Hire a professional or don't. Either way, you still gotta put in some time.

Here's a question I just received:

"My friend said she had lice but she got treated two weeks ago. She said that the first time you get treated at places like (insert lice removal salon here), you cannot give lice to someone else. You can't spread. Is this true?"

Here's my answer:

The answer to this is not so cut and dry. If someone is known to have had head lice, I generally assume that they still have it until there have been no sightings of new lice or nits for two weeks. However, just because a person may still have head lice, it doesn't mean that they are necessarily able to spread it. A lice professional will usually be able to remove all adult bugs in the first sitting. It is the adult bug that can leave the head - newly hatched nymphs will not venture off the head for at least a week. So, a person with head lice may be of no immediate threat to others (which is one reason I'm against no-nit policies in schools and day care centres). But let's say that a tiny nymph was missed by the lice professional.  In 7-10 days, if no further combing had been done, there would be a new adult louse on the head that would be able to transfer to someone else through head-to-head contact.

While I generally trust experienced lice professionals (as long as they focus on lice removal over pushing lice "shampoos"), I never underestimate head lice.  I challenge lice professionals who claim to deal completely with your head lice problem in one visit. If they get the bugs out, the chances that they've missed an egg or even a tiny louse,  are still high. When I do home visits, I always offer a free follow up. This is because I believe that everyone should have a second visit with the professional - all of this and I still instruct families to still keep up with their own lice combing. I respect head lice and their resiliency. No matter what "treatment", no matter which professional is utilized, the affected head should still be thoroughly wet combed every couple of days with a good metal lice comb until at least 2 weeks have passed with no new sightings of lice or nits.

Now remember, you don't NEED a lice professional and I really have a problem with professionals that tell people that you must use an expensive product or service in order to deal with lice effectively. I've seen too many hard-working, low-income families who put themselves at risk by throwing away hundreds of dollars and buckets of sanity over their lice problem because of some "expert advice". I've seen people who give up because they feel they will never be able to afford the cost of "treatments" or services.  You know, head lice was dealt with effectively before the invention of salons and chemicals and paid services and fancy tools.  Back in the day, if someone had head lice, you just got in some good light, buckled down, and nitpicked for hours, everyday, until the lice were gone.  Yes, that actually works.

Lice removal professionals are more like housekeepers than health care workers. Everyone can vacuum, but some people don't want to so they hire a cleaner.  Everyone can deal with their own head lice problem, but some people don't want to and that's OK as long as they can truly afford it.  There are times you might want to use the services of a lice professional. (Read my post about this here.) but it isn't a necessity AND using their services won't let you off the hook - you will still have to do lice checking and combing at home.


The lice are on your scalp. Don't let them mess with your mind.

My mother used to have this picture on a sweatshirt.  She was a woman known for her humour, but she was also known for how stressed out she could get. Normally, with life's stressors, we can cope.  Work can stress me out, but I can go home at the end of the day.  If the kids are stressing me out, I can usually find a sitter for a little while.  However, if you have head lice, you don't feel like you can get away from the stress - it's with you day and night, wherever you go,  and since lice problems aren't fixed in a day, you get to feel this stress over time. It can wear you down.

We have to be intentional about how we deal with this stress.  I covered this in the post below , but it so important to remember.  We work hard to get rid of head lice, but we also have to work hard to push past our own panic and fear.  I once met a woman who chose to sleep in her car in the winter thinking that the cold would kill the bugs.  You know, sleeping in freezing temperatures could also kill her!  Step out of your emotions and let your intellect help you assess the real risk of head lice over the perceived risk.

If you don't deal effectively with the head lice, what's the worst that could happen?
  • Your head could get really, really itchy.
  • You're hair wouldn't look pretty.
  • You could pass it to someone else.
  • In very rare cases, you can have a greater allergic reaction to head lice. (In the bazillion people I've met with head lice, I've only met one person to have a worse reaction - she had swollen glands and flu-like symptoms. Her doctor told her to take an over-the-counter antihistamine.)
If you go crazy dealing with head lice (spending tons of money, losing sleep, missing school/work, stressing out), what's the worst that could happen?
  • You could get very sick - physically and psychologically.
  • You could put your financial stability at risk. 
  • You could put a strain on your relationships.
  • You could lose your job or fall behind in school.
These problems are greater than the problem of having head lice. Head lice cause the first group of calamities.  We cause the rest.   Try to keep head lice in perspective.  Give head lice the attention they deserve, but don't give them one second more.