Head Lice woes

Lice – they are the bane of my life! I even dream of them. I guess because we live in a big city, lice are unavoidable. I have tried lotions, potions, shampoos, some of them ecological, some of them positively radio-active! I even managed to spend a crazy amount of money on a real jar of Hellman’s mayonnaise (difficult to find in France) because I read somewhere on the internet that I could get rid of lice with it.

This weekend the schools in our area decided to organise a collective delousing campaign. We were all asked to delouse our children on the same weekend. The hope is that this will stop the lice circulating — at least for a while. I am interested to see if this is successful, but it is really nice to see how everyone got on board!

So here are some tips I have gotten to prevent lice. (Once you have them, I find that the only thing that really works is brushing the hair with a fine tooth comb in front of a good movie!)

Lavender essential oil: Lice seem to be sensible souls who do not like the smell of lavender, so I drop a couple of lavender essential oil drops onto the girls’ pillows. That way their hair smells good and I think it does help to keep the lice at bay. I have also been told that teatree oil helps.

Braids: I told my 93-year-old grandmother about my lice issues and she looked at me incredulously and asked why my girls’ hair was not braided at school. I had never figured out why, in the olden days, all the little girls had nice, tight braids… It prevented lice!

Cleaning linen, and everything in the house: It is such a pain, but it helps. Every time there is even an suspicion that someone might have lice, we wash and clean our bed linen and towels and spray the sofa and armchairs.

Apart from that, I just freeze when I see anyone scratching their heads and throw my hands up in despair! I am interested: Do other countries also have the lice problem? How do you deal with it?

– Emilie

P.S Above is a photo I took of Violette pretending to be scratching her head and having lice. She got a bit annoyed with me because she was in the middle of measuring something, but I think the annoyed expression goes with the theme…

32 COMMENTS - Add your own

1. Esther in Amsterdam | January 27, 2014 | Reply

Tell me about it!! I thought head lice were not for us, but boy was I wrong! We’ve had them a few times now and it’s wartime when it happens. I think the best thing that works is combing, combing, combing — with conditioner in the hair!! (And I just read that there is a national Dutch delouse day — on March 6th!) xxx
PS the mayonnaise story is hilarious. :)

2. Somes | March 5, 2014

@Esther in Amsterdam: Is that true? A national delouse day in the Netherlands? If so, that is a fantastic idea! I wish my daughter’s school in the states would band together to do one.

3. Esther in Amsterdam | March 5, 2014

Yes! Although — it’s apparently happening today, but I haven’t heard much about it. But the idea is a good one! (Execution is another matter.) x

4. Caroline Charnock | January 27, 2014 | Reply

I used to be an infant teacher and was therefore bombarded with lice on a fairly regular basis….. The only thing I have ever seen that works long term is to use a lice comb on a weekly basis when you condition the hair. Before I stopped working to have my baby I used to do my hair every week and it seemed to hold them at bay!

5. Karen | January 27, 2014 | Reply

My daughter got lice this year and passed it onto me and her brother. It took me 9 attempts and 2 months to completely rid Aisling of her head lice and i have spent a fortune on combs (electric and otherwise), lotions etc. i have been looking for something called neem shampoo its supposed to be good. I have also heard if you dab a bit of teatree oil behind ears and at base of neck it helps repel them

6. Lu | January 27, 2014 | Reply

I have a constant battle at home – although my daughter doesn’t get them (she’s had them once in her 8 years), my sons regularly do. Clearly, some people are VERY prone, and some just don’t attract them! I had a constant battle myself as a kid; and although I finally got rid of them when I finished school, after a few weeks back-packing around Europe at 20 years old I was again suddenly full of them — my best friend who was travelling with me, meanwhile, was completely unconcerned and never got a single one.
Fine-tooth combing every week, and full-on treatment every other week, is the only way to keep them at bay (sort of!). I’ve also tried an old-wives’ solution: last rinse with white wine vinegar. Makes the poor kids smell like a salad, but seems to help. I’ll now certainly give lavender a go – thanks!

7. Emilie | January 27, 2014

Yes, the vinegar wash! I have heard of that, I think it also makes your head softer, right? Double bonus!

