (See the section "Manual nit-picking technique" below)
-- Hairspray, then a blowdryer.  Buy cheap hairspray and use lots of it.  Keeps lice from being able to move around, and makes head less likely to be able to transfer lice either to or from head.  Then use the blow dryer on the already-thoroughly-sprayed hair. Helps seal in hairspray.  (Blow-drying on its own does not kill lice or nits.)

Other Handy Helps:
-- Tea Tree Oil (TTO).  Also known as melaleuca oil.  Any undiluted brand will do.  Found in pharmacy sections of stores, and runs between $4-8.  It helps stun and slow mobile lice, and slightly helps loosen nits from the hair shaft.
-- Head lamp. Any type will do.  Really helps to see nits at base of scalp.  They are tiny.

-- Superfine nit comb.  If you want a nit comb, I recommend the one linked here. It's more useful if you yourself have lice, and can't visually inspect your own head.  Also necessary for longer hair.  Basic plastic nit combs are almost useless.  A specific metal nit comb is a tool for trying to "catch" nits &/or lice in its tines.
Still, a regular comb is helpful not only for separating sections but also as a tool to push little bits of hair one way or the other while inspecting the head. (But a regular comb can't "catch" lice or nits in its tines)
-- Seam-ripper.  Any type will do.  Helps to pick lice & nits out of nit combs.
-- Shower cap.  Nice for toddlers & young children to wear for the first day or two after discovery, since their little unpredictable heads bob all over different surfaces & other siblings.  My three year old only needed 3 serious spanks before he diligently kept his shower cap on.

IMPORTANT FACTS about head lice:
-- Lice are no respecter of persons, just one of those things that get passed around. They are highly "contagious" because when transferred from one head of hair to another, lice are immediately "home," and a pregnant louse can begin laying eggs within moments of being on a new host.
-- Nits = eggs.
-- Nymphs = lice babies and teenagers; they are mobile.
-- Adult lice = also mobile and can procreate. “Lice” often refers to mobile lice, or all forms of lice. Lice cannot hop, jump, nor fly from heads or clothing/bedding/furniture. 
--Lice transfer three ways; direct head to head contact, direct head contact with something & then direct contact from that something back into the hair, or direct contact from that something into another person's hair.
-- Nymphs and adults are mobile within a head of hair, but almost completely immobile on carpet, furniture, bedding, etc and cannot infest inanimate objects or pets.

-- Nits can be less than one-third the size of a sesame seed, and are the same size and shape as each other, colored tan, brown, and/or white. Sometimes they also look translucent in between the tines of a nit comb. They are usually at the base of the scalp, and do not come out of the hair easily.  Dandruff and other dirt, lint, etc, are different sizes, and come out fairly easily.  Using the tip of the fingernails of your thumb and index finger is the best way to grasp a nit and pull it off a shaft of hair. (See "Manual nit-picking technique" section)
-- Nits that are currently on the head are rarely affected by treatments that kill adult lice. They hatch 7-10 days from being laid, and can lay eggs as early as 7 days after they've hatched, so daily robi-combing & nit-picking is important to catch any that hatch, even after previous lice have died off.  This is CRUCIAL to avoiding a re-infestation.
-- Nits and lice can only survive in specific temperatures (for nits, the warmth at the scalp), and with multiple meals a day (for hatched lice). If they are transferred to an inanimate object, nits can't survive for more than a few hours, and lice, 24-36 hours.  Nits also can't hatch on carpet, furniture, etc.  As long as they aren't transferred back or to other hair in that time, they die on their own.
-- Preventative measures include not sharing combs, hair clips, jackets, hats, etc, and avoiding resting heads on others' shoulders, hugging, or wrestling (i.e. children playing around).
--Vacuuming in areas where heads have been (like couches, computer chair backs, and vehicle seat backs & head rests) helps pick up any stray nits or lice.
-- In between regular washings, throwing used towels, pillows and pillowcases and other linens in the dryer on hot (at least 135 degrees for 30 min) kills lice.  Bagging household items like stuffed animals for a week or longer helps prevent heads from coming into contact with those items until their heads are clear.  Bagging laundry as you're working through it on the first day of discovery may also put your mind at ease a little more.

