Repeated headlice infestations

I’m at my wits end with my kids repeatedly getting headlice - I’m guessing at their BUSD elementary school. We’re on our 4th round since March 2019. Whenever either of my kids gets lice, we do the whole house cleaning thing and running pillow cases and towels through the dryer. We even have our housekeeper doing bed linen laundry now so it’s cleaned even more often - it’s ridiculous. We treat every person with hair in the house with Nix (3 times 7-9 days apart) AND nit comb daily, then every other day, then every 3 days, then weekly after that. Forever. Until I find lice again (~ 2 months later). And then we repeat the cycle. Our only respite has been summer break (in camps - still around tons of kids). One of my kids’ classrooms has been infested all year based on the notes coming home. The other I’m not sure about because I don’t get a notice even when I notify the teacher and room parent that my kid has lice - I assume they’re just not notifying? The whole thing is extremely time consuming (hours of lice combing), expensive (lice shampoos, extra housekeeper time, so much electricity for the dryer), and just frustrating. I’ve tried lice repellents (which I’m pretty sure don’t do anything), repeatedly notifying the school, and I’ve spoken to my pediatrician who basically said keep doing what you’re doing. I’ve told my kids to never share hats or hair products, never put their heads on the rugs and pillows at school, etc. And they’re motivated - they are not fans of the lice combing. What else can we do? Has anyone else experienced this and broken the cycle? 

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RE: Repeated headlice infestations ()

HI,

Sounds like you are all over it!  One area you didn't mention, but probably do, is the car and the car-seats. Bag up all stuffed animals, just leave them there for 3 months. vacuum the mattress.

Been there, done that.

RE: Repeated headlice infestations ()

Very short hair does reduce transmission somewhat and makes treatment easier. Do any of your kids still have long hairstyles?  I’d go as short as they can tolerate.  But it sounds like the school should be doing more.  

RE: Repeated headlice infestations ()

Here's what worked for us - it sounds like you're on the right track: Do a spot check (visual, running your fingers through the hair and especially looking around the nape and ears, or better yet, a combing) on all the kids at least once a week, even if you don't think they're infested/exposed, so you can stay ahead of anything they bring home before it becomes a full-blown infestation. If you get word of a lice outbreak in the classroom from the school or the parent grapevine, inspect them daily. When lice/nits are found, comb with a lice comb twice a day (morning and night). If you're diligent about the combing, you don't even need to use pesticides - really, I've done it. If your kid has longer hair, it might be worth paying for some place like Nit Pixies to do the initial comb-through. I also liked the Robicomb, which zaps the lice (it at least feels satisfying to fry the little buggers), although you still need to use a fine comb, too, to get out the nits. Laundry and vacuuming won't kill lice - bag up and put away anything like pillows and soft toys for a few days, but don't kill yourself cleaning the house. The key to beating them is remembering their limitations and time frame: They can't crawl far, they can't fly or jump; they can't live more than about 3 days off a human head (no other part of the human will do); nits take 6-9 days to hatch. So focus on removing lice from food sources and constantly removing any nits before they hatch, and they won't last long. Good luck - you can do it!

RE: Repeated headlice infestations ()

We went through about 2 years of this, and it was so, so frustrating.  Long enough in between infestations that I knew it wasn't just treatment failure on our part, but not long enough to feel any respite from it all. I can't say that I broke the cycle, but I did learn to make it easier to deal with. A couple of things: First, stop treating people who don't have lice.  Unless you see crawling insects on a head, don't treat. For all the bazillion times my kids had lice, I never did.  Second, stop treating things; things don't have lice.  A louse off a human head is a louse in a desperate situation, and you don't need to do anything special to kill them - which makes sense, because otherwise we'd all be getting lice all the time from buses and movie theaters and airplanes and etc etc.  So, sure, change linens, but you don't need to do any special or immediate laundering, and vacuuming or other cleaning is very unlikely to get you any return.  Finally, do monitor status carefully.  Don't rely on school notifications or feelings of itchiness, because the earlier you catch it, the better.  It also gave me a lot of reassurance that I was treating effectively and that cutting back on lice-specific housecleaning wasn't making things any worse.  At least once a week, run a lice comb through hair in the shower or bath when it has some conditioner in it, see if anything turns up.  This isn't a detail comb-for-treatment, just a spot-check comb-through, and you will get quick at it. Good luck and know that It does end - if my two years is at all representative, you're about halfway through!

RE: Repeated headlice infestations ()

Lice consumed our life for a little over a month recently.  Frustrated with the time we were spending on Nix (2 treatments, as directed by pediatrician's office - more intense than the box instructions) and thereafter Cetaphil (not a horrible process, but time consuming since it doesn't kill nits) we gave up and paid for a salon dryer treatment in Castro Valley.  It was not cheap but I'm so glad we did it.  I think the salon was called Lice Center or Lice Control.  There are also comb out salons but they are usually a multi-visit commitment and it just feels like it is more subject to human error.  

