Head Lice – Every Parent’s Nightmare

Head Lice

Every time I get an email from the school I have to read it right away.  I have anxiety about the lovely principal emails, and not for any actual school-related reasons.

Whenever an update appears in my inbox I immediately tune out everything around me until I can scan the email for those dreaded words: Head Lice

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Head Lice - Every Parent's NightmareWe were lucky for a while, but the start of the 3rd week of school saw both the girls “infested.”  It wasn’t as bad as that sounds – they both had some nits and there was one louse on Emma (I think – still not 100% sure.)  So treated them both, nit-picked them both, and washed, vacuumed or quarantined everything they had touched.  Sadly the routine is old hat now.

The girls have had their fair share of head lice so far in their little lives.  The first time we experienced it I was pregnant with Rose, and Emma was probably barely 3 years old.  I had a little breakdown because I didn’t think I could deal with all the things expected of a household who finds head lice.

I didn’t want to use the horrible chemical shampoo on my 2 or 3 year old.  I didn’t think I could vacuum every surface in my house before she came into contact with the surfaces again, and I couldn’t imagine corralling all her toys and either washing and drying them or putting them in a bag for 2 weeks (and/or in the freezer – who has room for that??)  And how do you get a 2 or 3 year old to sit still for an hour while you nit comb her entire head?  Especially with a pregnant belly in the way?  Ack!

Luckily I have great family nearby so I asked for help – mostly to do Emma’s hair.  She was a star that first time.  She hated it, but she sat and let me pick and pick and pick.  The girls had thin hair as toddlers so mostly I could see what was going on in there.  I put on a movie and (no joke) she sat for a hour.  And this is after I picked through while she was in the bath getting the shampoo washed out as well.

*Update – Since I wrote this post, I’ve found a new and better product for treating the head lice that inevitably comes home with my girls. NYDA is a non-chemical treatment.  You leave it on the hair for 8 hours (or overnight) and then wash it out.  It’s supposed to kill the lice on contact, and suffocate the nits over that 8 hours.  It works well for us, and I’ve even done an application in the morning (after finding a louse while putting up someone’s hair) and then washing it out that night after dinner.


We’ve been fortunate that neither girl has had a serious infestation.  I’ve managed to find it early every time (and there have been 4 large bottles of lice treatment amounts of times!) and alert daycare (or school, friends, and wherever else they’ve been), which is where I think they came into contact with it – but not necessarily in the daycare house.  They used to go to all sorts of programs and other places (which is also why I loved my daycare!) where the girls came into contact with lots of kids.  Never have I been sure where the lice came from.  I find that very frustrating.

Head Lice
Look at all that hair!

A few things we do now (that may or may not be helping!) routinely:

  • NYDA is an non-chemical treatment – I put it right into the kids shampoo bottles, and then add a few drops to the squirt I put into my hand as well right before shampooing.
  • Check the hair all the time – like while we’re watching tv and the kids are cuddly.  Catching it early is key!
  • Wearing hair up as much as possible – this isn’t often in my house because no one likes their hair brushed, and that’s a vital component to being able to put it up!
  • Using conditioner – I know there’s conflicting evidence about conditioner use and head lice, but here Emma uses conditioner now (if she didn’t there’d be no hair combing after!) and I often forget to do the tea tree oil, and she had not had lice in years.  May be a coincidence, may not.
  • Teach the kids about head lice – how it’s spread, how early detection is key, and how to stick their hats into the sleeves of their coats.  If they understand why we need to do this stuff, they are way more likely to comply.  At least that’s my experience.  For a bit Rose was confused about “hair bugs” and “sugar bugs” (you know, the ones that cause cavities)  That made for interesting teeth brushing conversations because that was often when I would try to look through her hair as well.

If you’ve followed me from my Blogger days – first of all THANK YOU! but secondly I did recycle this post from there.  I updated it and added some photos but most of the body is the same.  And I still hate head lice.

Do you have any other tips or household things you do to help keep lice under control and out of your house?  What we’re doing is working most of the time, but I read so much about the “super lice” that I’m still hyper aware that my kids spend a huge amount of time with kids I don’t know!  Please share in the comments if you have any helpful ideas!



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  1. Hi Jess, my two had head lice once and after that I religiously used a natural repellent based on essential oils. They may have gone to school smelling funny, but they never had head lice again!… I never used chemicals to get rid of them either, but I did use mayonnaise. I wrote a post a couple of years ago, in my early blogging days that I keep thinking of resurrecting….

    Mayonnaise is excellent for getting rid of them as the oil suffocate the lice and the eggs and the vinegar dissolves the ‘glue’ that attaches the eggs to the hair shaft.

    You do have to smother the hair and leave it in for a couple of hours or more. The apply plenty of conditioner, and comb out the nasties. You have to repeat it once more about four or five days later to make sure none have survived.

    At the time of doing it I did have my doubts, but can hand on heart say it worked for me.


    1. That’s a great tip Debbie – thanks for sharing! I found the source of this outbreak – my little niece who the girls had a bath with the weekend before I discovered the nits. I was a fount of knowledge for my sister-in-law as far as dealing with it!

  2. Ugh! I read the title and I am itching already….hehehe
    My 9 year old so hasn’t had them for a good few months now. Eek! I have taken to spraying her hair with hairspray as well as having it in a tight ponytail. It seems to be working. x

  3. I hate head lice! But I scare the girls with headlice story in an effort to get them to tie up their hair, although they do get confused with nits, knots and just bugs in general. I like the conditioner tip. Might give that a go and someone mentioned Vosene for kids is good for keeping nits at bay.

