Lice, lice baby: How to evict your head’s unwelcome tenants


*Ring**Ring* “Hello?”
“This is Ruinyourday Elementary calling. We had head checks today and discovered some nits on Emily Kate Winslet. We need you to come get her from the front office. She’s welcome back when she’s nit-free. And may the odds be ever in your favor.”
Nothing can stop parents intheir tracks like a lice call. I know. I got one a few years back, and immediately mapped strategies:
Plan A: Throw out all the pillows. Launder clothes and bedding the children touched. Inflict lice shampoo on affected child and siblings (just in case). Wash it out, slather their heads in mayonnaise, and comb out hairdos with nit comb. Spray everything in the house with Lysol, then bug spray. Have car detailed and replace car seats.
Plan B: Burn the house down.
Plan A was exhausting, so when cases of lice appeared at our school recently, I panicked. While our extremely proactive school had already scheduled head checks for Monday, I — already feeling itchy —rushed the kids to Fresh Heads, the lice specialists, over the weekend. Though my itch was psychological, my peace of mind was more than worth the $10 head check.
When I confessed my lice horror story, they assured me Plan A was overkill. (I never admitted to Plan B.) I naturally had a million questions.
After moderate internet stalking research, I reached Dwight Ottesen, co-owner of Fresh Heads, by phone. His wife, Mandy, my new hero, founded the company seven years ago. Here is what I learned:
Lice are almost exclusively spread through head to head contact. Lice have everything they need on your head: warmth, a place to lay eggs, and a food source. Their only reason for leaving one head is to climb onto another.
Removing lice and nits is the most effective way to get rid of them. Bag combs and brushes (which may hold yanked out hair) for a couple of days, wash clothes worn that day, and bag stuffed animals for two days if you want to be thorough. Lice need to feed every 2-3 hours and can only live about a day off a host.
If you have hair, you can get lice. Texture and use of styling products can make hair more difficult for lice to hold onto, but they can and will settle in.
Your insurance can might cover the cost of lice removal. Fresh Heads uses an FDA-approved machine that dehydrates and kills lice and eggs. They accept HSA cards and will provide receipts with codes required for reimbursement.
Lice aren’t limited to elementary schools and preschools. The biggest spike in head lice is among college-aged women and women in their 20s, largely attributed to the head to head contact required in group selfies. (Frankly, this is karma.)
Some of the most effective treatment options are now chemical-free. This important considering your scalp’s just north of your brain.
The best defenses against lice are wearing your hair up; using essential oils like rosemary, tea tree, eucalyptus, and lavender; and combing out with a good nit comb if you suspect you’ve been exposed. This is tough for me, a long-haired kindergarten teacher who leans over students every day. My hair is sort of like Rapunzel’s, except instead of granting access to Prince Charming, it’s a ladder for bloodsucking parasites. Now, it’s in a tight ballerina bun daily.
This is my life now.
My beauty routine revolves around pest prevention. Next time you discover a mom has been dealing with lice, instead of treating her like an outcast, offer her lavender oil and a stiff drink — but avoid selfies.

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