Anxiety about Kids Getting Head Lice

Archived Q&A and Reviews


    Are head lice outbreaks increasing?

    Jan 2009

    My question is NOT about the treatment for head lice but rather: Is it just us, or are head lice outbreaks increasing in the Bay Area?

    Despite frequent head-checks, using own pillows at sleepovers (well, they're teens, not sure they actually do it), 4-hour NIX treatments (sometimes again in 7 days even if no new nits found, just in case), etc. etc., we've been through at least 5 occurrences in the past year and a half. 3 have remained isolated to our teen. Thanks, Tired Parent

    Part of the problem is that lice have become resistant to the pesticides used in over-the-counter shampoos (permethrin or a relative). Even a 4-hour treatment with followup will not get them all.

    There is a local service that comes to your home to do removal and treatment. Check out their website:

    They come with all the combs and products they need, and do a lice/nit removal from the affected person and also check all the other members of the household. They bring a portable DVD player and movies - depending on how bad you have it, the treatment can take a while. The woman who helped us recommended using tea tree oil (a few drops rubbed into the scalp) or a shampoo with tea tree oil as a preventive. Supposedly lice do not like the smell. It could be luck or it could be the tea tree shampoo, but we have not had a recurrence since then. been there, done that, got the nit comb

    I work in an elementary school, so I have a large sample population to look at. Yes, lice are most definitely on the upswing. Resistance to commercially available lice products is more and more common (natural selection at work...). That's why you're still finding lice after multiple long Nix treatments: Nix doesn't work. I swear it just invigorates them. But that said, 5 times in a year really is extreme, and makes me suspect something else is going on. My guess is that either you're not getting rid of all of them, or your daughter is in repeated close contact with somebody who has them. Nitpicker

    It was good for you to share this problem. Lice can be embarrassing, annoying, humiliating, and uncomfortable. What I think is happening is that you're either not fully getting rid of them (how could you when they lay so many nats), or there is someone close to you who is reinfecting your household or children. I learned, from experience, the only sure-fire way to rid of them....rubbing alcohol. My family struggled with outbreaks and re-outbreaks for years. It wasn't until I met a hispanic family who toke care of them this way that I was saved from the nightmare. What I did for my daughter and I was (being very careful of eyes and open wounds) poured the alcohol on our heads, making sure our hair was completly saturated, and put plastic bags (air- tight) over our hair. Lice cannot stand the vapors any more than we can. They die instantly. If you think you need to, do it again it 10 days. It's much safer than the chemicals found in over the counter lice treatments, and much more effective. One more bonus, it's cheaper! Good luck! Marilynn

    Teatree oil is good, but the Robi Comb electric lice comb is even better. They now sell them at Walgreens online for $29.99 and it's worth every penny. I've had one for eleven years and it's still going well (currently on loan to a friend's family). The child, and everyone else, gets to use it themselves, more often in warm weather as the lice breed faster. No chemicals involved except rubbing alcohol to clean the comb. Fiona


    My obsession with head lice

    Sept 2007

    My kids have had lice each of the past 2 summers and, though I have no evidence, I can't seem to stop thinking they (and *I*) have lice. Each time they did have them I caught them very early and got rid of them fairly quickly. But still, I feel nervous when friends come over for fear they will get (or give) lice to my family. I am constantly checking my kids' heads for lice and feel that nobody can do a sufficient check on my head (though I never had lice even when the kids did...I hope!). Ugh. Everyone accuses me of being obsessed with lice and they are right! HELP. Has anyone felt this way and gotten over it? HOW? Obsessed

    I sympathize! My daughter came home with lice (nits) and we are in the midst of the treatment and ''checking.'' She has been clear for more than a week now. The problem is ME: I have been checked 2 times, but I still feel ''itchy.'' Psychosomatic for sure, but its driving me nuts! I'll be interested in your responses! Itchy

    Try putting rosemary oil in your kids' shampoo and also mixing it in water and spraying it on their hair before school. Supposedly lice don't like the smell and it keeps them away. Will make you feel better too. anon

    I completely understand what you're going through! This is probably at least partly a control issue, because you may feel like there is nothing you can do to prevent the lice, so I would try to address that aspect of it. A few things to try: 1. Think about lice prevention--remind your children every day not to share hats, headbands, hair accessories or anything that touches their heads. This will hopefully help you feel that you actually do have a little real control. 2. Find an experienced acupuncturist and discuss whether they may be able to help you--I think many can help with these kinds of mind-body-control issues. 3. Try drinking chamomile tea--it's calming effects might help.

