(Bonus Below: A Mother in Israel’s Ultimate Guide to Lice Removal)
“Are you going to post about the lice?,” asked my teenage daughter the other night.
I had noticed my 1st-grader scratching her head, and even though it’s been a few years we located a louse right away. Since the best method is thorough, frequent combing, I wasn’t looking forward to the experience. Especially when the subject has long hair and does not always get through daily routines in a timely and calm manner.
“I’ll comb it for you tonight,” my teen offered her sister (and me). The fact is that when you have dealt with lice enough times—they are extremely common here—they stop being repulsive and combing can even be relaxing. And at this point my daughter’s close vision is a lot better than mine. I suggested she offer her services to the public for a fee, but she said it was too boring.
When I advised my little girl to avoid putting her head near those of her friends, she was dismayed. “What, no secrets?”
A Mother in Israel’s Ultimate Guide to Lice Removal
There’s no need to wash pillowcases, brushes, or stuffed animals. Lice need a constant supply of food (blood from the scalp) to survive. Eggs could theoretically hatch away from the head, but the young would not survive for more than a few minutes.
It’s nearly impossible to kill or remove all the eggs in hair. So the key is to comb often enough to catch smaller lice as they hatch and grow, but before they become old enough to lay eggs. This gives you a window of about a week for each individual insect. If a louse lays an egg just before you combed for the first time, it will not hatch for another week. And at first they are so tiny you might miss it with the comb. Two days later, you are more likely to catch it.
Always check everyone in the family.
Two weeks of thorough combing usually does the trick:
- One week to catch the live ones, big and small, while waiting for all of the eggs to hatch out.
- Another few days until the smallest ones grow big enough to catch with the comb.
- Add a couple of extra days in case you missed a few mature ones in the early days.
- If you are still finding insects at the end of two weeks, continue to comb.
I don’t use rosemary or special shampoos, although some people swear by them. Lice are resistant to the shampoos, which generally don’t kill eggs.
There’s no need to buy separate lice combs for each child, just wash well and clean with an old toothbrush after use.
Comb once every two days. You may prefer to comb every day at first, especially if there is heavy infestation.
- Wash the child’s hair and rub all over with about a half-teaspoon of conditioner.
- Use a wide-toothed comb to remove knots.
- Keep tissues or a small bucket of water for any lice you find.
- If you like, put a white towel over the child’s shoulders.
- Comb with a lice comb from the crown of the head to the ends of the hair. Repeat, moving in sections around the head until you get back where you started.
- Check the comb after each pass through the hair and remove any lice into the water or tissues.
- Be sure to comb from the scalp through to the ends of the hair.
- Comb the underside of the hair too.
- After a few days you will notice fewer insects, but remain vigilant. Don’t allow more than two or at most three days between combings. It’s normal to have a spike in the number of lice after a week or so.
- When there are fewer insects the combing will go faster, because you won’t spend as much time removing the lice from the comb.
- Drying with a hair-dryer kills eggs, but I wouldn’t rely on that alone.
“A Daughter in Israel” adds:
- Get the relatively inexpensive plastic comb that clicks open and closed. You can easily remove lice and eggs from it, and it’s comfortable for both comber and “combee.” The comb we use, Lochdan, is made in Israel by Regev.
- Take special care to comb well around the ears.
- Combing for lice requires a lot of patience.