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Treating lice in really thick hair

Every time I hear of a lice infestation, I get sick to my stomach just thinking about that happening here in my house. I have some children who get apoplectic with rage at the thought of me washing their hair. I have others whose hair is just so thick and gorgeous and tangly and precious that the best -- but untenable -- strategy would be the head shave (several friends have gone that way with boys as the simplest and most direct). I am a little obsessive about my worries, and regularly check their hair when I see itching or lice-sized pieces of dirt in their hair.

Everett came home from his Aunt's house late last night after a sleepover, and this morning he said, "my head is really itchy. Do you think I have lice?" Surely not! A few seconds later, the diagnosis was in. Lice: everywhere.

We started with the laundry (hot water over 130 degrees plus a hot dryer, says the CDC) -- all his bedding and clothes are going in. Then we headed to the bathroom to see what we were dealing with. I wanted to get as many of them out as I could before I went shopping -- I didn't want to go shopping until I checked urbanMamas for advice. It took me over an hour just to get him fully disentangled, using cider vinegar as a dousing agent (because, whether or not it would kill the buggers, at least it couldn't hurt anyone if it didn't). Several suggestions we shave his head were met with "no, NEVER."

According to what I've now read, the best approach is just to do a lot of picking (great). The CDC and most mainstream sites seem to agree that the best approach is Rid (or similar) treatment, followed by regular picking with a metal lice comb, once again after 8-10 hours and then every 2-3 days. Retreatment with the Rid is only suggested after 8-10 days, when eggs could have conceivably hatched (the stuff doesn't kill eggs). Commenters on urbanMamas, however, suggest that the shampoo doesn't really work; it doesn't get them all, so you just have to keep re-treating. Listerine seems to be a very popular choice (and what the hell, I'll try it) even among others on the internet who say they tried everything, even a series of mayonnaise treatments (sorry, not trying that).

Lice life cycles are 28 days from egg laying to hatching, which is why daily or every-other-daily combing is recommended for a whole month. They can't live without blood and scalp temperatures for more than 1-2 days, so obsessive housecleaning is said to be unnecessary (though bedding, hats and clothes are possible ways to spread the bugs). The general way to contract the bugs is head-to-head contact; and how many times have I seen my three boys, along with the neighbors, cuddled with all their heads touching, playing Minecraft or Angry Birds or Pokemon? Too, too many times.

For the other two boys -- who were, luck would have it, away from home at Grandma & Grandpas for two days prior to the infestation -- I'm going with a tea-tree oil treatment as a prophylactic. I'll let you know how it works in my boys' thick, tangly hair: and if you have other advice for me, please share!


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I haven't had to deal with lice myself but did research it when there was an outbreak at my childs school. What I found was that neem oil is said to be very effective against all stages of the lice life cycle, including eggs and is non toxic. Here is a little blurb from a website but google it for more info:

"Neem Oil contains substances which mimic insect hormones - called 'ecdysones'. These substances give 'mixed messages' to the head lice, consequently depressing feeding, breeding, and metamorphosis. These messages also prevent unhatched eggs from developing & hatching.
This approach also avoids the development of resistance in future generations.Exposing head lice to Neem results in a gradual weakening of their 'will to live' & perform the basic functions of all living organisms. After a short period of time the problem will simply vanish."

What finally worked for us year ago was working lots of olive oil through my girl's hair, putting a shower cap on it, wrapping the whole mess up in a towel, and having her sleep like that. Good luck, no matter what course of action you decide on.

we went through this a few years ago. our son, and both of us had them at the same time. the only thing that worked was using some sort of substance, and then lots and lots of picking and picking and picking, EVERY day if not twice a day. for about 7 days. what i found is that getting something oily (we used some sort of "natural" boxed remedy from walgreens) on the head, putting a shower cap and towel on for a while and that suffocates the lice. then when the hair is oily you comb through it all, the hair turns darker and the nits are easier to see and pick up. its very labor intensive. but seeing a live lice run away from you on your sons head is really freaky!!

I have never had to do this, but I know a school teacher who swear by using scotch tape as part of the combing process. You get the bug/nit in the comb and then wipe on the tape. You can squish the live ones that way. Sounds like a good idea to me, but I haven't had to try it.

The key for us was a really, really good comb. Don't settle for the cheap one that comes in the package. We bought a very sturdy red RID brand comb from Fred Meyer. Before buying the comb, our daughter was having lots of itching, and we weren't finding anything. She has very thick dark brown hair which makes seeing the lice almost impossible. With the fabulous comb, we found dozens, immediately after having found nothing with the crappy comb.

We didn't use the RID. I don't care for putting a pesticide on my child's head.

Instead we did the "Not Nice to Lice" enzyme stuff which was available in my local food co-op store.


I sent my kid back to a busy kindergarten with dabs of rosemary oil around her neck for a week or so. That seem to keep her from getting re-infested when many other families had them over and over. But she had short hair.... its really a better thing with all the nit-picking you have manage.. so I wouldn't take that off the table.

Thankfully, we haven't had to deal with this yet, but I have read about it lots, since all three of my kids were in classes with outbreaks last year. A few little tidbits I picked up...

* In one medical journal, there was a study that measured the effectiveness of RID and similar products versus combing. The study showed that combing was more effective. Moreover, RID only works 50% of the time. To me, it wouldn't be worth the potential side effects to rub insecticide all over my children's heads. Do your own research, but I think other methods are as effective and not toxic.

