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!