My Home TREATMENT: (the one that worked!)
1. Remove and change clothing and follow robicomb directions from "How Robicomb works" section to robicomb completely dry hair.

2. Shower w/ TTO in shampoo & conditioner, then sit down for a very thorough, wet-hair nit-picking session (See "Manual nit-picking technique" section). This is critical because it's where you will get most of the nits out, hand-picking them out one at a time.  If any nits are missed and hatch, they will re-start the cycle. Just the thought makes my head start itching again! 
I wore a headlamp so I could see close to the scalp as I did this, kept a water spray bottle close to keep hair wet as I went, used clips to keep  sections of hair separated, and had a comb as my guide to move hair about and closely inspect the scalp. 
It easily takes more than 2 hours to do this and is a pain, but is absolutely worth it if you want to avoid pesky re-infestation.  You also should only have to be this thorough once. 
After that the next couple of weeks is checking for missed nits and hatching lice, mostly with the robicomb.
3.  Disinfect nit comb, hair ties, and hair clips after each nit/lice combing.  Boil water, then take off stove and let items sit in it for 10 min.  After using normal hair combs, hair accessories, and/or brushes, disinfect as well.  (Follow robicomb directions for cleaning robicomb; do not submerge/boil it)
4.  Once hair has been thoroughly nit-picked, put gals' hair in a ponytail and bun and hairspray the heck out of it.  Gel guys' hair and then hairspray the heck out of it as well.  For both guys & gals, blow-dry the hairsprayed head to seal in the hairspray.   Skipping this step can be disastrous to you or others if you want to effectively eliminate further lice transfer.
5.  Robicomb daily for at least 8 days.  Do NOT get lazy about this.  After those 8 days, switch to every few days as a preventative measure.  Even after lice seem gone for more than a week, do weekly checks for awhile to avoid possible re-infestation.  At least weekly, check non-affected heads as well.  This has saved us more than once from others getting full-blown infestations, and has also saved us when family members have ended up coming back in contact with others who gave them the lice in the first place.  It's the best way to quickly catch any new lice that get transferred to a head, or hatch there.  I can't stress this enough!
6.  Throw used towels and bed linens (especially pillow cases) in dryer on high for 10-30 min. No need to wash everything daily.  But be sure to trade out pillowcases daily for at least 2 weeks.  See the "Important Facts" section for more details on how to keep your environment clear of lice while ridding heads of it.  Keeping pillowcases, vehicle seat backs, carpets, couches, and bedding free of lice is another step that can't be skipped, or live lice will just keep transferring back and forth from heads to stuff, and stuff back to heads.

1) NOTIFICATION--Knowledge Is Power! Let people know you've discovered lice, especially people you or your children have been in contact with recently; jobs, schools, churches and community/sports groups. This is a protection to them AND you. If they are also checking heads, being extra cautious about hugging, sharing combs, etc and treating any possible lice, YOU have a much lower chance of getting re-infested.
2) BEING IN PUBLIC--Adults that plan on being in public: keep hair up, well hair-sprayed and avoid hugging, even when no mobile lice are present. Children and teens: keep hair up, well hair-sprayed, avoid hugging, and avoid public things like school, church, contact sports, and playdates.  This is only fair to you and everyone around you.  The rule of thumb in many public schools is that children and teens may return after the first day that no mobile lice are found.  A few schools have a no-nit policy as well. 
3) NON-AFFECTED FAMILY MEMBERS do not need to miss school or public functions, but should be checked every few days (A robicomb makes this a much quicker & easier process!). It's also a good idea to have gals pull up their hair & hairspray it, and guys gel hair & then hairspray it, lowering the odds of getting or sharing lice.  It may help you and them feel more at ease if they also trade out their pillowcase daily for one that has been washed, or one that has at least been in a hot dryer for 10-30 min.

Manual (by hand) nit-picking technique: (important regardless of chemical, natural, or home treatment)
-- For someone else's hair, use a headlamp and start going through it slowly and methodically, doing about 1 inch by 1/8th of an inch sections at a time.  Pick any nits out manually, by hand, one at a time, by grasping them with the tip of your fingernails of your thumb and index finger and pulling through the full length of the individual hair shaft.  The nit comb is also useful for longer hair, but individually picking out nits by hand is most effective.  

