Portland Parents Head Lice Guide
PDX is seeing a resurgence in lice infestations thanks to don’t ask don’t tell lice policies or a lack of plans in both private and public schools and other childcare services and facilities that inhibit communication and delay efforts by parents to take proactive action to have their family regularly checked when there is a lice scare going around the schools. What was a rare occurrence has become commonplace with many parents finding themselves battling head lice multiple times a year.
What Happened? Why Are Lice Everywhere?
It’s evolution. Head lice have a very short lifecycle and over the course of thousands of generations evolution has provided them with a means to resist treatment from the shampoos and other products the previous generation used with some naivety about the potential risks of using pesticides. An increasing reliance on daycare and afterschool programs has increased the exposure children have to each other and helped spread lice far and wide.
Lice Removal or Lice Treatment? Just How Do You Get Rid of Lice?
There are many products out there but there are few reliable and effective methods to get lice free quickly. Manual lice removal involves using a lice comb to go through the hair from root to tip and take off live lice and their eggs or nits as they are called. Pesticidal prescriptions exist but cannot be used on some children and pregnant women. If you want to get rid of lice quickly and move on with your life, hire a professional service with a guarantee that if head lice come back they will re-treat you for free within a certain time frame.
Take your pick from a local lice clinic, salon, mobile or home health care service. Really it’s up to you to determine your preference for treatment. Some people value privacy over everything and for them a mobile option is the best course. In an emergency, when a kid needs to get to summer camp or there is an important business meeting or other social event, the flexible hours and convenience of a house call to take care of the problem in the same day can’t be beat.
Does Insurance Cover Head Lice?
Probably not. Many companies advertise that insurance will cover it, but what they mean is FSA and HSA savings accounts and not the typical health insurance you would think they are talking about. There are currently no health plan providers that cover head lice treatment from a specialist. Speak with your HSA or FSA provider to find out how to get your families treatment covered.
Best Way to Choose a Service
Visit their website, check for reviews on Yelp, Google Business, and ask for referrals from your friends. Chances are someone you know has had head lice and can give you a lot of information to save you money and time.
Call the lice company and ask if they have a guarantee, what the terms are, and what is required for treatment such as: extra appointments, product purchases, aftercare, and how they do the treatments.
The Costs of Lice Are Higher than You Would Think
How much does it cost you to miss work or pay for extra childcare on top of the daycare service your child can’t attend until they get lice free? Do the math beforehand and you might decide hiring a lice service is the best option after all. What will it cost to get enough lice kits to treat everyone at least twice and most likely three times? How many hours over how many days and weeks are you willing to spend combing through your family’s hair and your own head? A skilled lice professional can comb through an adult woman’s hair in about 60-90 minutes and that’s after years of experience learning the best methods for each hair type, length, thickness and how to minimize discomfort. And, if you don’t find a good lice comb, you are wasting your time.
What’s a Good Lice Comb?
A high quality lice comb has metal teeth that are at least a inch and a half long, tightly spaced, and secure to prevent bending when pulled through hair. A poor quality lice comb is plastic with plastic teeth, has unevenly spaced teeth, bends when pulled through hair, and cannot dislodge nits from their hair or get close to the scalp and it awkward to hold for the hours of combing required. A good lice comb in a skilled hand can exterminate head lice in a single combing session.
Natural Treatment Options
Lots of articles online trumpet the virtues of coconut oil, tea tree oil, essential oils, mayonnaise, and much more. None of these options will hurt (unless you’re allergic them), but none of them are reliable enough to get the job done in a short time frame and without long combing sessions. In some cases, where not every louse or nit is killed or removed using these natural options can make the problem last months and eventual professional treatment can be extremely costly in comparison to catching the infestation early and having it treated immediately.
People prefer natural options with good reasons. There is not a lot of data on the long term effects of some pesticide-based prescription options and many companies classify their products as supplements instead of medicine in order to avoid the prying eyes, testing, and regulation of the FDA.
The Rise of the Lice Service
If you haven’t had lice before, you might have never heard of a lice salon, clinic, or other facility. Most of these businesses are located in out sight locations because of consumers preference for privacy. Some companies offer private treatment and deal with only one family at a time while others are more like a typical hair salon and everyone is treated in one main room.
All of these businesses can take care of your lice problem. It’s just a matter of which one is the best fit for your situation and what kind of reputation do they have. Some sell products and other take home kits that you can find at your local drugstore or grocery store. In additional to their clinic location they may also travel to your place for an additional fee. Prices vary from one service to another but the average fee is $99 per hour billed in a variety of increments, most commonly every 15 minutes.
How Do Lice Spread?
Head to head contact is the most common method to give and receive head lice. Hugs, pictures, sleepovers, playing, cuddling, all of these are good bets for head lice spreading. Lice don’t want to move very far away from the scalp, which is where they feed, so the chances of getting them from a hat, comb, stuffed animal or other object are extremely low unless the infestation is so severe that they are crowded on the head and accidentally fall or are knocked off.
Get These Bugs Out of My Home!
There is a lot of confusion about lice vs bed bugs. Unlike bed bugs, lice cannot live off the scalp for more than 24 hours because they will dehydrate and quickly die. They cannot survive on furniture, carpet, bedding, or anything other than a human (not pet) head. Just to be safe, it’s recommended to wash your bedding after treatment just in case. All that’s necessary is to run the sheets and pillowcases through the dryer on high for 60 minutes. If you have a severe case, you can put anything that can’t be washed into trash bags for 24-48 hours. Extensive cleaning, vacuuming, dry cleaning, washing, and stressing are not necessary.
Manual Lice Removal by Combing
If you want to comb through the hair on your own, do your research first. There are many articles and videos online that will walk you through the process step-by-step and give you instructions on how to part the hair, minimize painful pulling from the comb, and other lice combing techniques. It is not an easy or pleasant process for most and it can be a chore to get small children to sit still for the hour or more required.
Hair type, length, and thickness can play a large part in how much time it will take. The longer, thicker, and more textured the hair the more hours you are looking at. The average session for a lice specialist takes about one hour. It’s important to understand that lice combing is a skill and you will get better at it over time but you will need to be patient and careful to get the job done because every single louse and nit must be removed or killed to ensure a successful treatment.
- Information about Lice. Reynolds School District.
- Oregon Lice Removal Specialists. Kidsheadlice.com.
- ‘There’s always lice’ — and treatments. The Columbian.
- Lice Survival Guide. Portland Mom’s Blog.
- Resources for Lice Treatment of Removal. Estacada School District.