Lice is coming to get you…

“Lice is coming around both classes,” a mom wrote in the class Facebook thread. I consult the thread for all notices and assignments that don’t survive, but lice terrifies me to the core.

It’s the “He Who Shall Not Be Named” in my universe.

I teach high school–we don’t see “The L Word.” I’ve had one lice report in all my time teaching. High school kids don’t share hats, they don’t rub their hair on each other, or cuddle for stories, and they certainly don’t lend out their $200 Beats. They’re low-risk. Thank God.

But my boy’s in elementary school.

“If he gets (the L word) I will pay any one of you to take care of this.” That’s how I answered the lice thread.

I’m totally serious about this.

If you’re looking for a side-job making millions, be a lice buster. Come into my home, boil all the clothes, shave the boy’s hair, and do what you have to do to make sure his favorite stuffed animal is ready for bedtime. Broke teacher talk aside, here’s the password for my bank account and the pin number for all my credit cards. Put me on retainer and get rid of the creepy-crawlies, fast.

Don’t panic over lice.

There are a number of things you can do to protect yourself from lice.

First, there are the commercially available insecticides–the kind you’d never allow to be sprayed on your produce but you’ll say “just this once” to dousing your kid if it meant staying parasite free.

Then there are the all natural herbal preventatives–the kind that smell bad enough to keep your child single up to and including the prom.

The best cure is an ounce of prevention. Teach kids from the minute they enter school not to share hats, headphones, or winter clothing items. If you’re a teacher with long hair, braids and buns are the safest option. I always thought the image of the old schoolmarm was of a lady without fashion. It’s not. It’s of a genius warding off lice.

My mistake.

Lisa’s Lice Repellant

Lisa, a fifth grade teacher and experienced mom shared her natural lice repellant:

  • Mix five drops each of tea tree, eucalyptus, peppermint, lavender, and rosemary essential oils into 1/2 cup carrier oil.

Carrier oils are any food or skin-grade oils that you use to dilute the essential oil. Many essential oils are too strong to be used on their own. They can cause reactions and rashes at full strength. Since there is no common measure of the strength of essential oils you must dilute them. Use no more than twenty drops total in 1/2 cup of carrier oil. You don’t want to trade your current situation for welts and itching instead.

When diluting your essential oils use food-grade or skin grade oil, not low-grade oil intended for lubricating machines.

Lice Prevention Shampoo

I found several varieties of homemade lice force field shampoo.  I’m going to try this simple one. I found it in several locations on Pinterest, which means it must be effective, but I’ll let you know for sure.

  • Add 15-20 drops of tea tree oil to a bottle of shampoo. Mix well and use on school days.

This is going to smell like tea tree oil no matter what fragrance you get, so take a Sharpie, label this bottle “Force field shampoo” and know that you will smell worse than a person wearing a garlic necklace. But, you will be doing your part to repel lice.

I hope that’s enough to save the day.

What do you do if your child gets lice?

While preparing my battle plans, I found tons of home remedies for humans, toys, and furniture. Many include vinegar, coconut oil, neem oil, and things I just don’t want to spray on my nice couch. It’s a living room, not a tropical pickle factory.

Besides, here’s a space where I’m ready for overkill. Lice scares the bejeesus out of me.

I’m going for the industrial stuff on this, no matter how much of a grow-my-own-food-zero-waste-hippie-crunch-anachronism mom and teacher I am. There comes a time when a person must face his or her beliefs and stand up for them.

This is not that time.

What are my options?

Chemical and traditional options include prescription and over the counter remedies like the Rid systemSchool Time ShampooLice Free Spray or the Terminator Lice Comb.

I found something even more interesting–a lice vacuum.

The V Comb vacuums up lice and seals them in a filter chamber which you throw away–it’s a Dyson for lice. Natural mom reviewers reported using this as their only defense, but if it were me, I’d vacuum, spray, hose down, and  sandblast my kid too.

The V-Comb unit isn’t cheap–it’s $49-$59, but it’s cheaper than sending the boy away to climb Mt. Everest, where I’m sure the lice would eventually freeze and die.

Does my child need to stay home?

Experts are currently debating whether you should send your child to school when you discover lice. This New York Times article shows a growing school of thought in the medical community that says “send them to school.” Often, what parents think is lice is dandruff or a scalp irritation. Even with lice itself, some doctors recommend treating your children then getting them right back immediately.

Many schools have a no-nit policy stating that students must be nit-free prior to returning.  I like that more.

The bottom line is this–even if a child seems to be cured, all it takes is that one tiny egg to survive and hatch and the infestation starts again. That might sound like irrational fear, but it’s true. carier still is the fact that lice–like most parasites, microbes, viruses, and plagues in the making, can adapt to resist treatments. It’s a horror movie in the making.

Given the fact I’d be sentenced to boiling, freezing, or spraying everything my child touched, and taking away some of his beloved toys, I want to make sure I keep that stuff far away. And I’d like to keep it away from you should it ever occur.

Health education and some serious herbal remedies should do the trick, but if they fail, don’t panic. Buy a bottle of wine and start the cleanup.

Buy two, in fact–a second bottle for when you’re done. Your cleanup will go faster, and you’ll hardly remember a thing.


[Photo credit: Guido Reni, “Massacre of the Innocents” 1611]