The Life of a Lice Picker: Expert Advice on Treatments, Cleaning, and Prevention

The Life of a Lice Picker-

This is a little off topic from what I usually write and post about, so stay with me. You’ll be glad you did. And yes, that is me in the pictures. I have thick, crazy hair that is down to my hips. And no, I don’t have lice!

I have mentioned before that I work for a wonderful company that treats families who have head lice. Yes, head lice. In a world of ” super-lice “, which is actually not a real thing, companies like ours have been popping up everywhere to help rid heads of these pests. Our company, Helping Hands Lice Removal,  is a mobile lice removal service. We have been servicing North Carolina and Georgia for the past 10 years. I go out to people’s homes, check everyone in the family, and treat the ones that have evidence of lice ( lice and/or nits ) in their hair. I know it sounds crazy, but I love this job. I get to enjoy a flexible schedule, help families, get children back into school, and be there to support moms and dads with helpful advice and peace of mind. The best part of my job: everyone is always happy to see me! I get to be a super hero for a few hours! The local news station here actually interviewed me last summer to get advice on treating and preventing lice. That was a weird day for me. I was feeling happy, nervous, excited, and embarrassed all at once. I was so happy and excited to help people, but at the same time my name was being put out there to an audience and it was associated with lice!

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I am based in North Carolina and since I don’t travel out of the Triangle ( Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill ), I thought I would do this post as a way to help all of those that I can’t reach. If you are reading this and currently dealing with lice, you are always more than welcome to call our hotline number at 1-888-206-8773. You can ask to speak to me directly and I can walk you through the treatment process, answer your questions, and give you advice. I love talking to and helping people!

Earlier, I mentioned ” super lice “. Those two words are so very frustrating to me. Lice have received this new title because they have become immune to almost every kind of treatment that uses pyrethrin, which is an insecticide. They’ve become immune to these products over the years because of over-exposure. People use Nix or Rid to treat, but don’t effectively comb and a few generations down the line, the lice are no longer bothered by them. I get so frustrated by the use of the words ” super lice ” because every time a new article comes out using those words, it strikes panic into every parent and lice products come flying off the shelves. I hate to break it to you, but this isn’t something new. Lice have been immune to these products for years. I’m 27 years old and when I was in 5th grade and my mom was treating me for lice, they were already immune to Nix. 15 years ago ! Yes, these companies change their formulas to become effective once again, but that only works for so long before the bugs catch up.

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Treatment

There are a million and one treatment products out there for you to choose from. Pick one that you feel is right for you and your family. To be completely honest, it doesn’t matter what product you use. The most important part of the treatment process is the combing. As long as you are thorough with your combing, you will get everything out. There is a reason we have the phrase ” nit-picking “. The combing process is tedious and time consuming, but it’s what it takes to get lice and their nits out of your hair. Make sure that you are dividing the hair up in to small sections to focus your combing on, one section at a time. Thoroughly comb through each section, one at a time.

There are treatment products out there that make this part a bit easier. Products like Fairytales or Nit-Free are natural, chemical free products that loosen the nits so that they come out a lot easier.

A word of warning: I will not say the name of this company or the product they push, but I will advise you NOT to use it. There is a prescription strength treatment ” lotion ” that you can go to your doctor and get. This product is advertised to be used on all ages. This product says that there is no need to comb. This product is a waste of your money. In my 7 years with Helping Hands I have never, not once, treated someone under the age of 1. Rarely do I treat someone who is under the age of 2. I’m not saying that this age group can’t get head lice, but I’m saying that it is unlikely. MOST children this age have thinner hair and lice prefer a warmer head to live on. If you say a product is safe for ALL ages, there is going to be a person out there that treats there 6 month old with your product, just to feel that they are covering all of their bases. It is completely unnecessary to expose a small child to such a product, just because. That’s not my biggest pet-peeve with this product. The ” no combing ” part is just about the worst advice to give someone battling lice. You need to comb to get everything out, nit casings and all. What if your product doesn’t work. You’ve now made this family spend the money for the product, waste their time cleaning and treating, all to have the lice begin again and do it again !

Okay. I’m done ranting.

Always be sure to perform a retreat 7 to 10 days after your first treatment. Retreats are meant to make sure that your first treatment was performed correctly and that you or your child haven’t been re-infested from the original source. Lice spread in circles of people and it is likely that whoever you got it from the first time can spread it back to you again. If you are thorough during your first treatment, your retreat will be a breeze. Some people like to comb through the hair every day for a set amount of time. I won’t tell you not to do that, especially if it makes you feel better to do so, but I personally feel that it is a waste of time. There is also the chance that your child will become annoyed with the situation and begin to refuse to work with you and sit still.

One last thing: NEVER, EVER wrap your head or your child’s head with ANY kind of material and go to sleep. If you were thinking of letting their hair soak in olive oil for the night and wrap their head in a plastic bag, DON’T. Maybe just wrap it in a towel? NO. Do not wrap ANYTHING around your head or your child’s head and go to sleep. The movements we make during the night can cause these items to slide down over the face and cause suffocation. If you want to go the olive oil treatment route, that’s totally fine. Please do this form of treatment during the day when everyone is awake and you can keep an eye on the item you’ve wrapped around the head.

