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The Lice Whisperer

The Lice Whisperer

By Amalah

Love you, your blog, your kids…My problem is lice and how to handle my daughter’s BFF who always seems to have them and always passes them to my daughter.  I love this little girl and she spends whole weekends with us all of the time, but I have to head check my daughter every time she leaves and without fail, we have lice, again and again and again.  You get the idea. Her mom knows that it is a reoccurring problem, but I think she thinks they are passing it back and forth, which isn’t true.  We clear it up and we get it again.  I don’t want to upset the little girl or her mom, but geeze, there is only so much nit picking one mom can handle.

Thanks, actually, for this dose of perspective. I’ve spent the last couple months railing against the unknown culprit who keeps sending a lice-infested kid to my son’s school so, like you, we clear it up and BAM, a month and a half later we’ve got it again. But now I realize that just because you *know* the source of the little critters doesn’t actually make the finger-pointing and demanding action any easier.

This is awkward, yes, but this is also a situation that requires the VERY ADAMANT PUTTING DOWN OF FEET. Head lice don’t carry disease or anything dangerous, but they are an incredible nuisance, not very comfortable for your daughter and can lead to missed days at school and/or teasing if her classmates start picking up on the problem. Plus, if you were to ever miss an infestation, your daughter could spread it to classmates or extracurricular teammates and THEN you’ve started a whole other cycle of kids’ parents not clearing it up all the way while the kids swap it back and forth and on and on it goes.

The next time your daughter’s friend comes over, invite her mom in for a little chat and come-to-Jesus moment. Tell her you’d really like to put a solid end to the “passing it back and forth” routine and come up with a battle plan together for ridding your households of lice. The frequent reoccurrences in her daughter suggest that she’s simply not doing enough to prevent a re-infestation — there’s SOOOOO much more to fighting lice than just a single shampoo and combing for nits one time, as I’m sure you know. Perhaps she needs a little educating on that part, but I think you can frame it in a non-accusatory way if you’re like, “hey, I’ve been doing some research and I think I’ve figured out what we both need to do to put a stop to this once and for all.”

Then like, hand her something you printed from the Internet. Here, like this! This is our personal Lice Battle Plan, adapted from an email I got from a very nice, very lice-experienced reader. IT IS AWESOME:

1) Throw out all the combs and brushes.
2) Take ALL stuffed toys and put them in giant plastic garbage bags for 3 weeks. Store the bags outside or in the garage. Collect all jackets, hats, scarves and temporarily quarantine them in a bag or plastic bin too — we’ll deal with these in a bit.
3) Put all pillows in the dryer and dry on high for 30 minutes. Don’t forget throw pillows on the sofas!
4) While the pillows are heating, wash the sheets and towels.
5) While the sheets (mattress covers) and towels are washing and the pillows are heating, spray the beds and sofas with lice repellent spray (you have just the perfect amount of time for the spray to dry on the mattresses and sofas…by the time the sheets are dry, the mattress is dry, too.
6) When your washer and dryer are free, put all the jackets, hats, scarves, etc., in the dryer for 30 minutes.
7) Spray down the car seats–especially the headrests.
8)  Put deloused kids in deloused jackets in deloused car seats, drive to Target, buy everyone one new stuffed toy, one new comb/brush, and some more lice repellent spray.
9) Wait two to three weeks. Repeat steps 3 to 7.

In addition to making sure your home is free of eggs and bugs, of course, there’s the whole delousing of the child part. I’m sure you have your own preferred process/products for that, so again you could go over that part with the mom in a “hey let’s compare notes” sort of way. Ask her questions as if you’re curious and trying to educate yourself. What products are you guys using? What are you treating the sofas and mattresses with? (Don’t be surprised if she admits it’s “nothing.”) Any chance the bugs have developed a resistance to RID or NIX and it’s time for us to switch things up? Have you tried using a repelling shampoo (with tea tree and rosemary) or spray in between treatments? Have you talked to your pediatrician about a more heavy-duty treatment shampoo? Do you know there are professional nit-picking services? Crazy-sounding I know, but I’m getting pretty tempted! Here’s the website, if you want to check it out, etc.

By the end of your chat, try to have come to a polite agreement that this needs to END. NOW, and you’ll both be following a set of all-inclusive steps to rid your girls and homes of the problem…AND that get-togethers absolutely must be preceded with a head check. It’s horrible that you basically have to ask this woman to please not send a child with an active lice infestation into your home, but as long as you agree that the checks will go both ways and you will cancel playdates and plans if you find nits on your daughter, I think you can keep it out of the accusatory “I think you’re a neglectful idiot” realm.

If it continues to happen even after this talk — that you’re confidently lice-free until the girl visits, you MIGHT need to conduct the head checks yourself. And then call her mom and tell her that sadly, the visit needs to end. I know this will be heartbreaking for both of the girls, but at some point you have to get a little tough love about this, or else resign yourself to having lice until this girl moves away or stops being friends with your daughter.

In the meantime, make sure your daughter knows to do everything she can to stay lice-free even around someone with the problem. NO combing each other’s hair or sharing brushes or dress-up hats or clothes. Try to keep them sleeping separately, with their own pillows and bedding, and “helpfully” bag up her friends’ sleeping bag and pillow as soon as possible in the morning. Spray lice repellant on everything before a visit. And good luck. Imma go try to stop scratching my own head now, because lice talk still gives me the heebies.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

Published February 8, 2012. Last updated March 23, 2012.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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