Our Experience with Head Lice And How to Get Rid of Them

Today, we’re sharing a post from Anna Marie about their experience dealing with lice. Yes, you read that right. Y’all, this is a very practical post, and watch out, you’ll probably find your head itching a bit.

I was brushing the girls’ hair after bathing them one evening and saw a little bug near Lydia’s bangs. I picked it out and showed Christopher, who was right there brushing the children’s teeth, and commented that it was funny. I had picked one out of one of the girls’ bangs earlier. I thought it was a little fruit fly. As I began to brush Lydia’s hair again, I found another, and two more … then set the brush down and started carefully looking through both her and Ruthanne’s hair, picking out bug after bug and dropping them into a cup of soapy water. I also saw lots of little dark specks, which I later learned were the eggs (nits).

I have no previous experience with head lice, having never had them, but some Google searches turned up lots of information. I wanted to briefly share with you what I wish I would have known that first moment I found them—before we did homeopathic lice spray treatments, washed countless loads of laundry, did a major house cleaning, worried about whether long hair would need to be cut (it doesn’t), etc.

I eventually came across a web site that has been tremendously helpful in this process. It is written by “The Nice Lice Lady,” who was a professional in-home lice consultant for fourteen years. Because her site is set up as a blog, the various tips are somewhat spread throughout the site. While there are some helpful quick links on the right sidebar my first recommendation, if you discover lice in your home, is to read this post.

Here are a few of my key takeaways from her site:

  • Head lice are a nuisance, not a health issue. It also doesn’t mean you’re dirty—some research indicates that lice may even prefer clean scalps.
  • Think of treatment in terms of a marathon, not a sprint. You’re going to be combing heads for a few weeks; pace yourself so you don’t burn out. Which relates to the next point…
  • Focus 99% of your efforts on the scalp and combing. Don’t waste your time on house cleaning and laundry. She hasn’t found that to make much if any, difference; but she’s “relentless” on combing. She also has not found treatments (whether chemical or homeopathic) to be necessary or change the outcome much at all. The treatment that is effective: combing.
  • According to studies: blow drying, on high speed but low temperature can kill up to 98% of nits and 50% of lice. She doesn’t feel it’s necessary if you’re carefully combing as she recommends, but I did it anyway.
  • Do simple routine checks. She does it weekly by combing the children’s hair with a regular fine-tooth comb after they shower and detangle their hair. She checks the comb for any lice after each stroke through the hair. If she finds something, she grabs her lice comb and gets to work. By doing these routine checks, she feels like she is able to beat lice before they really get started.

All that said, here is our plan of action regarding lice. Divided up into two sections: “prior to” lice, and “once discovered.”

Prior to Getting Lice:

  • Have on hand a quality lice comb. The one we bought from Walmart wasn’t any good. Here’s the one we eventually found that is extremely good: the Nit Terminator lice comb (Titus2’s Amazon’s Affiliate link, see the Privacy Policy). It costs about $11. I wish I’d had it on hand the first night. It has sturdy, rigid teeth that are micro-grooved so it really does grab those tiny nits in fine little girl hair. While you wouldn’t have to buy this ahead of time, once you discover lice it’s going to be hard to wait a day or even several days for it to arrive. At the same time, it’s hard to know the quality of the combs that are readily available in local stores.
  • Optional: I found it helpful to use an essential oil blend called “Get ‘Em Gone,” from Plant Therapy. The oil is designed to soothe itchy scalps and help repel lice. I liked having something that could be (diluted and) applied to all heads of hair once lice was discovered. It gave me peace of mind knowing I was helping protect other heads and also helping soothe the scalp of the ones who had lice. I know many people have different views about essential oils, and it’s true that the essential oil isn’t something “required” for treating lice, but it’s something I liked having on hand. I have been happy with any essential oils I have ordered from Plant Therapy over the years (two of our favorites are Defender and Germ Destroyer), and reviews on “Get ‘Em Gone” are very positive. So, if you’re an essential-oil-kind of gal, you might check it out from Plant Therapy. Sarah dropping in here on this part: If you decide to order the essential oil directly from Plant Therapy, y’all can get $10 off a $25 order and Anna Marie will also get $10 in her account. Her referral link is: http://rwrd.io/jowmdjb/ 