8. angela@momsinthecity | January 28, 2014

We had lice only once and it was a nightmare. Since then I learnt to prepare a final wash after shampoo. In a bottle of apple vinegar (more delicate that wine vinegar) I put 3 or 4 tablespoon of lavender and let them pour in. After shampoo I do a final wash with a big glass of water + some of my wixture. Being apple vinegar AND lavender it doesn’t smell bad and it also leaves hair shining. I always keep a bottle of it in the bathroom

9. pam | January 27, 2014 | Reply

Ever since the kids started going to playgroups then school, I spray a product called Nitty Gritty Head Lice defense spray before they go out and when I condition their hair (daily), I comb their hair with a metal nit comb from the same brand. We also use a tea tree oil based shampoo. Knock on wood! we have kept lice at bay throughout the various infestations at their schools. On a side note, why is it that when this topic comes up, my own head suddenly starts itching?!
Good luck and may the delousing be victorious!

10. Emilie | January 27, 2014

Tell me about it! I started scratching my head the moment I started thinking about writing this post!!

11. Enirak | January 27, 2014 | Reply

I am curious, what is it that you spray on the sofa and armchairs? I know we are supposed to wash everything in hot water and put everything that cannot be washed in plastic bag for weeks, but this is not very practical for the sofa! So what is that special stuff?

12. Enirak | January 27, 2014 | Reply

Here, pharmacists will not sell you any treatment unless you have lice as these treatment should not be used for prevention (lice can become resistant to the active ingredient if not used as prescribed). Schools highly recommend to tie your kid’s hair everyday, and to teach your kids 1) to NEVER share hats (and caps, hair pins, …) 2) to ALWAYS put hat & scarf in their sleeve jacket (we live in a country with a cold winter) 3) to keep their head away from their friend’s heads (as much as possible, of course!); lice don’t fly but they run pretty fast! The goal is to avoid direct and indirect contact.

13. Mau | January 27, 2014 | Reply

We just discovered lice in my 8 year old’s daughter yesterday! And then in her little sister’s hair and in mine! What a nightmare! We used the fine-toothed comb and solution and seem to be clean now. I’m STILL washing all the blankets, linens and towels (24 hours later) and my daughter will need to be checked by the doctor and be certified lice-free before going back to school!

14. Sharilyn | January 27, 2014 | Reply

Hello! I feel like lice is a fairly universal problem when there are school aged children in a family! I know we get constant letters home about outbreaks from our school- while our boy is only in Kindergarten we have so far avoided catching the dreaded lice- knock on wood. This is what I have discovered- lice don’t like dirty hair- gross right? We shampoo only once a week and with a lavender based shampoo. I think our biggest line of defence is the tea tree oil spray I use daily- each morning as he walks out the door I liberally spray this home made spray into his hair and brush it through to the roots. To make combine about 15 drops of tea tree oil into about a litre of water- you can add lavender if you like to cut down on the tea tree oil smell! I also spray it on our pillows and bedding as well as the sofa- you know just in case!

15. Stacy Ragueneau | January 27, 2014 | Reply

Knock on wood! out of four my 19 year old boy got it once fifteen years ago, but we also keep them at bay with lavender oil, and tea tree oil mixed with conditioner followed by a thorough combing AND for my girls good tight french BRAIDS! I think it is that that keeps them off their heads. My sister in the states had a battle with them and she used one bottle of cetaphil per head then blow dry until bone dry, (not a lick of humidity). Apparently it suffocates them. I am hoping my good luck with lice will last… by the way even in the french country side it is a problem.

16. Lindsay | January 27, 2014 | Reply

Ugh. Lice. With three girls in school, it is also the bane of my existence. But I have found found solutions! Korres makes an anti lice spray (vinegar based) that smells great and since we started using it about a year ago, we have been lice free! It seriously works. We had tried other sprays, but this is the only one I’d recommend. If your kids do get them, they only thing that will get rid of them easily is Hedrin. It kills the eggs too so that they easily slip off of the hair. It still takes combing over about a week, but it’s the best I’ve found. We live in Athens, Greece and we can get these products here at the pharmacy. Get the Korres spray!

17. Emilie | January 27, 2014

Thanks for that, I will definitely look at for it. So surprised that Korres does an anti-lice spray!

18. Penny | January 27, 2014 | Reply

We have a great defence spray in Australia called quit nits which I spray onto the kids hair every morning before school. So far it has worked a treat.

19. Emilie | January 27, 2014

Interesting, we don’t have any preventative measures here in France, just the strong stuff to deal with an infestation…

20. Vanessa | January 28, 2014 | Reply

When I was teaching I spoke with a pharmacist who told me that over the counter products won’t work on certain types of lice – apparently there are different types of lice in different areas of the UK?! He told me to always ask the pharmacist to make up the ‘treatment’ used for that specific area. I don’t know how far true that was but he also told me to wash my hair once a week with tea tree shampoo. I did do that and in my 10 years of teaching I never got lice (touch wood)! I used the Body Shop shampoo and it worked a treat. It’s not a great smell but it’s better then lice in your hair! So far, the girls haven’t had lice but I do check their hair regularly.

