Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Last Word on Lice

I know I might be testing the Fates, but really, there has to be an end declared, doesn't there? A friend of mine thanked me the other day for talking about lice on the blog. It honestly hadn't occurred to me not to, though of course I have enough social sense to understand it really disturbs  lot of people. (We were turned away from our dentist appointment the other day, and the receptionist told me that while she was grateful that I'd been honest and left her a message giving them a heads-up that  we had lice and a covering on the chair would be advisable, since we'd told her that we had lice,  she was going to have to ask us to leave. She acknowledged that they've probably seen many people who just didn't tell them, but in these circumstances we were out of luck. I felt like a pariah and it took two cheerful children, four madlibs and a walk around the block to calm me down.) Writing about it, especially while dealing with it alone while Dan was gone, was what made it bearable.  I thought that - heaven forbid you should get lice in your lifetime - I would share some things I learned along this little journey.

Lice don't jump. Or fly. We cannot be standing together in conversation and have them move from me to you. You don't have to take a step or two backwards. Just don't snuggle me or take my hat.

Lice like clean hair! Who knew. Of course we now have the cleanest hair we have ever ever had, which makes me a tad bit nervous, but we'll keep it doused with tea tree oil for a while to come.  Dandruff, oil, debris all make for a lousy louse habitat. We are not exceptionally dirty people.

The chemicals do not work. Lice have grown resistant to the most commonly used products, like Nix and Rid, at least in our part of the world. It was incredibly disheartening to have made the decision to put poison on my childrens' heads (and my own), which was not a decision I took lightly, but definitely made under duress, only to watch the living adults still moving around. Fortunately, none of us suffered any noticeable side effects to the chemicals, but this left us pretty much where we started.

You could absolutely shave your head and your troubles would be over. Lice attach the nits to the hair shaft an impressively uniform distance from the scalp, about 1/2 inch. (Isn't that remarkable?) If I were to deal with this again, I would consider this. It is exhausting dealing with lice! My sister and her daughter have beautifully shaved heads.

We did find a treatment that works!! My friend E has been dealing with this with her family, thanks to a recent sleepover, and in addition to still being my wonderful friend she combined a number of recipes she found online, using oils and essential oils, and came up with something we both used. Her recipe differs a bit from mine, because we both largely used what we already had, with a few additions.  Here is what we used:

Natural Lice Treatment
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup alcohol
1 tsp rosemary oil
1 tsp lavender oil
2 tsp tea tree oil
1 tsp neem oil
10 drops peppermint oil
1/2 tsp lemon oil

note: E used anise oil instead of the neem, and she also added 10 drops of ylang ylang essential oil.
The ingredients that seem to be the most important are the coconut oil, which helps to dissolve the exoskeletons, suffocates the lice, and penetrates the nit casings, and tea tree oil, which they don't like.   I also have a friend who rid herself of an infestation while backpacking in India using only neem oil. Please research all essential oils for yourself, especially if using on a young child. Some EO's, like peppermint, can affect breathing for very young children.

Mix the two carrier oils together over low heat, to melt the coconut oil.
Add the essential oils and alcohol.
Put in a spray bottle and saturate dry head.
Cover with a plastic bag and let sit for 1-3 hours (we watched a movie).

Wash out with 1/2 cup Dr. Bronner's peppermint soap combined with 10-20 drops of tea tree oil.  I have also read that you can use a vinegar rinse to get the oils out of your hair. We washed once with the Bronners and then did our combing; the nits slid right off the hair follicles, which was so nice after cutting them out or trying to scrape them off with a fingernail.  The hair is still oily, so we slept on towels that night and then washed again the following day. I have been using the Bronner's combination for the past week; we also have added tea tree oil to our normal shampoo and conditioner.

We did all of this a week ago, and initially combed out some dead lice, and since that first combing have only found nits, which should be dead.  The day we did all of this we also did another washing of our bedclothes and items of clothing we'd been wearing the days before, and vacuumed mattresses,  couch, rugs, everything. Everything I've read suggests following up a week later with another treatment of whatever you are using, in case there were nits so young and undeveloped that they were not yet needing air and couldn't be suffocated.  As I write this, the girls and I have bags on our heads, and we'll do another big combing when two hours are up! We'll still check for a few days (my sister says I'll never stop checking!), but I'm already starting to think of it as Over!

The most important thing to do is COMB. Every day, with a good lice comb (which looks a lot like a flea comb), until you aren't finding anything.  I used a head lamp when I combed the girls - doing it outside in natural light would be the best, and not so hard on your eyes.

I do hope this particular plague skips over your family, but should you find yourself with lice, just know that while it will take a huge amount of your time for a few days, it is absolutely something you can handle, it is possible to get rid of them, it just takes diligence and time! 

One of the most frustrating parts of this experience has been that there is SO MUCH INFORMATION on the internet about lice treatments, and so much of it is conflicting, or alarming, and not that helpful. A website I did find to be useful and direct is from the University of Nebraska.
:: :: :: ::

So, on to our day...as I said, we are doing a lot of sitting around with bags on our heads this afternoon, so this morning we made sure we got Out. Great discussions, about weather, about oxygen, about prayer. Don't you think these all could be related? The river was flooded from the last two days of hard rain, and the amount of garbage was amazing.
 Our destination was the farm, to see the new little bull. He's grown so much these two weeks! It seemed fitting to visit him today - we saw him the day we found out we had lice.  He is no longer in with his Mama (oh sad. with a sigh I acknowledge that his Mama and Auntie are the ones who provide us with our milk.), but has a new pen up near the farm school fire circle.  He has a bunk mate - the renegade escape artist sheep who Eliza calls Gloria. 
 The bull was so cute - he would stand really still, his huge eyes growing even huger, and then he would leap and skip, and bound over Gloria.
 Soft nose, warm tongue...
 It started to snow as we visited, so homeward we went.
Lunch, hair, movie, the rare baking of cookies (chocolate chip, apricots, pecans!) to celebrate being done...a very good day.


Stephanie said...

I'm so glad you're almost done.
I feel so exhausted and bad for you... emotionally and physically SO draining.

Thanks so much for the info - God help me if I ever need it, but I'll be remembering if I do! (or anyone else that I hear of.) I have read that tea tree is extremely helpful - I would have gone that route, too.

hugs and sympathy for you. xxoo

Anonymous said...

YAY! to being almost done. I can't even imagine. I've bookmarked this post...and might even share it on my blog as a "place to go if Lice happen to you." Such great info.

And yes, I'd have gone the tea tree route too. The smell of it practically kills me...it's got to do some damage to some lice.

And oh my...the little bull is just the sweetest thing. xoxo

ps - my verification would has *cow* in it. made me laugh.

Jessica said...

Being honest is the right thing, sometimes people just are not really educated about the facts and believe all the myths that go around.Another way (may you never ever need it) that I remembered the other day is to sufficate the little devils in conditioner left in , thickly, overnight.Glad its over.And you are not a Pariah...you are a rare homest human:)

kelly said...

This may cheer you up, or at least make you smile/ gag with horror!

When I was younger, my dad used to comb the lice out of my hair, put them all in a little ash tray and then BURN them alive...I never understood why. Vengance?

I had long, shiny straight hair that fell almost to my bottom...in the end he chopped it all off to my nose level. I never got them again after that!

Annie said...

eek! I hope I never need this information but I'm so grateful that you shared it!

Tons of love to you guys!