    1. I’ve never heard of Vosene – I’ll have to look it up. I did definitely confuse my (then) 4yo with hair bugs and sugar bugs. Brushing your hair doesn’t help with hair bugs the way brushing your teeth helps with sugar bugs. Took a bit to straighten that out!

  4. We had one outbreak a few years back and it was seriously the worst few weeks of my life. The only bright spots were that my daughters enjoyed staying up extra late and hanging out in the bathroom while we did the dreaded comb through and I lost five pounds running around the house with the vacuum cleaner and doing massive amts of scrubbing and laundry

    1. Isn’t it amazing what kids get a kick out of? My girls like sitting and watching a movie while I treat/pick out their hair. When they were younger I had to get out playdoh or something they can do easily that would occupy their attention. My youngest hated (and still does to a degree) anyone doing anything with her hair. It’s gotten better, and I’ve gotten better, so it’s not so awful anymore (but it’s still a TON of work!) Thanks for the comment Kristin!

  5. The school has a homework-free night here to check for lice (can that count as the one true positive associated with the blighters?) We have managed to escape them so far but it’s only a matter of time before the inevitable happens. I’ll be using your tips when the time comes!

    1. That’s actually a great idea! And doing regular checks is so important. In our house I’ve found the buggers at an early stage every time. Usually there is one louse and some (15 at most) nits. That means they’ve only had it for about 3 days. I’d hate to find it in the multi-bug stage. That would cause my anxiety to skyrocket, I’m sure! Thanks for your comment. 😀

  6. Pesky blighters. I found the best thing to do was a weekly comb through regardless when the girls were young. It sounds as if you have things sorted 🙂 I thought it would all end in Secondary school…how naive I was! Alison x

    1. I fully expect to deal with this until the kids leave home, or start actually styling their hair with product. I never do anything with my hair so they’ll have to learn that somewhere else! Checking the hair weekly is a great idea. It also ensures you find it quickly if they do get them. Thanks for the tip Alison!

  7. they are gross. I had no idea as my son had avoided them then my daughter got them age 2.she has short hair but its really thick so i had to spend ages combing through it and the little blighters just kept on coming. They have wings!! I did not know that. #stayclassymama

  8. We seem to have missed headlice so far in our household, but I’m not taking any chances so have cut my daughter’s hair into a bob – it is really thick and curly and I just don’t fancy trying to de nit or delouse her! #EatSleepBlogRT

    1. For a while I kept my younger daughter’s hair really short as well. It does help. Now she wants long hair like her sister, so who am I to argue? I just had to have the talk with her about letting me brush, and take care of, her long hair. It’s working so far, but she also had to let me treat and nit-pick her now-longer hair!

  9. God, I’m cringing just reading this. I have such awful memories of having head lice as a child and I live in fear of my son getting them now he is in preschool – bleh. I’m grateful to have a boy though, with short hair (although I would have my own hair to worry about I guess!)

    Thanks for the tips xx #EatSleepBlogRT

    1. I hope you’re right about having a boy, and having the short hair. I think some people are just more susceptible to it. I’ve never had it *touch wood* but my kids have had it many times each…Thanks for the comment Laura!

  10. Touch wood we have not had to deal with this yet – I think maybe boys are a bit less susceptible because of their short hair – but I am on constant vigilance! Thanks for sharing with #EatSleepBlogRT

  11. Eugh headlice. Makes my head itch just thinking about them. My daughter now 19 used to get them all the time and it was a nightmare as she has really reaaly thick hair. The thickest I’ve ever known. It used to take hours combing through it. My son started school this September and hasn’t had them yet but he hates having his hair cut, washed or brushed sonia he does get them imagine how much fun that’s going to be and then there’s my youngest daughter who also has thick thick hair so I’m absolutely dreading the day she comes home with them too. Most annoying thing is when you finally get rid of them over the school holidays, send them back and the cycle starts all over again.


  12. Just reading this post makes my head itchy! I can remember getting head lice quite a few times in school and I was always so jealous that my brother was able to get away with just a quick shave of his head (his normal hair cut anyway!)… now I am thankful that I have three boys and if they ever come down with lice we can just shave their heads and do with a quick shampoo (though I dread the treatment of stuffed animals as we have quite a collection!!).

  13. Lice was the single worst experience to date that has hit our family. Last season. Both girls and the Mrs. I stayed free and clear, but treated anyway. We have a non-chemical way that as you know, contains great amounts of tea tree oil. What a horrid affair. I decided I preferred our flat having mice than the girls having lice. The laundry, the vacuuming, the toys, the cleaning — oy vey. I have PTSD! Great post! #mg

  14. I’ve heard that tea tree oil is great too, why am I scratching my head right now? Any time they get mentioned I get itchy! We have been lucky enough to only have it on one occasion with both girls only having a few lice, my son so far has avoided it. But it was horrible it took a few repeat goes to get rid of them ad I hated doing it, even though I was a nurse I hate lice it is just different and creepy. I am not into bugs unless they are where they are supposed to be and that’s in the garden. Thanks for sharing with #mg oh and PS did I mention both my girls have really long hair which made it less fun

    1. My head gets itchy even thinking about checking my kids for lice! Long hair is so hard to work with. I’m glad to hear you’ve only had it once. I hope you don’t get it again!

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