21. Emilie in Paris | January 28, 2014

Love the idea of tea tree oil shampoo!

22. Estelle | January 28, 2014 | Reply

I live in fear of the boys getting lice! We’ve escaped so far, but I suspect that won’t last for long. I’ve read up a lot on them though and most people seem to favour a ‘Nitty Gritty’ comb and conditioner and combing through the hair every couple of days until the life cycle of the lice is over. I comb through the children’s hair once a week at the moment just to check, but I’m lucky they have short hair so it’s not such a laborious task. I also use a lice repellent shampoo (Vosene do one with tea tree oil in it) and believe you can also get a spray which you’re supposed to use each morning. Apart from that, there are all the chemical treatments but some people say they don’t work any more as the lice have become resistant. Good luck to everyone on the war against lice!!!!

23. Karen | January 28, 2014 | Reply

When my two (now grown) daughters were in elementary school we had this problem. I was so upset when they got sent home from school and told they could not return until they were “deloused”. My good friend told me that the girls just had lots of close friends and not to be upset. I went through all the treatments you described and after a couple of weeks the lice were gone. If the girls started to scratch their heads we fine-combed the hair again and we seem to stay on top of it after that. We live in the U.S. and this was 30 years ago, so I think as long as children have friends at school it will be a universal problem. Good luck!!

24. Emilie in Paris | January 28, 2014

I know, I used to get embarrassed about the lice as there is a stigma attached to them and they are just nasty. But there is no point of getting upset about it.

25. Leah Adams | January 28, 2014 | Reply

I used the vinegar in my daughter hairs & then added conditioner which is a perfect combination to comb the eggs out as the vinegar is supposed to be a loosening agent – did the trick for my daughter & myself! Ever since my daughter always wears her hair up at school & so far she has avoided the out breaks thank goodness…

26. Joanna | January 29, 2014 | Reply

At our school there is a permanent lice problem – but they don’t send the children home when they find lice in their hair (the ‘lice mothers’ check once a month at least) so it’s endemic. I found Nitty Gritty (www.nittygritty.co.uk) to be the best – it’s made by mothers who really want to get rid of lice, not by companies wanting to make money! The chemical stuff isn’t 100% effective even if they claim it is because they are quite happy for you to buy another bottle. The Nitty Gritty comb is really great. But my oldest daughter has long thick hair and combing takes so long! I really don’t understand why lice exist – what good could they do!!

27. Mamie Rose | January 30, 2014 | Reply

My three sisters and I once had lice for – I kid you not – about 11 months. It was horrible. We tried everything to rid ourselves of those horrid creatures. The only thing that FINALLY killed them was soaking our hair in a mixture of olive oil and tea tree oil, and leaving it in over night. (We slept in shower caps.) It worked like a charm almost instantly. I only wish we would have discovered that cure sooner!

28. Paula | January 30, 2014 | Reply

I think my grandmother use to apply hydrogen peroxide v10 and borax, only got it once over 30 years ago so I don’t remember the proportions. She would then comb the kids thoroughly with the think comb and crack all lice and eggs between the nails. After this she would literally boil all the bed lines and clothes…all…and repeat this for a few days.

29. misha lulu | January 31, 2014 | Reply

What we did when Bela got lice, we used mayonaise and rosemary oil drops on her hair and they die fast within hours. I also did that on my hair and my husbands hair because I was paranoid we would get them.

30. This Weekend | Dejlige Days | January 31, 2014 | Reply

[…] These little so and sos are a constant battle at my son’s school. […]

31. Jillian In Italy | February 1, 2014 | Reply

Our school here in Italy is also plagued by lice. Luckily (in the Dutch section of our school) we managed to get the signatures of all the parents and organised a group of “Lice Mothers” that go into the classes after every vacation and sporadically throughout the year. It makes such a huge difference. I think knowing your kids will be checked by a fellow parent regularly makes everyone much more diligent to keep an eye on it at home. Other than that I found an all-natural leave-in conditioner that I’ve been using for 7 years and it works WONDERS: It has a very strong smell (which the kids aren’t super keen on) but I swear by it. It’s called BizNiz. Ah, just writing about lice makes my head start to itch…

32. Nadine in Paris | June 20, 2014 | Reply

Help! Do you know of any “Nit Nanny” hair combing / nit removal services in Paris???