Once You Discover Lice, Here are Some Steps You Could Take

  • Stop and take a breath. Spend some time in prayer, giving thanks to God in and for all things and asking for His grace in the days to come (or, should I say, “comb”). Look forward to the special time you’ll have with your children.
  • Re-read this Titus2 blog post and also read through the Nice Lice Lady’s blog post.
  • Get started treating head(s)!
  • Wet the hair by spraying with Get ‘Em Gone essential oil combined with water in a spray bottle (shake bottle frequently while spraying to keep the oil mixed in if not using an emulsifier).
  • Comb: I’ll include a summary of the combing process I used, but see Nice Lady’s post for her step-by-step guide on this.
    • Wet hair and apply a little bit of conditioner—but not too much, I found, or you spend a lot of time first removing excess conditioner so you can see what you’re getting in the comb! I had this kind (Titus2’s Amazon’s Affiliate link, see the Privacy Policy), and it worked great.
    • Start combing with a good lice comb, either sectioned off or just making sure you cover each section well multiple times. Comb all the way from scalp to end of hair, checking the comb each stroke and wiping any findings on toilet paper or paper towel.
      • Note: I was frustrated with how long it took to get the tiny nits out of the comb, but found the Nice Lice Lady addresses this in the comments section on a blog post saying not to worry too much about the nits if they’re not just wiping out of the comb. Even if they do come out of the comb into the hair, they won’t reattach and cannot live away from the scalp. However, be sure to wipe all the lice/nymphs off the comb with each stroke.
    • Continue to comb until you can do 100 strokes with no findings. This is great counting practice for little ones, by the way! 😉 Do this every couple of days until you have no findings for about two weeks. Since this can take a while the first couple of times, it’s a great time for read-aloud or audio books. Joshua read to us for part of the time we combed.
  • Thoroughly blow-dry sections with cool air.
  • Keep combing every day or two until the comb has been clear for two weeks. The Nice Lice Lady said she rarely finds anything after the first two combings, and that was our experience as well.
  • Regularly spray everyone’s hair (even those who haven’t had lice or nit sightings) with Get ‘Em Gone essential oil water for a few weeks.

I hope this helps,
Anna Marie

“Giving thanks always for all things unto God
and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Ephesians 5:20

31 thoughts on “Our Experience with Head Lice And How to Get Rid of Them”

  1. This is amazing! I’m dealing with lice in my daughter right now. I don’t live in America, so I can’t get your essential oil blend, but do you know if I can sort of make my own? I already use tea tree oil, but I can get others and mix them up.

    And the hundred strokes is a great idea and I’m going to start incorporating that in our combing! Thanks so much!

    1. From Anna Marie: I am glad if you found any of this helpful as you’re dealing with lice! You could look at the Get Em Gone ingredients list on the website and see if you have any other of the oils in the blend that you want to incorporate to make your own blend with the tea tree. Otherwise, it sounds like a lot of people are having success just with tea tree as well. And really, in the end, I think the biggest thing is the combing.

  2. Oh we went through this a few years ago, even more difficult because my children are African American and have curly, natural hair! We were able to eliminate them in about 4 days of constant coconut oil to the scalps (mixed with tea tree), combing after straightening the hair, and washing all their linens daily in super hot washes. (The coconut oil would basically suffocate them and keep them from being able to attach new eggs to the scalps) I was terrified I would have to cut all their hair off, as there isn’t as much info on what to do with curly or coarse hair, but praise God we figured it out. I’ve always heard that lice don’t like our type of hair but found out that isn’t true at all, they just love clean scalps and can hide even easier in curly thick hair! I think it helped that we caught it super early so we didn’t have too many nits to deal with, but I pray to never have to go through that again!

  3. Been there done that with my long haired girls! We also were told by the local lice removing company to saturate everyones heads in olive oil and cover it in a shower cap overnight. Rinse it out in the morning. This worked very well for us. We also now use fairy tales spray and have not bad another incident in 10 years.

