Category Archives: Lice

Itchy Itchy Scratchy Scratchy

Me again….back on the old familiar topic lice….it’s like I am the caped crusader waging a personal war against lice. In case you missed my riveting interview with Maryland’s own lice expert a few weeks ago, as part of my ongoing PSA campaign against lice, I’m here as follow-up to talk today about prevention. Someone get me my own talk show already….wouldn’t this be more fun in comfy arm chairs with some warm coffee (or wine) and we can all chat together about our own trauma surviving lice. Like Oprah, today I even have some fun give-aways. They’re one step below a car…seriously…so read on.

Loving how the Lice Shield team depicts our enemy...Mr. Lice...or is it Mr. Louse?

But seriously, for any true WM fans out there, you know that I’ve posted and re-posted my lice interview a few times (obsession, anyone?), and I’ve noticed a common question I get is about all-natural products. Every one of us is worried about rubbing the shampoo loaded with  chemicals onto our small children’s scalp when we need to actually kill the lice once they have it – and so many have asked about natural ways of fighting the lice. As our grandma’s say, prevention is the best medicine, right, so when I was contacted by the friendly folks at Lice Shield, makers of a shampoo and conditioner made to help prevent lice, I was eager to try out their new product.

The new Lice Shield prevention shampoo & leave in conditioner

So, Lice Shield is a new line – it’s shampoo and conditioner in one and there’s also a Leave In Spray.  These products are available at CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid and Wal-Mart. What appealed to me is the products are made of a blend of natural essential oils to repel lice.

The million dollar question, of course, is this: Does it actually work?? I don’t know. But am I going to use it just in case  – oh hell yes (again, obsessed, anyone?). Especially because I gotta wash my kids hair anyway (though let’s be honest, I wish I didn’t have too). First question you might have is this – what does it smell like before you douse your kids hair in it?

It smells like a citronella candle. Which noteworthy, citronella oil is the first active ingredient listed on the back of the bottle.

And again, the product is meant to be used as a deterrent – not what you run out and purchase in the sad event that your child has lice. In that case, see my previous interview for some great tips. One of the reasons I will use this product, beyond my own paranoia of living through that misery again, is the reality that not every child gets itchy when they have lice.

Did you know that? (Apparently my other friendly public service here today is to generate mass hysteria and paranoia in everyone else – you’re welcome).

I learned that fun fact from the Advice on Lice experts but the Lice Shield products also helpfully points out that only 30% of people suffer from itching. I know from my own experience that my oldest daughter DEFINITELY gets itchy when she has lice. Jury’s out on the youngest Wired Momma’ette.

So – aside from making you itchy for the rest of today (sorry) and probably just a little bit paranoid (again, sorry), here’s my Oprah moment…..I have FIVE sets of Lice Shield products to give away to you today friends……that’s right…FIVE (can you hear Oprah’s enthusiasm? Cause you should). Seriously – who doesn’t love an ounce of natural prevention? Check out the Lice Shield Facebook page for more information and log onto the WM Facebook page and post a comment under my post to enter in the drawing to win one of the sets (be sure you’ve also liked my page, I promise I won’t make you feel itchy there). All five winners will be announced next Friday September 7.

Disclosure: A representative from Lice Shield reached out to me and sent me their product for free. My opinions here are my own and I cannot speak at all to whether the product is proven to work….only that I will use it!

Today’s Topic: All About Lice

Today’s public service announcement is brought to you from…..MOI. Ain’t life grand?

Look, I can’t help but notice the search traffic to my site is increasingly driven by those looking for information about LICE. Ahh…lice…..our mortal enemy. The equal opportunity offender. I have survived this epidemic. C’est vrai. And in the spirit of school starting soon and kids returning from summer camp infested with lice…yes, it can happen to your clean child too, I thought that I can only bring to you this very informative post in the event you suspect lice in your pipsqueaks. Even if you don’t, please read below. Denial, as I’ve learned, is never a good thing when it comes to lice.

And so….my post with the lice expert (yes, she exists) from this exact time last year.


Ahh….it’s that time of year…that time that many of us think will never come….Back-to-School! And with the return of the cherubs to school comes that never-ending, itchy scratchy problem that if you’ve never had, you pray you never will, and if you’ve never had, you probably think you only get when you’re a dirty, lazy parent…..LICE. Lice. The great equalizer. Lice. The equal opportunity offender. Lice. It happens to the best of us.

Don't fake it, we all look like this when we realize our kid has lice

And so, for today’s expert series, I turned to none other than the lice expert in Montgomery County. The woman who saved me in a dark phase of my life exactly one year ago when I realized that my child wasn’t scratching her head because she was hot and needed to pull it back (denial is never a good thing when it comes to lice), my child was scratching her head because it was infested with lice. And despite what I might have thought before, lice does happen to people who are clean and anal and attentive. I introduce you to Karen Franco of Advice on Lice in Kensington, MD. Without a doubt, my money spent at Advice on Lice was some of the best money I ever spent. Is your head itchy yet? Cause it will be by the time you are mid-way through our very helpful interview but well, an ounce of prevention does us all a world of good as we gear up to send the kiddo’s back to school in less than two weeks. Karen and her husband now run a full-time business checking heads for lice, educating parents on what to do, and generally being life-savers in your time of need when lice hits the house. Karen got started in the lice business 15 years ago when her daughter was young, she used to volunteer to do head checks, and was appalled with the stigma attached with lice and how unwilling people were to acknowledge it and do something about it. Her experience evolved into an in-demand local small business. Karen and her husband not only check families for lice, they educate you on what to do and give you the steps you need to take to make sure you eradicate it completely from your house. I won’t lie, it’s definitely work intensive but I survived…so read on for some great advice.