* My plan was to use a conditioner with tea tree oil in it. Lice don't like tea tree oil. But, be careful, as pur tea tree oil can be toxic, too. everything in moderation... I was going to lay in in thick and let it slow down the lice so they are easier to catch, then just comb carefully while the kids are distracted by a movie.

* I also bought one of those electric combs - a robicomb. My friend who's daughter had it swears by it! Again, I haven't tried it, but we have one just in case.

* As a preventative, you can...
- braid long hair
- put products like leave in conditioner and detangler in their hair (lice like clean human smelling hair, and tend to avoid hair with product.

Good luck! We actually do a check a couple of times a week. Catch it early, and it's not as big a deal to treat!

Also, be careful using listerine. It contains alcohol, which is absorbed through the skin.

We've used the tea tree oil at new seasons with much success. A helpful school nurse recommended using phisoderm lotion left on the head overnight.

This has been SUCH a recurring problem at our school, especially in the 3rd and 4th grades. A few teachers told me it was worse than ever and they said they blame the long messy hair trend for boys. I don't know if that is the real reason or not. One of the teachers said she couldn't say anything about it to most parents but she really wished parents would go back to buzz cuts for their sons. Long loose hair is more likely to come into contact with lice. The kids also wear hats (kind of a hippie school, yes) and if they share them it would create a big lice problem. Many friends with girls have gone to short bobs and pixie cuts (very cute!) and say they've had less lice issues since.

thanks for all the advice and commiseration. I got a tea tree shampoo from Walgreens, a package of lice combs, and the knockoff listerine, which was on sale. I treated all the boys and ended up finding lice in everyone's hair -- including my own! I just got out of an hour-long tea tree scented combing session in the shower. ironically, their hair is all absolutely gorgeous with all the attention, making it even harder to imagine cutting it now.

Oh itchy. Are you at a Waldorf school?

Hi! As strange as it may sound I actually treat head lice for a living. The comments about combing being the most effective treatment are correct! I use the Terminator Nit Free comb which really is the most effective on the market! Unfortunately I have yet to see them in a retail setting but they are available on Amazon, or through your local lice treatment service. Since your child has thick tangly hair I would comb it wet with conditioner in it. It is a little messy, but you can use a paper towel to wipe the comb, and put a towel under the chair to catch the drippings. Just keep combing until you know longer see any bugs, and repeat this process every other day until you can see they are gone. I hope this helps you! Best of luck!

Nit Nanny of Portland Oregon www.antilouse.com

I haven't used one (we did listerine, conditioner, RID, tea tree, and lots of combing and vacuuming!) but there are services out there: http://www.liceknowingyou.com/ Good luck!

I haven't done any in depth research on this, but apparently tea tree oil can disrupt hormone levels in kids if you don't properly dilute or if you really over do it.

My mom has been an IA at an elementary school for 25 and she has never had lice....and she hugs every kid almost every day, so she has seen her fair share over the years. She uses Tea Tree Shampoo and swears by it to prevent lice. I think I'm going to start my kindergartner on it once a week or so.

Even if your use Rid, you still (and their kit is really clear on this) have to continue to comb out the nits for quite some time. But I agree with Sheryl about olive oil. There are pages online detailing just how to use it.

When my daughter was 5 she had a recurring lice infestation over the summer---repeated attempts with Rid just never quite knocked it out.

A week or two of the olive oil treatment and our problem was solved. Neighbors confirmed their daughter had been intermittently infested for almost a YEAR before they tried the treatment.

The only problem with the olive oil treatment is how greasy your kid's hair will look, even if you wash it a LOT. But that's okay, too---it's just cosmetic.

As for cutting their hair: my daughter has luxuriant, unbelievably thick curly hair (both my husband and myself are hairy people). We had it pixie cut, with she kinda hated, but dealt with. Hair grows (hers is once again very long), it's much, much easier to pick the nits out if you don't have much hair to deal with.

The September 2004 issue of the journal Pediatrics recommends Cetaphil® Gentle Skin Cleanser. No leukemia risk and very effective. Treatment did have to be repeated twice in the study.

Be careful, if you use the wrong product or don't follow directions, the lice may not be gone yet

did you know how i treat my hair so that lices would be gone dead? i use water and insecticide. xD

i mix them together ,put them to my hair and let it sit for at least 20 mins.

Head lice can be really stubbon crittors to get rid of and I hope the above information helps you somewhat in getting rid of you head lice issues.

Nobody is insured from head lice, but hygiene should be on the first place.

I just found this blog page while looking for some help in getting rid of my daughter's lice. Upon someone's suggestion I bought the Fairy Tales Terminator Lice comb and it is AMAZING!! So much better than anything else I've found. It's a MUST for anyone wanting to make sure to get rid of it sooner rather than later.

After unsuccessfully using Nix twice, we switched to a different approach. We coated her hair in TheraNeem scalp therape conditioner and put a disposable shower cap on her and left it on for 5 hours. We had her rinse that out then used the Fairy Tales Lice Good-bye foam and the comb. Any lice I found were dead already and the eggs came out with the comb. I'm hoping we don't have to repeat too much but either way, I highly recommend the comb and even the treatment mentioned above. Thanks and good luck!

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