The White Bag Plague: Resources for Surviving Lice Outbreaks

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School is back in full swing, so the littles are adjusting and making friends. Dropoff is getting a little easier with the kids jumping out of the car in the carline or walking in happily with you! It’s all going so well; the school year is off to a spectacular start!

However, one lovely morning ushering the kids in, you notice white trash bags hanging on the coat hooks in a few classes. Then, you arrive at your child’s classroom, and there they are, too! This can only mean one thing…da dah da dah (cue scary Jaws music!): LICE!

It’s a trick you think as you brush those crawly thoughts away. Unbeknownst to you, a little parasite has started hanging out on the heads of friends old and new. Maybe even your own head (YIKES)! Don’t let that scream pass your lips. Deep breath, mama; you got this!

Ewwwww!

Lice are lurking on clean heads, as well as those who are on day four of a blowout. Anyone is susceptible. The most pristine, precious, and well-kept person is just as much at risk as anyone else. There is a stigma attached to lice, but please cast that stone elsewhere. In any event, lice is a thing. A really gross, unpleasant, and time-consuming thing. It can happen to the best of us, regardless of the preventative measures in place. Having a bit of education and a few tricks up your sleeve should put your mind at ease and reduce the risk. Fortunately, the World Health Organization has cleared up any worry regarding transmission of disease, stating that “Neither head lice, nor pubic lice, nor crab lice are vectors of disease.” Whew! One less worry…

OK, so you should be walking out the school doors to your car by now. Go ahead, let that scream rip! Now take a deep breath, bring it back, and focus. Let’s get down to business and prepare to prevent those nasty little suckers from grazing your child’s lovely little head!

Prepare and prevent

Many of the lice control basics can be found on Amazon and delivered quickly to your door. No need to load up a shopping cart at Target and risk being seen with a giant stash of lice-related items!

Stick it to them!

Lint rollers are invaluable little treasures. They pick up those nasty little critters and any eggs with one swift roll. Roll your furniture, your car headrests and seats. Really just roll anywhere a head could touch. Going to the movies? Toss that roller in your purse. It will be dark; no one will see you rolling your seat.

Repel the itch

Use repellent with reckless abandon! Spray those kids down before school, activities, parties, and any instance that contact with lice could occur. Volunteering in class? Spray yourself! Give it as a gift. Sounds gross, but I’ve seen teachers happily accept and spray the classroom down…added bonus! There are several brands available: Lice Sisters and Rapunzel’s are local and available for purchase on Amazon. Fairy Tales is another brand available online and at Target.  

Check those pretty little heads regularly

Using a fine-toothed lice comb, check your child’s head from time to time during lice outbreaks. Every other day is a good way to stay on top of things. From roots to ends and in small sections. After a bath is a good time. Wipe the comb on a wet paper towel. Between passes you may see “black pepper” left behind on the towel. That may be a sign of lice. The actual lice also could appear on the comb. That’s a sure sign to make a phone call to a professional. You may see clear or white little eggs or nits. Make that call! It’s a good idea to untangle hair first. Lice combs are fine and hurt if they get stuck in tangles. Try to keep it a positive experience and not a fear-generating event.

Hot-n-Cold

High heat and freezing temperatures can stop lice in its tracks. Use freezer bags to store hair accessories, hair brushes, combs, and headbands. Keep them in the freezer for 24 hours to kill off lice and nits. Keep a Ziploc with your fancy new fine-toothed lice combs in there too…always good to have those on hand! Toss all blankets, pillows, backpacks, and jackets (anything that is able to withstand high heat) in the dryer for 50-60 minutes to kill off lice and nits. 

Bag it and keep it outside!

Those giant Ziploc bags are easy to carry and fit all the school necessities (backpack, jackets, mittens, boots, etc.), and they hang easily on hooks. The bags are easy for kids to manage and ups the chances that those jackets and hats actually make it in the bag after recess! At home, add a few 3M hooks in the garage wall, so you can hang coats and backpacks outside after they have had a whirl in the dryer. During lice season, keep items that may have been commingled with lice outside.

Educate

Talk with your kids about lice. Remain calm and collected, explain it in a non-threatening way. Keep in mind that lots of people get lice; it’s common and isn’t something to make fun of others about. It’s also not something to wish for, so don’t go rubbing heads with your friends! Talk about sharing and items that are not for sharing like hats and headbands, bike helmets, brushes, and combs. Remind those littles that rolling around on the rug in class or snuggling a pillow at school is a great way to bring lice home. Talk with family and friends, too, reminding them of the protocol. Packs of friends or family often pass lice back and forth, so get on the same page and spare your family from reinfestation. The idea is to promote prevention rather than create fear or stress, so keep it calm and fact-based.

OK, it’s official: your kids have LICE!

Not all lice control products are created equally! Many drugstore and even some prescription methods are not guaranteed to rid you of a louse. Often those products treat only a portion of the problem, allowing the eggs to hatch or the living lice to keep crawling. Stick with proven methods for lice removal; act like we are dealing with super lice! This is not the time to play DIY; super lice call for super measures. Coconut oil and various other “Pinteresting” methods may sound great but often do not work. Lice spreads like wildfire in a close-knit community (i.e. your child’s classroom). Douse the flames with a proven method rather than allow it to reignite! Reinfestation equals misery. Doing this all over again sounds miserable and guess what? It is!  

You got this!

Thankfully, you are prepared! You are halfway to being lice-free with all of your handy dandy preventative measures in place! Take a deep breath, and if you are a first timer, make a few phone calls. The Lice Sisters and Rapunzel’s Boutique are local and easy to schedule for a check. Once confirmation of lice is made, a treatment takes care of the heads; now it’s the great cleanup! You will want to clean and go to extreme measures to stop lice from reinfesting your littles’ lovely locks again!

Boutique Lice Care

Start with the drive home from the lice boutique. Watch closely, so you will know what to do if reinfestation occurs. Bring new shower caps and cover their heads after the treatment. Dispose of the shower caps once you are finished with them. Before your lice-free children jump in the car, grab that lint roller from your purse! Lint roll the car seats and headrests to remove any super friends that may have gotten comfy on the car ride over. Vacuum the car or take it in for detailing once you have a chance.

STAT!

Toss any hair brushes and hair accessories that are disposable. Remove hair from the rest and then bag it and put in the freezer for 24 hours. Any items that are heat-resistant can be boiled or put in the dishwasher or dryer.  

Maintain Lice-Free Locks

Prepare to get down and dirty in their hair! Every day. Use the fine-toothed comb, going through hair and retreating as specified by the boutique or product instructions. Often children are able to return back to school after treatment, allowing parents the time needed to get the giant task of cleaning under control.  

Clean and then clean some more

Oh the cleaning! Wash and dry (on high heat for 60 minutes) all sheets, pillows, pillowcases, and blankets. Special stuffed animals or toys that can go in the dryer should. Wash and dry all of the laundry! Empty hampers, baskets and backpacks; leave no laundry behind! This advice is sometimes contested, but if you feel the need, bagging all toys and stuffed animals for two weeks will kill off any lingering lice and nits to keep it from reinfesting your family. Use the giant black garden bags, close them up, and store in the garage or somewhere out of reach for two weeks. Lint roll all furniture, rugs, decorative pillows, or any other fabric surface and then vacuum your heart out. Lint roll and vacuum mattresses, rugs, carpet, and upholstered furniture, too.

It’s over for now…

Remind your children, family, and friends about ways to prevent lice and stick to it!

Finally, relax! It’s hard…I know. You did it: you now know what you need to do in order to remain lice-free. Keep up the good work! You are now a pro and ready should those little buggies make a comeback.

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