As for the housekeeping, a 10-20 minute run for blankets/pillows/clothes in a hot clothes dryer is more than sufficient.  You don't need to also do the wash.  The odds of getting lice from the ground is almost nil but no harm in a quick vacuum.  According to an AU study I read, the odds of getting lice from a blanket/pillow is about 5%.  Nearly all cases are transmitted from direct head-to-head contact - lice cannot jump. Think hugs, hovering around a tiny screen/iPhone, parents holding the kid at eye level, playing closely together, etc.    

But one of the keys is to tell other parents that your kids have it.  If parents think there is an immediate threat, they will actually check their kids.  The emails from school go ignored - particularly if they haven't dealt with it before or assume it is "not their kid's friends". 

And finally, don't overlook treating/checking the adults in the house!  Even short hair is long enough.  :)

RE: Repeated headlice infestations ()

The problem does not lie in what you are doing, but what the other parents are NOT doing. Someone in the class is not doing a thorough job and is probably reinfesting the class again and again. I would talk to the principal, but am not sure much is going to change. I am a teacher and thought that your situation was typical until I changed schools and saw that kids in other schools weren't getting lice nearly as often as in my previous school. Good luck.

RE: Repeated headlice infestations ()

So sorry you’re dealing with this! Do your kids make bodily contact with their friends? Or do their jackets touch other kids’ things? Some kids love to hug their friends or roughhouse or show other affection. Those are perfect moments for lice to move from kid to kid. When there’s lice around, my kid keeps some distance, and stuffs her jacket in her  backpack at school (zipped up). We also use Babo lice repellent shampoo and spray. We’ve had good luck with all these steps. 

RE: Repeated headlice infestations ()

Try blow drying the hair. From the web:

A standard home blow dryer will kill 96.7% of eggs with proper technique. To be effective, the blow dryer must be used repeatedly (every 1 to 7 days since eggs hatch in 7 to 10 days) until the natural life cycle of the lice is over (about 4 weeks).

RE: Repeated headlice infestations ()

My daughters had this problem, too. They got it zillions of times- esp my older daughter. But they slept in the same bed together, so... It was rare that only one of them had it. The only thing that has worked for us to ward off further infestations at this point has been to put tea tree oil on and around their hair right before school. I know it wears off throughout the day, but it seemed to prevent the little buggers from choosing OUR kid from then on. They also dislike oily hair and peppermint so I made some mint spray that we also used. You should generously spray their hair & shoulder-area to create an aura of BACK OFF! Good luck. 

RE: Repeated headlice infestations ()

Have you tried the Robicomb? https://www.liceguard.com/ Several of the teachers at the school where I work swear by it. 

RE: Repeated headlice infestations ()

I think there are places that specialize in lice treatment.  They treat, remove, and provide a certificate that allows the child to return to school the next day.  It actually is a fairly efficient process so appointments are prompt.  I'm new to the East Bay thus I don't have any place to recommend around here.  We were at a private school in the South Bay at the time which accepted these certificates.  The cost is not small but it makes a lot of sense to have the child return to school ASAP.  On the home front, we were told to bag all impacted linens, stuffied, etc. for a certain period of time -- I can't remember how long.  Any entrenched lice will die.  This presumably worked for us since we've only ever had that one infection (knock on wood).  At one parent co-op style public school, parent volunteers regularly check the entire class for head lice to keep it at bay.  At one school district, parents have arranged to have a vendor do voluntary lice checks for a small voluntary fee.  I think the key though is to use smaller area rugs in the classroom that can be laundered or bagged as needed.  It's really hard to convince little kids to not lie down on carpeting.

RE: Repeated headlice infestations ()

We dealt with this A LOT when my kids were in elementary school (in our case the source was my sister's kids who lived in another country; we got them every time they visited.) The first time I went a little crazy with the cleaning and the treating (and ruined a few stuffed animals in the dryer), but after a while I learned to handle it more calmly. First of all, as someone else already commented, you don't have to worry too much about the linens or pillows or stuffed animals. Lice can't survive off a human head for very long. So just regular laundry and vacuuming should be fine. Second, unfortunately the chemicals are kind of hit-or-miss now. Since you can't really count on them, you might as well not use them. Third, don't listen to any advice that discourages use of conditioner. Conditioner makes it much easier, especially with longer hair. Neither of my kids were interested in cutting their long hair over this. You can comb long hair if necessary. We also liked the Rosemary Repel products from Fairy Tales hair care. I can't say they worked 100%, but I don't think we got lice when we were using them. And they are just regular hair care products. The conditioning spray is extra useful for combing and prevention. 

What really saved my sanity though is a website called "The Lice Program" that gives you a combing schedule based on the lifecycle of the louse. You can get them under control by combing alone, and you can relax on the days where you don't have to do anything. Here is the website: http://www.microscopy-uk.org.uk/theliceprogram/ 

Good luck! This too shall pass. Once upon a time this consumed my life, but now it is just a distant memory. 

RE: Repeated headlice infestations ()

So many answers! This is a great community. I am sorry you are having to deal with this and I can empathize. I have dealt with lice MANY times in the past 10 years, most recently last school year about 3 times (we are also BUSD). Several times I have had to treat up to 5 or 6 or more people at a time. I agree with quite a few answers here, there is some great advice. I wanted to add my 2 cents.

