I'm grateful for this guest post as I was surprised to learn that tweens certainly can and do get lice. I know. Shudder. I'm honoring the request to run this guest post anonymously because the author did not want to publicly call her tweens out on the internet for having lice. I can understand that. So, what DO you do when your tween has lice, nits or whatever other kinds of bugs can make their home on your child's scalp. Here's the great advice from one parent who has, sadly, been there.
Lice is common in younger kids, but not so much in tweens and teens. Having lice as an older child can be devastating, I know because it recently happened in our family, and I have a few tips to share.
1. You won't always be able to see the bugs or eggs in your child's hair. In my blondie, they were pretty easy to spot (with glasses). For my darker haired son, the only way I knew he had lice was because I was combing eggs out of his hair. I never actually saw a bug or egg in his hair with my eyes. It's also good to note that as the bugs and eggs go away, they get smaller. The eggs I found on the last day of treatment were about the size of the hole in a needle.
2. If you even think your child has lice, begin treatment immediately. Over-the-counter treatment takes 48 hours to completely work, and let me tell you-that's about 48 hours longer than you want these bugs in your house. Read the directions that come in the box (don't shampoo for 48 hours, comb wet hair at least twice a day) and follow them exactly. You don't want your tween and their emotions dealing with this any longer than they have to.
3. Don't tell anyone who doesn't need to know. Some schools have a policy to report lice, and I understand that. Know your school's policy and tell only those who need to know. The last thing your child needs is for their entire grade to know they had lice when they come back. Same with neighbors and family friends. Think of your tween's heightened sensitivity right now.
4. After your first treatment, use 1 part vinegar and 1 part water to thoroughly rinse out your child's hair. Our doctor told us to do this and it helped so much-it dissolves the "glue" that attaches the eggs to the hair. Be aware, though, it stinks.
5. Comb, comb and comb some more. Wet hair, always.
6. Lice don't jump or fly, they crawl or fall. Your tween was probably rough housing, wrestling with or sleeping too close to someone who had lice and a live bug fell into their hair. One bug will lay multiple eggs and those eggs will hatch and then lay more eggs-it's an awful cycle that is harder to treat every day.
7. Let's talk laundry. Wash all of the towels your tween has come into contact with, even just after wetting their hair in preparation for you to comb it. Wash pillowcases, sheets and blankets. Sweatshirts and tshirts. Hats and... you get the idea. Wash them on the hottest cycle you can and then dry them on hot for at least 20 minutes. Oh, and then do it all again tomorrow.
8. We made a joke about it, but give your child a place to sit that is not upholstered. My tweens called their chairs the "chairs of shame," but it was all in fun and they understood why we had them. While you can spray hard surfaces with bleach and Lysol, it's difficult to really clean the cushions on chairs and couches.
9. Find a treat. Having two kids with lice at the same time is enough to drive any Mama batty! Can you imagine what the kids feel like? One of the hardest parts of treating lice is the combing. I spent 6 hours (not exaggerating!) combing their hair out one day. That's a lot of sitting very still, tilting their head toward the light and putting up with sometimes painful combing. I was happy to let them watch television, eat a few pieces of candy or play video games for a while after each combing session, as they were super patient and super still for me.
10. Talk to your child about what lice is and how to avoid it. Make sure they know it doesn't mean they're dirty-in fact, lice prefer clean hair.
We traced our lice outbreak to one of the tween's friends who had gone Halloween costume shopping at a local thrift store. The boy tried on a funny hat, spent the night at our house a few days later and the rest is history.
Parents, be vigilant. Take the extra steps to get rid of the bugs as soon as possible, and remember to keep your head (and your hair, Mom) up during treatment.
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