On Becoming a Lice Professional

You can get a sense of what our lives are like when one day our blog talks about tsunami relief efforts up north and then, I return to the realities of scourging lice in the next.  Hopefully, this is our last entry (for awhile!) on this topic.

While still being cautious, I want to tell you that sixteen days later we are now – very tentatively – lice free.  I have not dropped my vigilance! — I am still scared every night I check every head in our family and am constantly changing pillowcases just in case — but things are looking good.

Now that I am a self-proclaimed lice professional, here are my recommendations for any moms down the road who experience the same panic that I did when I got that dreaded call from the school.  (I have to say there has been great commiseration from more people than I ever expected who have gone through this as well.  I found out that right now the Christian school on the other side of Osaka has had a really bad problem with their girls and lice- they have instituted a no-hugging policy to try and stop it).

Here are my recommendations for getting rid of lice in your family, in my own order of priority:

(Note:  we used the pharmacy lice shampoo for a week, and the lice came back after nine days before doing the last dose.  It did not seem effective enough.  Others have found it really effective, but I was concerned about using such strong shampoo for another week on children, based on what I have read about its toxins).

1) Buy a lice metal comb at the drugstore and use it EVERY night for about ten days.  The plastic ones that come in the shampoo boxes for lice do NOT work to remove the eggs from hair.  You need the metal comb;  and you need to go through each child’s head meticulously, every night.  Sometimes I found it easier to use my fingers than the comb, but the comb helps during the initial infestations.

2) Denorex  Shampoo – This was the number one recommended de-licer.  You can use it every night on your whole family safely (or at least safer than the official lice shampoo).  It is a strong dandruff shampoo – the first night leave it in everyone’s hair for 30 minutes while they are showering, then rinse.  It will feel cold and tingly on their scalps.  Then rinse it out, and use it every night for at least a week.  We are continuing for two weeks – just in case.

3)  Buy a small bottle of tea tree oil (Amazon Japan has one company that sells it for 980 yen).  Add about ten drops to your favorite conditioner  – use it after the shampoo and keep using it.  Lice hate the smell and apparently it helps prevent lice from coming back.  We also put ten or twelve drops with water in a small pump bottle and use it every morning when the kids go to school and I do their hair. You can use this oil to clean your hairbrushes and put a few drops into your laundry as well.

4)  Mayonnaise or olive oil the hair once at the beginning – apparently this smothers the live lice.  In the sink or shower massage a significant amount into the hair- all over – and wrap with several layers of saran wrap.  Leave on for at least one hour, then rinse.  You can then use the denorex shampoo and conditioner.  Some recommend keeping this in overnight – I couldn’t do that to our kids.

5) Coat the hair in vinegar after the rinse.  Seriously.  This helps loosen the nits that are stuck on the hair.  We did this the first three nights and then stopped when most of the eggs were gone. My daughters’ hated this the most, and it is sting-y on eczema or sores, so it is better to do this step in the sink.

6) LAUNDRY everything- bedding, pillowcases, pajamas, towels, couch pillows and blankets, and vacuum well.  We have changed pillow cases and towels every night this past week; and I’ve changed the sheets every other night.  Thirty minutes in the dryer works as well.

7) Cut hair if you can!  Short hair is a lot easier to find the nits. We cut our two boys’ hair. I have kept my long-haired daughter’s hair braided (the one who happens to be totally into Rapunzel/Tangled right now – I can’t bear to break her heart by cutting it).

8) Be diligent – every night- in looking for the nits.  The ones within a few centimeters of the scalp are the ones you need to be most concerned about.  They are usually shiny and off-white.

9) Follow the lead of  Betsy Ten Boom and Annie Takamoto- and practice the discipline of thanking God even for lice that have stolen six hours of your day.  I realized after several days of trying to thank Him as sincerely as possible (sometimes with gritted teeth!) – that one of the wonderful results is that it includes God in the process of what I amdoing… it allows him to enter into my bad days and my frustrations.  I don’t need to do this alone.  He wants to take the lead – and it is a beautiful thing to give away the lead and let him bear it with me.  We stilll found nits and a few lice for several days after, but I didn’t feel alone.  I could thank God, and remind him that HE needed to clean up this problem.  I don’t need to understand all of his purposes, but I can trust Him.

So, as my back has continued to not get better and cause considerable pain, I have begun thanking God (once again sometimes with gritted teeth) for my lower back pain.  And once again, God is reminding me as I do this that He is involved in my pain, that He cares for me, that I can trust Him.