    Also, it is really okay, and probably a good idea, to comb their hair (and yours) once a week with a lice comb, IF you think of this activity as Prevention, not detection. So don't spend more than a few seconds examining the comb for lice or nits--just have a quick look, and then force yourself to look away (and then go have some chamomile tea!) Make this your mantra: Prevention is possible!

    Hello to the parent obsessing about lice. You are not alone. Been there, done that. When sitting with my child I always look, when around other children I watch for kids scratching their heads. I look at the setup in class rooms thinking about dress up clothes and cubbies where the children keep their belongings. I would imagine your thoughts are normal. It is great that you are watching for it but on the other hand, don't let it stress you out. Enjoy the time with your kids! Been there, done that!

    I did not read your original post, but I simply have to post on this topic. I have been through over four weeks of hell trying to rid my daughter of head lice. Her infestation has been very mild, but over the last few weeks we have continued to find a few of the ''buggers'' about twice a week, live, on her bath towel each time I wash her hair. I dread this, because each time it has meant washing her hair with a lice shampoo, combing out the nits (if I can find any, which is very difficult due to the color of her hair), washing EVERYTHING including bed sheets, pillows, bed comforter, couch cushions, car seat, etc. This has been about a four hour endeavor about twice per week and has completely exhausted me since I get up at 5 am to get ready for work. Initially I took her to the doctor, who said it was such a mild case that we did not need to keep her out of school (thank God), but to make sure we had all nits removed since if the school saw them they would send her home. My poor daughter; I have drilled her nightly NOT to scratch in front of the teacher and NOT to use other girls' combs, hair accessories, etc.

    The doctor did say that if the lice did not clear up, to call him and have him prescribe a treatment. I finally did this after another week of hell, and he prescribed Malathion (believe it or not), which is a powerful pesticide. So much for cancer prevention. At any rate, once applied, the bugs did return once only (about two of them, five days later), and we treated again with NIX just because I was tired of going to the clinic. I then did a thorough combing and saw no eggs, so I think we got them in time. She seems to FINALLY be free of the bugs, but my son thinks he saw another one on the floor tonight, so I am looking carefully. By the way, there is a big difference between NIX and RID. NIX is about three times more powerful. I was using RID and now regret it since it doesn't seem to get rid of them. The doctor also told me there are now lice that are immune to RID and NIX, so if the lice keep returning, go to the doctor to get a more powerful shampoo.

    Here is my word of caution to EVERYONE: DO NOT let your child use anyone else's combs, hats, hair accessories, etc. I belive my daughter got the lice from using a hair band she found at the public pool. Foolish me; I thought nothing of it. The good thing is that no one else in our family got lice, altho many of us keep itching and itching all day, wondering if we do have it.

    I hope never to go through this again! Kathy

    Saw this and had to respond. As a two-house family, my kids got lice in school last year and passed it on to me, their dad, his girlfriend, etc. Not fun. I still get psychosomatic itching (and check them more often than I should), but have them shampoo, condition and spray with these organic products from Fairy Tales. They have a web site (, and the products smell great to us and apparently bad to lice. We did not have a re-infestation. They are pricey, but last forever...we have been using them a few times per week since March or so and still have at least 1/2 the bottles. The conditioning spray is great. My kids use it between shampoos, and I can let my paranoia rest a bit. Therese


    How worried should I be about a preschool with a head lice outbreak?

    Nov. 2005

    I'm checking out preschools for Fall 2006, and at one, they mentioned that they were dealing with a head lice outbreak at the moment. While I appreciate their honesty, it did set off my inner icky meter. My kid's only 2, so I'm just starting out in the world of groups of kids - how common is head lice at preschools? Should it be a red flag, or should I expect it will happen at pretty much any school? Easily grossed out

    How common? Extremely. It has nothing to do with hygiene, socioeconomic status, cleanliness of the preschool, etc. Chances are you will encounter head lice in your home at least once during your child's preschool and elementary years. Icky? Yes -- but you deal with it, get through it and thank your lucky stars you live in a time and place where head lice are your biggest worry and not polio or malaria. picked a few nits

    There have been cases of headlice every year (usually in the Fall, when kids converge from being all over the place) at each of the three very good schools and preschools ! our kids have attended. And yes, it does set off the heebie-jeebies, and though it has not yet hit our home, we've known it to happen to more frequently bathed, better groomed kids than ours. And apparently it takes weeks and weeks of disruptive treatments to get rid of it, and yes it is supposed to be itchy and disgusting. But I think everyone who's been in school for awhile knows it is no reflection on the condition of the home or the kids. In any event, schools seem to know it's a touchy subject and they've always taken care not to publicize who it was in the class that had it. So I wouldn't worry, because I think you'll be looking a long, long time if you require a school that's never had a kid come to school with lice.