The Truth About Lice

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The Truth About LiceYou’re already scratching your scalp, aren’t you? There is such a stigma surrounding lice. That is the #1 reason I am writing this anonymously. You know that if I told even one friend, the news would travel fast and everyone we know would avoid us at all costs for who knows how long. The truth is that while lice are disgusting and hard to get rid of on your own, it is a fixable situation, and you can resume your social activities without anyone being the wiser.

I never got lice as a child. I remember it being something we feared in school but was told the normal precautions like not trying on hats at the store, not sharing brushes and not using friends’ hair accessories. We tell our offspring the same, but kids will be kids and they’re going to do these things anyways, even with the fear factor statements. The truth is that getting lice has nothing to do with hygiene or the cleanliness of your home. You can take your daily shower and keep your home spotless, but that won’t stop a pesky louse from crawling from one head to another when hairs intertwine and items are shared.

Let me take you back to a day in April.

I stepped out of the shower feeling so fresh and clean. The first thing I do is use my detangler comb, so you can imagine my surprise when I noticed a tiny bug on my comb. Not thinking much of it, I still decided to place it on a tissue to show my family members the bug that took a shower with me. It wasn’t moving, so I assumed it was dead. One of my kids actually said, “What if it’s lice?,” which honestly hadn’t even crossed my mind, and both my husband and I were like “Nooooooo, there’s no way!” I used my bug finder app on my phone and to my horror discovered she was right!

Adult louse I found on my comb.

That one small stroke of (bad) luck is what led us to check our children and we quickly found the “host” of our home. Luckily, our other kids weren’t infected, but based on an internet lice calendar, we estimated our lice-infested child had had it for 4-6 weeks! This is the child who I bathe multiple times a week…the child whose hair I brush every day…the child whose ponytails and pigtails and braids I do myself! How did I never see them or the multitude of eggs?! I was flabbergasted that she could have a true infestation that went unnoticed for so long!

Over the next several days, we spent HOURS scouring all the heads in our home over and over again, spending extra time on our infected child. The number of hours we racked up in one week could have qualified as a part-time job. We kept it up until I felt I had found every single adult, baby and egg on that head of hers. We fine-tooth combed, we electronic zapper combed, we wore headlamps, we used magnifying glasses, we boiled brushes, we laundered sheets, we heated stuffed animals, we special shampooed, we lint-rolled furniture, we vacuumed, we did allllll the things. I was 90% confident we had conquered this…until 10 days later when I saw more on her. At this point, I was about to fall apart, so we called the professionals and got it taken care of once and for all. (More on these professionals below).

I learned way more about lice than I ever intended. If you’ve got a lice issue, look no further than this post. All my research is here. Did you know…

*Just because you have lice, it does not mean your scalp will be itchy. We estimate our daughter had them for around 4-6 weeks and her head never itched.
*They are SO hard to see because they are partially clear and partially the color of your hair.
*Lice need blood to live. They suck blood from your scalp. A louse can only live off the head for 48 hours before it’ll die.
*Nothing in the world can kill lice eggs (nits) unless you’re willing to set your head on fire or sit in a freezer for 8 hours. They must be combed out before they hatch.
*Drugstore products don’t work. Lice have evolved over time and are immune to even pesticides, so the “safe” non-pesticide shampoo isn’t going to work.
*Lice can hold their breath for 19 hours which is why doing a normal load of wash or taking a shower won’t kill them. They shut their bodies down as if they’re dead, but then revive themselves once they’re back in normal conditions. The one I found on me after my shower that I thought was dead? It wasn’t.
*Stabbing them repeatedly with a toothpick doesn’t work. I tried. Even after its insides were out, it kept walking.
*Adults are the size of a sesame seed. Nits (eggs) are smaller than a strawberry seed. Nymphs (babies) are the size of a ground pepper flake. And if you find one and it scurries down the hair shaft, good luck finding it again.
*Eggs stick to the hair shaft. You can distinguish eggs from dirt or dandruff because the dandruff will move; the egg won’t.

Eggs (aka nits)

*Their favorite areas are the nape of the neck and behind the ears. I found a bunch on the crown as well. They stay close to the scalp to keep warm.
*Lice cannot fly. They can only crawl.
*Nits take about one week to hatch. Nymphs take about 9-12 days to mature into adults.
*A female louse only needs to mate one time to have enough eggs to continuously lay babies for the rest of her life.
*A female louse lays about 7-9 eggs per day.
*They cannot travel through fabric, so washing sheets will suffice. If you’re worried about couches, mattresses or pillows, take a sticky lint roller to them.
*They cannot give you diseases. They are purely a nuisance.
*Almost everything I read spoke to heating things up (put stuffed animals in the dryer for 45 minutes, boil your brushes for five minutes, etc.). The professionals actually told us it’s not about burning them; it’s about dehydrating them. Put your hair accessories in a Ziploc bag and place in the freezer overnight. This will dehydrate them and keep you from having to throw everything away.
*Buns and braids are the best two hairstyles to prevent louse transfer.

Many cities have companies that solely deal with lice and the people that work there are angels on earth for doing something most people would not want to do on a daily basis. Knoxville is no different.

Here are a couple places that can rectify your stressful case of lice:

Knoxville Lice Clinic (KLC)
4006 Sutherland Ave, Knoxville, 37919
865-245-5353
(This is who we used and they were excellent.)

LiceDoctors
865-643-8382
(These people will come to you and treat you in the comfort of your own home.)

I hope you never have to deal with this buggy issue, but if you do, rest assured it is treatable and you’ll have stories you can tell keep to yourself forever and ever!

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