My Daughter Keeps Getting Lice. Help!

Lice are so gross, and such a nuisance. Unfortunately, they are also really common. Just this year alone, I’ve gotten between 7-10 notices from my kids’ school that another case of head lice was found.

YUCK.

For my sons, I help them avoid head lice by keeping their hair extremely short, pretty close to a shaved head. They are young, so they don’t think too much about what their hair looks like. Without any hair, it is pretty tough for head lice to get much of a foothold.

But for girls, it is much harder, because we don’t shave girl’s heads! So if your girl keeps getting head lice, what can you do?

Effective and COMPLETE treatment

If the infestations are consistent (and happen close in time), it is likely that she is re-infesting herself. If her hair is treated for head lice (with a chemical application, other natural treatment (like mayo and saran wrap), or at a salon specializing in it, head lice can come back if the treatment was not complete. This means not only killing the bugs in her hair, but completely removing all of the eggs.

If you are treating her hair but not making sure all the eggs are out, she’ll have the bugs in her hair again as soon as the eggs hatch.

In the United States, there have been tons of headlines about the “super lice” which are pretty much immune to the effects of common chemical headline treatments.

Anymore, the only reliably effective way to end a head lice infestation is to get all of the bugs out of the child’s hair, and remove all of the eggs so that new bugs can’t hatch. In combination with a thorough plan to remove the bugs and eggs from any opportunity to get into her hair again (or yours), you can get rid of lice for good.

You can go down the road of mayo, olive oil, clay, wraps, etc. In any event, after you apply something to try and kill the lice, the next step is to clean the lice out of the hair, and remove the eggs. I would argue that you could simply skip the mayo, don a pair of plastic gloves, put on a movie for your child, and go to town with one of those fine-toothed nit combs.

Whether you use a chemical treatment or not, combing out the yuck from your daughter’s hair will just take time, especially if she has a lot of hair. A lot of time. Get yourself a chair, and make yourself comfortable.

Do the work systematically, with CLEAN combs or hairbands to separate the hair that has been cleaned from the hair that hasn’t. Don’t put clips from the dirty hair into the clean hair.

Another thing you should do is educate yourself on what lice and their eggs look like. I’ve included a video below from a pediatrician who had some really good comments about spotting head lice and their eggs, so you can be confident that you are doing the best job possible.

In addition to treating her hair, here are some other action items for treating persistent cases of head lice

If you have a really persistent case of head lice, consider doing the following:

  • Cutting her hair shorter, so that it is easier to treat and comb out.
  • Perform daily cleanup of her hair, combing it out with the special nit comb to get any eggs that have not yet been removed.
  • Perform a radical clean of her room, including treating all pillows, blankets, sheets, stuffies, rugs, carpet, curtains, or other cloth type material in her space that could harbor lice. When I say “treating” you can wash, freeze, or even suffocate active lice.
  • Clean her backpack, school bag, athletic gear, hats, or any other item where lice could live.
  • Check everything in the house that might touch her hair–combs, brushes, head bands, hairbands, you name it.
  • Continue throughout your house–couches, rugs, lap blankets that she has used are a potential re-infestation point.
  • Clean her car seat and the general vicinity of the area where she sits in the car.
  • Check what she has at school–does she leave a hat, coat, gloves, or workout clothing at school? Clean the clothing and also the space where the clothing lives (locker, basket, etc).

If you are 100% sure she is not being re-infested at home or from her own things, INVESTIGATE

If you clean everything like a maniac, over and over, and you are constantly vigilant about cleaning up and combing through her hair, it is likely some external source is transferring the lice or eggs to her head.

Make sure you have a chat with your daughter about the source of head lice, and how important it is that she not share hats, coats, or other cloth items with other children.

Talk to your daughter’s teacher about items in the classroom that the children share, such as dress up clothing, costumes, hats, etc. Find out how often the items are washed, especially when there have been reported cases of head lice in class members. If the answer is “never” then you might have your answer.

Track your daughter’s activity schedule. Does she play at the house of a certain friend regularly? Or go to a specific playground, children’s museum, gymnastics locker room, or other location? The lice (or the eggs) are coming from somewhere, and if you are a blood hound, you should be able to eventually sniff out the source of the lice.

Finally, and I know this might be hard to do, you need to tell people that your daughter has had head lice. I don’t mean you need to put out an ad in the paper. But I do mean that you should disclose the situation to her school, so that they can let other parents know that a case has been reported. This will put other parents on high alert for lice, and collectively everyone can work together with the kids to halt transmission.

Sometimes schools will do a mass exam of all the kids in the school to see if there are other kids with lice. Parents are busy, or maybe they just don’t think to check for lice, or maybe they just don’t know what to look for. School nurses have seen head lice a lot, so they know what to look for and can quickly spot a case.

The head lice won’t stop

If you do everything possible and you can’t get rid of the bugs, contact your pediatrician. She can talk to you about prescription grade treatments that you can’t get at the grocery store. She can also help you trouble shoot the origin or continued exposure of your daughter to head lice.

Before you bounce, check out another great article from one of our many Mom Advice Line contributors:

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