During our first year living abroad in Spain we’ve had many firsts. Unfortunately one of those firsts was NOT an enjoyable experience: Piojos, which translates to…lice.
My youngest daughter had woken up one morning and would NOT stop itching her head. Some people might not think twice about this, but when living in a country that is known for these disgusting pests it was the first thing that came to mind. Sure enough I was right and discovered SEVERAL red patches on her scalp.
We did what most people would do and we immediately went to the nearest pharmacy to get the dreaded lice kit.
After spending close to 15 minutes trying to translate the directions to English we were finally ready to kill those nasty little bugs. When we applied the shampoo to our daughter’s head, it was messy and smelly. Have you ever tried keeping a plastic cover on a three-year-old’s head without having them touch or remove it? Nearly impossible. So we plopped her down on the bathroom floor with Dora the Explorer on Netflix and crossed our fingers while we waited for the chemicals to do their job.
Unfortunately the only thing that the lice kit was successful at was making a mess.
After a few days, the lice had spread to all of us. This time we decided to avoid the chemicals and go straight to the professionals. Madrid has a handful of salons that specialize in lice removal, and fortunately for Iowa City mamas there is one that provides services in Iowa City and the Quad City area. These salons typically do not use harsh chemicals and are very tedious in their quest to remove every egg, nit, and adult louse. It can be pretty pricey, but I HIGHLY recommend it.
Fortunately for us, the lice that invaded our home did not stay very long. I know that not every family has access to some of these salons or the cost, so I’d like to share a few tips that the salon gave to us for preventative measures and treatment without the use of harsh chemicals.
Preventative Measures and Lice Treatments Without Chemicals
1. Tea tree oil
Although this essential oil does not get rid of lice it is often used as a preventative measure. This can be mixed into your child’s shampoo or hair detangler.
2. Wet comb technique
Because lice is so common in Spain, I do this technique at least once a month, if not more. Watch this tutorial for step-by-step instructions.
3. Boil utensils
Place combs, brushes, and regularly used hair accessories in a pot of boiling water for 15 minutes after the discovery of lice or once a week/month for prevention.
4. White vinegar
If a lice treatment salon is not an option, the use of white vinegar can be a more effective treatment than a kit. My neighbors and friends in Spain swear by it. Mix the vinegar with an even amount of water. Soak the hair in the mixture, cover with a shower cap and let sit for 30 minutes. Repeat as needed.
5. The 48-hour rule
Lice can not live longer than 48 hours off of the host. Because of this you can place stuffed animals in a garbage bag and put them aside for at least 1-2 weeks. This suffocates the adult lice and kills any eggs that are left on the toys. After this time they can be used again. Another option would be to wash and dry in high heat along with sheets, comforters, blankets, and pillows.
To find out more information about lice and other treatments, check out the following article by my fellow ICMB contributor.