-- Nits are almost always at the base of the scalp, each one on a single hair shaft, and are easy to miss, which is why a headlamp is helpful.  If they are just laid, they will be right at the base of the hair shaft.  If they have been incubating for any amount of time, you can tell for how long by seeing how far along the shaft they are.  So when you are looking for nits, be sure to look from the base of the scalp, out at least an inch down the hair shaft.
--If hair is long, section wet hair off with clips and, wearing a headlamp, start going through it just as slowly and methodically as with short hair.  Visually check for and hand-nit-pick any nits in each section. Then use a superfine nit comb on each section by combing against scalp, then pulling comb down through the full length of the hair.
-- For long hair, and for your own hair, check the nit comb after every stroke. Use a seam ripper to get lice off the nit comb, and an old toothbrush to help brush out other bits of dandruff, etc from comb. Since nits and lice can be smaller than a sesame seed, checking after each stroke helps protect from accidentally putting any lice back into hair.  For lice in one's own hair, daily dry-hair robicombing in between thorough wet-hair combing is even more important, as is keeping hair up, well hair sprayed, the the hairspray well blow-dried.
-- Note for longer hair: braiding hair to keep it "up" is often counter productive, since lice can think they're laying eggs at the base of the scalp that, when the braid is undone, can be anywhere from 2-8 inches down the hair shaft, making it much harder to find and remove all nits.

Don't despair! You can do this!   

Why I recommend against store bought and some natural treatments:I recommend against purchasing an over-the-counter lice treatments like NIX or RID.  They're not fully effective, anymore than what you'll have to do anyway.  Crazy, right?  You do NOT need a chemical treatment.  Seriously.  I have also found several natural "treatments" to be simply ineffective, from mayo or olive oil, to listerine or vinegars.  That doesn't mean there isn't one out there that works. Just that I'm not willing to deal with lice for months while I try to figure out which homeopathic thing actually holds up to its claims.  (I've included some links of possible DIY treatments down in the "Miscellaneous" section if they float your boat)

You may be thinking I'm the one who is crazy, but I'm telling you from experience.  Spend your money & time on the robicomb & manual nit-picking, not lice shampoos or solely natural remedies. I did so many things, like soaking hair in olive oil overnight, covered by shower caps, and submerging heads in water for minutes at a time, trying to "drown" mobile lice.  No "one" thing was a cure-all. 
Putting mayo or oil in hair was messy and no more effective than a quick robicomb, and was suggested to stay on hair for a minimum of 8 hours, under a shower cap.  Wasn't worth it, and we did it multiple times. 

How the Robicomb works:
The robicomb uses a double AA battery.  It emits a small electronic pulse that "zaps" lice.  The coated tines of the comb protect the affected scalp from getting zapped.  This comb ONLY works on DRY hair.  Be sure to read and follow included directions and watch the short video on how to use the comb properly. 

The robicomb emits a hum that essentially lets you know it's making a circuit.  If the hum stops, the comb has either encountered and zapped a louse or nit, or gotten some dandruff in it.  Turn the comb off, brush out the zapped stuff, and then start using it again.  When your little yellow brush thingy wears out (and it will), grab an old toothbrush to take over the job.  The hum used to annoy me like crazy, but it is now music to my ears because it means it hasn't encountered any more lice!
Do realize this comb is not meant to be used, or cleaned, like other nit combs.  Its purpose is not to actually pull out lice or nits, but to zap them so they either die immediately, or die within hours, not to get them off the head.  So the comb doesn't need to be boiled like other hair items; follow included directions on cleaning it.

The robicomb makes the first head check much more effective, because it can get the adult lice faster than they can run, and those little buggers are FAST.  That's why I like doing it before having the person shower and sit down for the big hairy manual nit-pick session.  And after that, daily robicomb head checks for mobile lice so much quicker. 
Realize that the robicomb takes a little getting used to, and that it is possible to "zap" the affected person's skin, especially over uneven surfaces, like around the ears, and also at the nape of the neck.  I practiced a little on my head first.  Also realize that it doesn't zap all nits (even though it claims to), so don't depend on it as a cure-all by itself.  The few harmless scalp zaps are the lesser evil over the painstaking hassle of hours and days and weeks of manual wet-hair inspection and lice/nit removal.

