...or everything you wanted to know about treating head lice but were afraid to google.
Are you scratching your head yet?
As a child I used to dread seeing the nit nurse at school. Luckily I never had nits, but I'm pretty squeamish about bugs and mini-beasts and have always been filled with horror at the thought of having something living in my hair.
My children started school in September. We've received the school's nit letter a couple of times and looked at the boys' heads, but didn't really know what to look for.
A couple of weeks ago I noticed Presley and Cash scratching their heads. I had a look in their hair and saw little creatures scurrying about. I said to Andy 'they've got nits' in a voice that was an octave higher than normal.
Action stations. Operation Louse was about to begin. At my command, unleash the conditioner...
I'd never dared to google head lice. I didn't want to see the magnified images. This meant I wasn't really sure what we were dealing with. After a bit of trial and error AND FINDING EGGS IN MY OWN HAIR - ON MOTHER'S DAY - thanks, kids, I now have the answers.
First, get yourself a Nit Kit
Nitty Gritty NitFree Comb
Zapinator (Boots Electronic Head Lice Comb)*
Know your enemy
Head lice are dark brown insects that you can easily see scurrying around your child's head. They can not jump, but can crawl from head to head and this is how they are spread. They lay small brown eggs on the hair shaft, close to the scalp. One single louse can lay plenty of eggs. These eggs hatch after about a week and become head lice. The white or transparent nit is the empty egg that stays stuck to the hair.
The only way to get rid of head lice, eggs and nits is to painstakingly comb them out using a decent nit comb. We recommend the Nitty Gritty NitFree Comb (£10 from chemists and supermarkets). You can do the combing in the bath, but it takes a long time - particularly the first time - and your child may get cold. What we do is put a towel around our child's shoulders. Spray their hair with water (we use a plant mist spray). Cover their hair with a generous splodge of conditioner. Comb their hair with a normal comb first to remove any knots. Then use the nit comb. Comb the hair, section by section, ensuring the comb touches the scalp each time. After each comb through wipe the comb on a kitchen towel. You will easily see any lice, eggs or nits in the white conditioner. Keep doing this until you've got every single spec out. Add more conditioner if you need to. Rinse the remaining conditioner out when you've finished.
Every afternoon, after school, comb their hair with the Boots Electronic Head Lice Comb. We call it the Zapitnator. This will kill any live head lice, but will not remove eggs or nits. If they've picked up any new lousy companions this will get rid of them, but you will then need to repeat the attack phase to remove any eggs and nits.
You should repeat the attack phase every couple of days until their hair is completely clear - treat the whole family, not just the children. After that you should do a weekly check. This can easily be done by combing through conditioner after a hair wash. If EVERYONE did this we could wave goodbye to head lice. Sadly, not everyone is as vigilant as us. Thank goodness the Nitty Gritty comb has a lifetime guarantee.
There are shampoos and sprays available that claim to kill head lice and eggs or prevent them crawling onto your head. Anecdotal evidence suggests to me that they don't work. We haven't tried them, but you would still need to comb out the dead lice and nits anyway. We have managed without them.
For more nitty resources I recommend these posts from Mari's World and Actually Mummy.
* I received the Zapinator in a Cybermummy 2011 goody bag.