Edgy Mama: It’s creepy crawly time

Winter hats? Check.

Kids in close contact with other kids? Check.

Head lice? Check.

Yep, it’s that time again. My kids haven’t contracted lice before, but I’m holding my breath. Because I reckon as soon as I write this, it’ll happen.

In the past week, I’ve received several emails concerning cases of kid lice going round town.

Let’s talk a little about these critters. Really, there’s no need to be embarrassed if your kid comes home with them. Parents have been nitpicking for time immemorial. It’s in our job description. Although I don’t remember hearing about lice outbreaks when I was a kid. Of course, trucks were still spraying clouds of insecticide into the air all summer long in Georgia then. Since we’ve stopped dousing the world with DDT, those creepy crawlies, such as lice and bed bugs, are back. And how. Thanks, Rachel Carson.

I did once get that other kind of lice in college, from a sleeping bag I rented for a camping trip. Really. I don’t often give advice, but here’s some: don’t rent sleeping gear from a University. They should have paid the rest of my tuition for that.

But back to head lice. I’d rather coat my kids’ scalps with death-to-insects chemical shampoo than have them exposed to DDT. So, really, thanks, Rachel. You rocked.

So here’s the treatment deal for head lice from the American Academy of Pediatrics. They say there’s no evidence that using mayonnaise or veggie oil to smother the little buggers works. I once put mayonnaise on my hair in sixth grade. Because I’d read in some teen mag that it was a good hair conditioner. I went to school the next day looking greasier than a diner French fry.

But that’s another story. So, the AAP recommends using Permethrin (Nix, which can be used in children as young as 2 months) or Pyrethrin (Rid, which can be used in children as young as 2 years) for lice treatment. Both are over-the-counter products you can buy at any drug store.

But you must re-treat the scalp in nine days.

This point is key, according to the AAP. The product labeling of Nix reads: “If live lice are seen seven days or more after the first treatment, a second treatment should be given.” But while the seven-day application time frame will kill living lice, it may not kill all the eggs. Under average conditions, an egg or nit will hatch in approximately 8 to 9 days. Thus, by five to seven days after the initial treatment, 70 to 100 percent of the eggs (nits) will not have hatched. Therefore, a second treatment given this early will not be effective. So, if you’re dealing with these little parasites, do a second treatment in nine days, not seven.  The AAP also recommends a third treatment if live lice are still seen after the first two. 

Then there’s preventing re-infestation of these hardy buggers. Machine wash clothes, bedding, and towels used within the previous two days in hot water (130 degrees Fahrenheit) and dry them in a hot dryer (20 minutes). Items that can’t be washed or dry-cleaned can be vacuumed or put in a sealed plastic bag for two weeks. Soak combs and brushes in hot water (at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit for five to 10 minutes). Carefully inspect your children’s hair for several weeks after treatment, and periodically thereafter.

I had a friend tell me that multiple applications of the Nix treatment didn’t work for his kid, but that a botanical product he found on-line did work. Turns out that the nine-day treatment plan was the key, though.

Doctors say that routine screening and early detection are the best prevention for head lice.

My scalp’s itching like crazy now. Time to go check all familial heads again.


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3 thoughts on “Edgy Mama: It’s creepy crawly time

  1. Ken Hanke

    You are constantly reminding me why I am glad my only child is 34 years old.

  2. Robin

    Three of the five of us contacted lice within 2 weeks of the beginning of school this year. Was faithful with the washing in hot water of every hair-touching item and practically every piece of fabric in the house. Used the Nix twice (immediately and 10 days later)and STILL had a problem. Doctor recommended Rid as a more reliable insecticide. Also had a friend recommend what turned out to be a lifsaver; an electric lice-killing device called a RobiComb. If you can stand the occasional zap it gives your scalp (and the hit to your pocketbook to the tune of $35), then you can effectively eradicate those darn straglers who make it through the all of the nuclear bombing of head and house. Lice is a four letter word. Nasty little buggers.

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