--I get no kickbacks or compensation for promoting anything on this blog, except for the great satisfaction of knowing others can be much more knowledgeable, much less overwhelmed, and treat lice faster & more effectively!
--My own testimonial: I've compiled info and attempted lice removal so many ways, and then finally the way I suggest here.  There's just no comparison for really removing all lice & nits.  I only wish I had this to read right when I had started.  It would have shaved at least 2 months off of the time it took us to become lice-free.  
IF you
1- diligently follow robicombing methods, 
2- thoroughly remove lice/nits by hand, 
3- keep hair up, hairsprayed, & blow-dried, 
4- diligently follow up robicomb head checks, and
5- diligently trade out pillowcases and keep home clear of transferable lice, 
you might be lice-free within a few weeks!  
Just be sure to still do regular head checks after that in case someone comes back in contact with where they got the lice in the first place.
 --Here's a great link with the tagline "Head lice; a lousy problem"  Really worth reading to put your mind at ease about many ways lice CAN'T be spread:  Myths and Facts about Head Lice

--Here are some other links for die hards who just really want an "all natural" lice shampoo treatment.  I have not tried these so I can't verify their claims:
DIY shampoo, peppermint & TTO oil, etc

DIY shampoo, coconut oil & apple cider vinegar
Sprays like this claim to help, and the home DIY version of this is salt & water.
If any of them (or something else) works for you, please post your successes in the the comments section!
--I love feedback.  If you can add to this post, please comment and provide links, and if you find errors, please also post links and/or provide reference material so I can update my post. 


Zara Goudreau said...

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Angel Light said...

This is the most thorough info I have seen on the net on lice! Thanks SO much!!!!!!

Kimbooly said...

Wow, thanks, Angel Light! I am sorry it's so much. At one point I plan on tackling it so it's multiple posts, and the main post is the link to each other post, so it can be read in much smaller, more compartmentalized chunks.

Tesana said...

This is great! I wish I had known about the Robo comb earlier. 2013 was my year for dealing with lice. I got it first (with my mountain of hair), and then everyone else got it. It took three courses of treatment to finally finish it off.

The 1st time I used RID on myself (with all the house cleaning and plastic bags for 2 weeks), then the rest of my family a week off from me. I guess I should have done myself a third time during their last week, but ... mountain of hair!!

A few months later, when I was itching again, so I took the kids and myself to the doctor. I had them, but the kids didn't, so I got a prescription. I'm not sure if it wasn't quite enough for my mountain of hair or if Stephen had it, but a few months later a live louse fell into my hand.

This time I did RID again for everyone all at once, and covered the couch and car seats in plastic.

"Lice" is still a bad word in my house. ;)

Kimberly Wilson said...

Thanks, Tesana! So exciting to hear from you! I wish I could easily get to the email address that this blog is connected to, so I could have seen this comment in real time, back in Sept of last year!

I love you and miss you!

Kimberly Wilson said...

Please, if you have any questions, besides leaving a comment here, also contact me via this account (click on the "Kimberly Wilson" name just above this comment). I will get back with you promptly via that email; I can't figure out how to change this blog to connect to my newer email.

Rodriguez said...

Thanks for a quick review. I will definitely not spend time evaluating their opensource product.

Head Lice Shampoo

vindiesel1245 said...

Thanks i like your blog very much , i come back most days to find new posts like this! Good effort. I learnt it
Comb Pick

Kimberly Wilson said...

Rodriguez, well played. ;-) Btw, the head lice shampoo you recommend doesn't look very helpful to me. I found that while some of those oils, used alone (Melaleuca, or tea tree oil) or together, at least help to slow down the live, mobile lice which helps for nitpicking, but it 1) doesn't kill them, and 2) doesn't do a great job at repelling them.

Vindiesell1245, thank you. Sadly, I haven't written a new post in a long time! The link for the Comb pick is actually taking me to a lock-picking site. You'll have to re-link.

Иван Ратницкий said...

Anyone try to use this lice comb ?

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