Karen, is there a peak time of year for lice?

Yes. Back-to-school is definitely a peak time of year for lice. Because of summer camps and people traveling, there are cross-over populations and people are sharing lice. All summer long, we are distracted – which is partly where some of the denial comes in that you mentioned – we think it must be allergies or dandruff which is absurd but people don’t want their summer disrupted.

How do we know it’s not dandruff?

Dandruff will blow off easily. It flakes. There is a mis-conception about lice – people think they are greyish white but that is misleading – they are transparent, a milky color and the nit is glued onto the hair, you have to scrape it off, whereas dandruff flakes off.

Let’s talk more about the role of denial and lice. I am very guilty of this. This time last year, my eldest walked around scratching her head like crazy for easily 2 weeks. I didn’t want to accept that it could be lice, and because we’d never had it before, while I did check her head, I didn’t really know what I was looking for and her hair is very thick. It wasn’t until there were bugs actually hopping that I had to accept this child had lice. I feel like sleep away camp is a big problem with lice and going back-to -school. Do you find this about sleep-away camp?

Yes. Kids go to sleep-away camp and often get lice. And many of the camps actually screen them when they arrive and if they find lice, send them home, which leaves upset children. Some parents bring them to see us for a head check as soon as they pick the kids up from sleep away camp. The bottom line is there is no magic potion to make lice go away – there is no smell that repels them.

So what can we do to prevent lice?

Get a fine tooth comb and comb their hair on a regular basis. Make it part of your weekly routine and that is your best prevention.  Prevention is getting the lice out before it takes root and sets up a family. I recommend the Lice Meister comb and brushing through the child’s hair twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. You can order the comb online. I have one client who has made combing through her child’s hair part of their family routine by starting and ending the week with the comb throughs. Every Monday and every Friday, she sits down her child, uses some conditioner, and combs through from the scalp to the end of the hair. The public schools here believe that lice is a nuisance and because it is not life threatening, you don’t have to keep your child home from school, but that doesn’t help anyone. The bottom line is, it’s prudent to designate a day to look through everyone’s hair every week. It is never appropriate to say your child can’t miss school and you will just let it go.

So, you find out your child has lice – so then what? What do you do?

First let me say that the homeopathic treatments are not based on science, they are not effective. You need chemicals to kill the lice. I recommend Rid and I recommend that my clients leave it on their heads for longer than 10 minutes, which is what it says on the box. I advise clients to leave it on for a minimum of 30 minutes to kill all the live bugs. The method that we lay out on our web site has been validated time and time again. The problem is that the live bugs are the contagious ones, they crawl, they know they want to be in the human head. There are so many mis-informed theories out there about how to kill lice. One really common one is putting olive oil on your head and sleeping all night with it – that does not kill the lice. The lice breathe through pores and they can close their pores for up to 18 hours, so sleeping with olive oil doesn’t kill the lice. And then – you have to comb through the hair. The comb that comes with the RID is a joke. They do not work. You have to use a fine tooth comb, like the Lice Meister. Parents of boys often shave their son’s head and that will get rid of the lice.

What about if you are pregnant or have very young children – what product should you use that will still kill the lice but doesn’t have chemicals?

There is a new prescription medication that has no pesticides called Ulesfia. It’s not meant for anyone under 6 months. Because the product is new, we recommend using less product than prescribed the first time and then using it again 10 days later. Many pharmacies don’t carry it but the pharmacy in our building does carry it.

Are we all itchy yet?? But seriously, having lived through this, I was cursing all the stuffed animals we owned as I put them in the dryer and bagged them for a few weeks. How long do they live when they are not on a head? And what about car seats?

A healthy adult female or male can live for about 1.5 days, depending on where it is. The nits will die within an hour or so. If your child has been in the car seat and it’s summer time, the bug will be dead in the hot car within 2-3 hours. The bottom line is the head is where they live, they are not infecting your car, carpets, your home. They can’t do their important activities anywhere beyond the head, so what I urge people to do is spend their time focusing on combing the hair with a proper fine-tooth comb.

So Karen, as we embark on the school year, can you tell us how much your services cost and give us some parting words of wisdom?

Yes, we charge $85/hour or $20 for a screening. All the products we recommend are available in our store. We can go to people’s homes but children are usually much better behaved when not at home and in our offices and we are just better equipped with the seating and lighting in our office.  Also, I think it is important to teach children about lice in terms of “life sciences” to help eliminate the stigma attached with lice and really teach prevention and education. As for parting words of wisdom, I like to say “When in doubt, comb it out.”

