Lice Happens: It is Easier to Treat Than You May Think

The day has arrived. You get the dreaded notice from daycare or school that someone has lice. ACK! 

Before you shave everyone’s head, burn down the house, and buy a new car, relax and read on for some myth busters and a fool-proof treatment plan.

Myth #1 – Only unclean people get lice.

Truth: Lice typically prefer clean hair; it is easier for them to grip with their feet. Because you have lice does not mean you are unhygienic. For whatever reason, your head is a place lice like to live. Do not be embarrassed or stressed.  Please do not judge yourself (or others) that you aren’t keeping your children clean enough or doing their laundry well enough. Lice happens, especially in places where there are many people in close proximity to one another. 

Myth #2 – Lice jump or fly.

Truth: Lice are spread by direct contact between hair of the infected person with another person. While it is possible for a nit or louse to fall from the head of an infected person, it is rare that lice are spread from contact with clothing or personal items of an infected person. However, we often feel better when we wash all the clothing, bedding, and furniture where the infected head may have touched. 

Myth #3 – Having lice excludes my child from daycare, school, or other activities.

Truth: Check your school’s official wellness policy. While lice are obnoxious, it is not typically an exclusionary illness. It is highly recommended that as soon as you discover lice in your hair, you begin treatment for a speedy recovery and less itchy time.

Myth #4 – Lice will make me sick.

Truth: Lice are not known to spread disease or illness. They can be quite uncomfortable and cause itchiness of the scalp. This may lead to excessive scratching, which can sometimes lead to a secondary skin infection.

Myth #5 – All I need to do is wash them away.

Truth: Washing your hair does nothing, I repeat, nothing, to stop the infestation. Lice are resilient pests, and they will cling to your hair. That is how they were created and what they do best. Even if you choose a chemical shampoo specifically designed to kill lice, it will most likely only kill the adult lice, not the nits or nymphs. The only way to truly end the infestation is to remove all nits, nymphs, and lice from all of the hair. 

Myth #6 – These lice will never die!

Truth: It can feel like it takes forever to get rid of a lice infestation, but in reality, lice have short lifespans. They cannot live longer than 24-48 hours separated from a human host. Their life cycles span 8-9 days as a nit/egg and 9-12 days as a nymph until they mature into an adult louse. An adult louse may live up to 30 days on a human head, laying up to 6 eggs per day. Because of this life cycle, following the treatment plan as presented below should end your infestation relatively quickly and finitely. 

Lice Treatment Plan

Can a lice infestation be prevented?

While there are many suggested concoctions for applying to heads to prevent lice, they often bring about false hope. Seek medical advice for your best options. Personally, I found any topical application to be a waste of money, time, and effort compared to the daily combing of the hair with the perfect nit comb.

“The following are steps that can be taken to help prevent and control the spread of head lice:

  • Avoid head-to-head (hair-to-hair) contact during play and other activities at home, school, and elsewhere (sports activities, playground, slumber parties, camp).
  • Do not share clothing such as hats, scarves, coats, sports uniforms, hair ribbons, or barrettes.
  • Do not share combs, brushes, or towels. Disinfest combs and brushes used by an infested person by soaking them in hot water (at least 130°F) for 5–10 minutes.
  • Do not lie on beds, couches, pillows, carpets, or stuffed animals that have recently been in contact with an infested person.
  • Machine wash and dry clothing, bed linens, and other items that an infested person wore or used during the 2 days before treatment using the hot water (130°F) laundry cycle and the high heat drying cycle. Clothing and items that are not washable can be dry-cleaned OR sealed in a plastic bag and stored for 2 weeks.
  • Vacuum the floor and furniture, particularly where the infested person sat or lay. However, spending much time and money on housecleaning activities is not necessary to avoid reinfestation by lice or nits that may have fallen off the head or crawled onto furniture or clothing.
  • Do not use fumigant sprays or fogs; they are not necessary to control head lice and can be toxic if inhaled or absorbed through the skin.

To help control a head lice outbreak in a community, school, or camp, children can be taught to avoid activities that may spread head lice.” To reiterate though, even if you do all of these things, you could still get lice. It is not your fault. Simply follow the treatment plan to get rid of them.

Some tips for most successful treatment of lice infestation:

Get an actual nit comb that is metal and very fine toothed.

Ask your pediatrician’s office if they have any you can have. The over-the-counter plastic combs are worthless. This very fine toothed, metal comb is the best at grabbing the nit and louse from the hair shaft and removing it completely. We had the most success with the Nit Free Terminator–one of the best investments we ever made! 

Comb hair when it is wet.

The water immobilizes the lice, so you can actually get them with the comb. You do not have to wash the hair, just get it fully wet.

Start at the nape of the neck and work your way up the scalp to the front hairline in 1/4 inch sections.

This way you really go through all of the hair. You can do this on your own head, but having some help makes it much easier. 

Most hair stylists will NOT help you.

They cannot risk any contamination. This is a home treatment plan.

Stick to the treatment plan.

Yes, you will hate it–so will your child! But daily combing is the BEST way to end the infestation. You can do it!


Dawn lives life to play! Wife to Bryan and mother of four (ages 17, 14, 12, and 8,) she finds what she most enjoys and does it. Bryan tells people she hates a blank calendar; Dawn says she loves a colorful one. With a BA in Theatre and a certificate in Performing Arts Entrepreneurship from the University of Iowa, Dawn has successfully run two business and volunteered on numerous community theatre Boards of Directors. She currently colors in her calendar with Youngevity confidence consultation appointments, Chamber Singers of Iowa City board meetings, strength training and kickboxing at NLXF-NL, managing the office at BerganKDV, and setting as many dates with friends as she can. Dawn is passionate about respect and intentional choices. She loves coffee with cream, a good wheat beer, seeing someone discover something for the first time, and listening to audio books while driving.


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