The most disturbing preschool topic of them all…

We had something very disturbing in our classroom yesterday.  I haven’t dealt with this for over a year because I only had 3 girls in my class last year.  It generally spreads to a few more kids, so the battle has just begun.  This battle is against….head lice.

I hate them!  They definitely have a connotation, in my mind and I think many people’s minds, of “Eeeewwwww!!!!!”  But all in all, head lice are not that big of a deal.  You can’t die from head lice.  They don’t, to my knowledge, transmit diseases.  But they have such a stigma because they are so difficult to get rid of, permanently.

Luckily, I have never had head lice.  Never.  After going to school with other children for 13 years, after working with children for about 6 or 7 years.  And I’m fairly confident that I never will.  Why?  Well, here’s my secret…INFORM YOURSELF!  After head lice was discovered on a student my first year of teaching preschool, I decided I wanted to know as much as I could about these little…things…hopefully to prevent my own self from “catching” it.  Here is what I found out:

Head lice need human blood to survive.  They live for about 24 hours if they are not on a human host.  Happily living on a human host, their life expectancy is about 30 days.  They come from an egg, the infamous “nits.”  The lice hatch 7-10 days after the egg is laid.  After a louse hatches, it takes another 7-10 days for it to mature before it starts laying its own eggs.  Lice like long, clean, straight hair, and can be killed by heat, suffocaton, starvation, or chemical insecticide.  (Wasn’t that a pleasant list?)

As a result of this information, here is my suggested treatment, for both prevention and cure…the common household blowdryer.  Lice are killed by heat, so in theory, if I blowdry every day, thoroughly, in sections, using a brush, to make sure I reach all my hair, I would kill each and every louse before it matured enough to lay a single egg.  In theory, I could blowdry twice a week and have the same result, but I can’t be sure that I reached every single area of my hair with enough heat to kill the lice every single time.

I read about blowdrying killing lice a few years ago, and told what I had learned to a parent of a child who had recurrence after recurrence.  From then on, no more head lice on this child.  I can’t be certain that’s what they did, but her hair did look “clean and fluffy” most of the time, and there were no more lice.

In theory, if you were to blowdry thoroughly and consistently for a few weeks, you wouldn’t need to worry about washing all the bedding and coats and pillows and toys and stuff.  (And just so we’re clear, I mean washing AND drying, because it’s the heat of the dryer that kills the lice, not soap or water.)  I say this IN THEORY because I think your purpose in this situation is to kill every single louse that you can, so in my opinion, you should still wash and dry all the stuff regularly.

I also use the phrase IN THEORY because I absolutely do not reccommend NOT treating a head that has lice.  As I said, your purpose is to KILL LICE!  Personally, I would start with the olive oil and vinegar method, because I feel better about physically killing the lice than putting insecticide on my skin.  (In short, coat the hair PROFUSELY with olive oil, wrap with a shower cap or a plastic bag, leave on for a few hours, rinse with vinegar.  The oil smothers the lice, the vinegar removes the oil, the dead lice, and also the nits.  Or so they say.  I first learned about this method from a parent while I was working at the day care center.  Her daughter had head lice once, she treated the daughter and herself just to be safe, and it was effective.)  I would save the insecticide shampoos for a last resort.  But that’s just me.  I would also suggest repeating whatever treatment is effective every week or so for a couple of months, because we can’t guarantee that we did it perfectly, and there might be a couple of lingering lice that didn’t get smothered or killed.  And if it happened on my own head or the head of my child, I would definitely follow all that up with daily blowdrying for a couple of months!

So why am I so confident that I will not get head lice?  For one thing, my hair is never perfectly clean, I use mousse or hairspray or whatever.  For some reason, that helps.  Secondly, I blowdry, generally every day, especially in the winter, but certainly at least a couple times a week.  And if I know there are head lice in my classroom, I will make sure that I blowdry daily, thoroughly.  If I’m concerned, I will also take my shower and blowdry my hair right when I get home from work, which makes it complicated because I have to fix my hair and makeup twice a day if I’m doing something in the evening, but it ensures that I won’t pass any “classroom lice” to a friend or to my home.

Okay, now that we’re all itchy from our imaginings of this topic, I am going to STOP talking about it!  I’m sorry I addressed such an…EEEEWWWWW!…topic tonight, but it helps to organize my thoughts and make sure I’m doing everything I can, and also exactly what I’m going to tell parents.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ira
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 14:38:35

    A low cost, green eco friendly, healthy natural way to deal with lice is to make a homemade liquid from soapberry which grows on the Chinaberry tree and has been used for thousands of years. It works very effectively.


  2. Mary Joseph
    Dec 07, 2008 @ 22:03:49

    The best prevention I know of is a Bug Bag. Just make sure your child puts his or her coat in a Bug Bag in school every day. This method has been used throughout Europe for over 8 years, has greatly reduced the cases of headlice and is even recommended by the Dept of Health. You can findthem on
    Good luck.


  3. Doris Jacobs
    Dec 08, 2008 @ 12:29:19

    When we got them many years ago we were required by the school to provide the end of the box of Quell or other comercial treatment as a “ticket” back into school. We were told this is a Iowa Department of Health requirement. We complied. One of the kids in our daycare were having a really difficult time getting clear and eventually tried Mayonaise on the head like your olive oil only leaving it on overnight. It worked for her. It was at this time we started religiously using separate tubs for each person’s coat and hat and “stuff” from home and labeled nap supplies stored separately and washed in hot water every week. We had less of the shared colds and other things after doing this. The only investment was cheap dishpans on a cheap reused bookshelf and pillowcases to stuff the nap supplies into after each nap time. I don’t know if a blow dryer gets hot enough to kill the lice but fluffy hair is nice.


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