Those are excellent final words from Karen. So moms, when in doubt, comb it out……and call Karen. And remember, denial is never a good thing when it comes to lice.  Finally, if you liked today’s WM Expert Series, please “Like” Wired Momma on Facebook or look to the right and subscribe…it’s an easy way to keep up with future fabulous local mom expert interviews and well, other random things we discuss here.

Of Lice and Ladies

This is a disturbing and cautionary tale….a tale about how nasty things happen to clean (though not necessarily organized) people. A tale so traumatizing that it’s taken me  months to work up the energy to re-live it and want to share it…..

All those die-hard fans of mine know that one of my core parenting beliefs is this – if you think it won’t happen to you – think again, cause it will and probably worse than you imagined.

When it comes to today’s topic, lice, I orbited that happy planet where if I put DD1s coat in the dryer and changed her clothes and kept her hair dirty (some say lice don’t like dirty hair), then it wouldn’t happen to us. I didn’t need to check her head, I just needed to follow a few steps during the school year.

Ahh…to be young and naive again……

We survived three years of preschool where lice infested classmates, the classroom, the school, but somehow we came away unscathed. I should have known our number was up. So fast forward to the careless summer, a time where mornings are relaxing, schedules are flexible and Pepco struggles to keep our electricity on every time it rains. Ain’t life grand?

DD1 finished a week of summer camp and three days later, she started itching her head. See, in preschool, there are warnings…notes come home, moms whisper in hushed tones about who has lice, you stare at those kids for evidence that they are dirty, their homes are dirty, their parents slobs, you toss your kid’s coat in the dryer at the end of the day, and all is well. But in random summer camps, there is no warning, there are no notes, no hushed tones in the playground, it’s just you against beast. A nasty, horrible fight.

So DD1 starts itching her head like a madwoman and I tell her to put some baby powder on her neck, it must be prickly heat.

Solid parenting 101 over here, right?

We head off to the beach, spend a week at my mom’s house (whoops….sorry mom) and DD1 keeps on itching. My mom was a school nurse for years, she begins to suspect “he who shall not be named”, so we “check” and just see what clearly MUST BE specs of sand. My kid doesn’t have lice! WE aren’t dirty, she’s cute, she’s clean, she’s well taken care of, she doesn’t live in squalor, she’s vacationing on the beach – she must be HOT. It is the hottest summer on record, right?

Another week goes by. I start getting frustrated,  yes, with a four-year-old, and I bark at her to stop itching because she’s making her “prickly heat” worse.

Oh yes, yes I did that. My mom checked, I figured, she’d know what to look for, and besides, no one sent an email around from camp alerting us about any lice infestations. Denial is the first sign, friends.

Some more time goes by…..isn’t that wonderful? We are a veritable breeding ground at this point…..memos are being sent to other louse…come one, come all, these people are IDIOTS and this head of hair is thick and warm and cozy……and this poor kid keeps getting barked at by her good-for-nothing mother about  her prickly heat! Hot headed and idiots…these lice are thinking…….just the kind of place we like to nest….

Then one evening, I decide that the itching has seriously gone on too long, is it time to see a dermatologist, I wonder, and what do I see, but bugs, HOPPING, through her hair, practically doing a jig.

Apparently it’s not time to see a doctor but instead time to buy some RID.

The rest of this tale is not funny or really even that interesting….it just involves an absurd amount of washing, washing and more washing, hair combing through, a hefty bill to the lice lady (yes, there are people out there whose livelihoods it is to remove all lice and louse and nits from heads), more washing and more hair combing through. My kid will now wear her hair up in pig tails, something she’d never agreed to before, all I have to do is make the threat “Do you want those bugs to come back?”

And for anyone paying attention and living in fear, yes, we all had it, me, my husband, the baby, and DD1 – all four of us. When you give lice a few weeks, turns out they know how to spread.

The moral in this classic tale – denial is a bad bad thing and just creates more work. I now orbit reality, not that happy planet of denial. I operate defensively, I assume at least one kid in her class has lice at all times, I don’t let her put her coat on a hook (never in a million years), she’s not allowed to play dress-up at school (sure, mock me, but you can come do my laundry next time it happens – we have plenty of dress up at home), she’s never allowed to get on another kid’s bed at playdates, I comb her hair through 2x a day with the licemeister comb and keep her hair up or tied back every day at school.

The thing about lice is this, it doesn’t cause illness, it is almost impossible to see (until you are a complete idiot like me and have bugs hopping happily around), and you can live in your house thinking things are peachy keen for quite a while – so it’s just a hassle. It’s a gross, nasty hassle and lice are definitely not pro-environment given the volume of laundry they create and trash bags of bagged stuffed animals they waste.

Speaking off, stuffed animals could be an entirely different entry, take a look around your house…see all those friendly soft critters, every single one of them is a lice breeding ground….and you don’t realize how many you have until your kid has lice.

So in the end, what did I learn? No matter how clean you are, how nice your house is, lice is an equal opportunity offender and never harbor feelings of ill will towards parents of kids who bring lice to school or your house….cause you never know when you’re going to be walking in those miserable shoes………oh….and comb through the kids hair 2x a day.

Feeling itchy yet?