  4. Oh my! I feel for young mothers. I dealt with this once when my oldest daughter was a child and had waist length thick hair many many years ago. I did every thing the nit picking post said not to do. Wore myself to a frazzle cleaning and doing laundry and felt like a horrible Mom. In the end the only thing that work was the hours of combing. Whew!

    Great post Anna Marie. I know this will be a very helpful post to a lot of young Mom’s!

  5. I would agree with the above, and would add this natural method: pure tea tree oil mixed in to shampoo (5-10 drops per TB), lathered into hair and allowed to rest for ten minutes is very effective at killing adult lice. I have used commercial lice shampoo 🙁 and also used tea tree oil mixed into my regular shampoo. The tea tree oil was more effective than the pesticide-laden shampoo at killing the adults.
    And the nit-terminator is the best! It can be done without it, as I did when overseas with lice, but I would have given a lot to get my hands on a terminator!

  6. We haven’t had lice yet, but neem oil is supposed to help. A little bit mixed into my shampoo is the only way I have found to deal with my itchy flaky scalp. It smells garlicky but is good for hair.

  7. I remember having lice as a little girl. My mom remembers discovering the lice and thinking “Oh no, how am I going to tell her she has bugs in her hair?!” I was squeamish as a child. As unpleasant as it was, I remember my dad sitting with me in our kitchen in good sunlight and carefully going over my hair for nits. In a way it was a sweet memory of being lovingly cared for. Life is about perspective!

  8. This reminds of my first year of marriage before we had children, I worked in an elementary school and caught lice from the students. My husband was so afraid I would have to cut my long hair that he volunteered to spend hours fine-combing it in the evenings! It’s a fond memory we cherish and laugh about to this day.
    The bright side of lice, if there is one, is quality time spent with a loved one!

  9. My sisters and I had lice multiple times as children. I have fond memories of my mom combing lice nits out of my very long hair on our front porch (where the light was best). My girls have never had lice, but I’ll keep these tips in case they do.

  10. You can use a flat iron too to help kill them. Apparently using products and/or a hair dryer every day can help prevent lice.
    And now I need to check my kids

  11. I have 10 children, several girls with long, thick hair. Oh my! Headlice were relentless and very difficult to get rid of. I bought a shampoo infused with tea tree oil and kept a lice comb in the shower. (I had them as well) everytime I showered I used the shampoo and spent quite a bit of time combing it though my hair with the lice comb. Then I would rinse. We add a few drops of tea tree oil to our water spray bottle and used it every time we brushed hair. And I cut my boys thick hair nice and short. This allowed me to see them more easily. But they still had them. We had most of the carpet in our house and vinyl floor boards put in during this time as well. As soon as the new flooring went in, the lice disappeared! Such relief! I also heard tying long hair up in tight braids can help. And spraying hairspray as it is sticky and slows the lice down. Hopefully they will stay away!God bless Anna Marie.

  12. Do not buy a special oil. Any oil or Vaseline will work to smother the lice and nits. Its by far a better way to deal with lice than using one of the commercial chemical products usually recommended. With her boys she gave them a buzz cut then rubbed their heads with Vaseline which was left on overnight. One treatment was usually sufficient. For her long curly hair, she used oil. I don’t know the name of the product, but it is one made for African-American women and she uses it all the time. Her step children regularly come from their mother’s home with headlice and she never gets lice from them due to keeping oil on her hair at all times.

  13. I haven’t read all the comments so I don’t know if this has been mentioned already, but tea tree essential oil is a great tool for preventing head lice (just add a few drops to your shampoo bootle). I have never had them myself, but I do help with checking our bus children’s heads when they come to our summer camp and I always advise all the counsellors to add tea tree to their shampoo during the summer — especially during bus weeks. If we do find lice in a child’s hair, we apply rubbing alcohol to his or her hair and cover it with disposable shower caps for at least 30 minutes. The rubbing alcohol kills both the lice and the nits. When dead, they are very easy to comb out. Sorry you had to deal with this, but I’m sure many people will benefit from your willingness to share this experience.

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