I'd stop using the NIX, honestly. More doctors and experts are talking about the problem of "super" lice becoming pesticide resistant. It is possible that you might be dealing with this and this is why they seem to keep coming back?? Even if just 1 or 2 adults or nymphs survive, re-infestation can occur. I am by no means an expert, this is just something I have been made aware of over the past few years. Without even going into the toxicity of the pesticide treatments, honestly they are just becoming less effective. There are some supposedly stronger pesticides now, however, I have found some natural options to work MUCH better. These are the products I use now, they work for us every time:

" LiceFreee! Gel and Shampoo Head Lice Treatment Kit " - https://www.walgreens.com/store/c/licefreee!-gel-and-shampoo-head-lice-treatment-kit/ID=prod6274371-product It is affordable (just over 21 bucks from this link at Walgreens). Sometimes it is available in the drugstores locally, more often than not I have to buy it online.

LiceFreee! brand also makes a spray-in (leave in, no rinse required) product. It works, too, but I still have had to do the shampoo/conditioner/comb-out routine to get the best results. I prefer their gel product.

I agree with advice here on using conditioner. Don't need to avoid it. It helps when combing out wet hair to get the lice and nits out. Also, get a good lice-specific very fine comb!!! The one in the LiceFreee! kit is great but there are other ones on the market that are also good. Frequent combing out sucks, yes, but it is still the most effective to keep them under control and prevent repeat infestations. Say the kids come home with a single louse picked up from who-knows-where-- if you are doing your weekly or bi-weekly scalp checks and comb-outs, it can nip a reinfestation in the bud if you catch it before it has a chance to lay too many eggs, and this is much easier on sanity, the schedule, and the budget.

A note on the LiceFreee! shampoo: It does seem to help us each time we use it. When the kids have lice, we all (all 4 of us, me and husband as well) use the shampoo daily during treatment and for up to 2 weeks after our 2nd treatment. I have tried other brands and was on the fence as to whether or not they helped at all. I don't know for certain what might be different about this brand, but it works for us at least. I still use it frequently, especially if we get a notofication from school about another child with lice.

One person here mentioned bagging up stuffed animals, car seats, etc, for 3 months. I used to believe this as well, so I understand their kind intentions! The fact is though, like another poster also mentioned, headlice don't live for long off their hosts. For anything you can't run through a HIGH heat dryer cycle, 72 hours of isolation/bagging is usually sufficient. If you want to be sure you can make it 4 or 5 days.

I hope this helps! Take care!

RE: Repeated headlice infestations ()

Buy a couple of large bottles of inexpensive conditioner (Grocery outlet often has good choices like Everyday Organics for a reasonable price).  Buy the nit comb called "nit terminator comb" google it, It's a very good and sturdy one.   Keep the nit comb in the shower.   Preventatively, maybe once per week or more often if you like, put a big glob of conditioner in, and spend 2-3 minutes combing through in the shower. With the conditioner and running shower, the comb will go through hair like butter.  If a louse found its way into the hair, even if it started laying eggs, I think you could nip it in the bud and get rid of them before the first round of eggs hatch.  And study the life cycle of lice online,  It helps to understand the egg gestation and timing to go from a single louse to a head full of lice.   This is advice from a long-haired mom who caught lice from her kid.  Keep on combing. 

RE: Repeated headlice infestations ()

First of all I want to respond to the comment that you should bag your stuff for 3 months. That's waaay too long. The maximum time you need to bag is 2 weeks, and that's only out of an abundance of caution, in the outside chance a nit somehow survived after it fell off your head and hatched, which is quite unlikely. On to your post: Sounds like you have done everything, but next time your family has lice, try a lice salon. I like "Dr. Z's Lice Free Lice Removal Salon" in Walnut Creek. Whenever they have treated my son's hair, it is once and done--subsequent hair checks show that his lice/nits was gone after one treatment. That way you know for sure that you have killed the lice properly, as I hear NIX is not as effective as it once was. Dr. Z also does a check for all the family members, so you will know that you didn't accidentally miss someone, but I recommend only treating the ones who have lice. Then do what everyone else has suggested--vacuum, change the sheets, bag up the stuffed animals. At least that you you know you have taken care of things on your end. What you can't control is what other people in the classroom are doing. In my school district, some harebrained official has decided that the school is not allowed to notify parents if there is lice in the classroom, so lice is basically roaring around unchecked, as parents often don't notice their child has lice until it has infested their hair. Dr. Z sells this peppermint scented spray that you spray on your child's hair. Lice is supposed to hate the smell so they are less likely to crawl off someone else's head onto your child's hair. We also use Fairy Tales Rosemary Repel shampoo, which also smells strongly to discourage lice. I don't know if it works, but it's worth a try. (Note that some people are allergic to these essential oils!) Cut hair short if you can, tie it up in braids if you can't. After his entire grade was infested one year (thanks school district!), I actually buzzed my son's hair off. He did not get lice again that year, but he hated his haircut, so now we use the peppermint spray. Good luck!