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When battling head lice, 90% of your efforts should be focused on the actual treatment of the hair and 10% on cleaning. There really isn’t that much you need to address. People think that when you have head lice, you need to clean everything in your home, top to bottom. Curtains, shoes, every stuffed animal in a 5 miles radius. No. No. No. Lice want to be on YOU ! Your head is where the feed from, it’s the only place they can lay their nits, they depend on the heat from your scalp, and it’s where their mate is. Lice have 3 purposes in their tiny little lives: They want to feed, reproduce, and annoy the living crap out of you. There’s no reason for them to be hanging out on your couch. However, there is a chance that a louse MAY fall out of your hair while sitting on the couch or while you sleep and are scratching your head. This is why you want to do SOME cleaning.

I always tell my clients to focus their cleaning efforts on items that have had extended contact with their child’s head. Like their beds, hair accessories, car seats, and so on. A good rule of thumb to follow is if they haven’t worn it, played with it, or laid on it in 48 hours, you don’t need to worry about it. To clean items that you are concerned about, you can do one of three things, or all of them if you choose. I won’t tell you that doing all three is over the top because at the end of the day if it made you feel better to do so, then by all means do it!

To clean items that your children have had extended contact with you can 1. stick items in the dryer, on high heat, for 30 to 45 minutes, 2. put them in the freezer over night, or 3. quarantine them for 48 hours. If you are dealing with head lice this summer, just throw everything in your car and park it in the sun for a few hours. The temperature in your car is going to get so hot, it will kill any lice on these items. This is a great suggestion for the parent that wants to clean everything single thing their child has touched in the past 6 months. Cleaning items this way will help your electricity bill not go through the roof with your washer and dryer running for 3 days.

It’s important to note that when you are cleaning items you are doing so in the event a louse has come off of your child on to these items. You aren’t cleaning to rid your sheets and jackets of nits. Nits are not going to just fall off the head. These eggs are glued to the hair shaft and that is what makes getting rid of lice so difficult. Also, nits can’t hatch off of your head. They are dependent on the heat from your scalp, which is why the mother louse lays them in your hair and so close to your scalp. I get this question a lot : ” But what if a nit is on this pillow and it hatches in a week and that louse gets back on my child? ” . That isn’t going to happen. Climb down from the roof, put the matches down, breath, and drink some wine.

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The best form of prevention is avoiding head to head contact, or head to item to head ( sharing brushes ) contact, with others. This sounds easy enough, but most children lack personal space with their siblings and friends. As I type this, my own daughter is laying with one of our dogs and rubbing her head all over him. She’s not going to get lice from a dog, but it’s that closeness that could one day get her lice from a friend. Yes, there are tons of prevention products on the market and several DIY mixes you can make to prevent head lice. The only 100% effective prevention is keeping your head and personal items to yourself. I suggest the use of prevention products in conjunction with having a talk with your children about personal space and why it’s important to respect other’s space.

Some quick tips I give all of my clients:

Avoid head to head contact with others and never use someone else’s brush, hair accessories, or hats.

Rather than spending money on a whole line of prevention products, just purchase a spray from your preferred brand. The scent from a prevention product is what deters lice from coming to a head of hair and these sprays are more potent.

Always have your children wear their hair up when at school or daycare. Keeping the hair up or braided is a good way to keep it contained and away from others. The best hair style when head lice is going around your child’s class: A high top knot or ballerina bun.

When going to a sleep over, bring your own pillow and blankets. When your children return from a sleepover, it would be wise to check their heads for lice. This way, if they did get it, you can catch it almost immediately and get it out before it gets a chance to build up.

The biggest tip I have… STOP WITH THE SELFIES WITH YOUR FRIENDS! In the past 4 years, I have seen such an influx with teenagers who are getting lice and spreading it around their group of friends. They fluff their hair just right, and it is usually down, and put their head right up to their friends’ heads. They stay in that pose for 100 or more pictures to get just the right one and BAM, 4 weeks later, they all have a very activate case of lice and wonder how they got it. STOP IT! I have had clients get so tired of dealing with reoccurring cases of lice that they threaten to take their children’s phones away.

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I think the big fear and paranoia about getting head lice comes from misunderstandings and myths about these little pests. People hear horror stories about year long battles and shaving of heads and just–lose–it. ” I had a friend who had to shave her daughter’s head and throw out all of their mattresses “. This is an actual quote from a client. I hear things like these all the time and I just want to scream. All I want to say is ” Well your friend is a nut case who read some crazy advice from another nut case “, but instead I have to say ” That’s unfortunate, I wish I could have helped her “.

Clean VS. Dirty: Some people think that if you shower and wash your hair everyday, you’re more likely to get lice because your hair is so welcoming for them. Other people think that lice are only found on people who have dirty hair and haven’t showered in weeks. Neither of these is an absolute. Yes, lice can be present in both of those scenarios, but it isn’t because of their hygiene practices. Lice like all hair types and colors. They don’t care if you live in a mansion or in a box on the street. If you have enough hair to keep them warm, they will happily take up residence. I think the misconception about ” dirty ” hair is that people assume that means unwashed. Lice prefer hair that is CLEAN and free of oil based products. These products and chemicals are what the term “dirty” implies in this case. Think ” clean eating “. If you use a good amount of hair products, you are less likely to contract head lice. LESS LIKELY. This isn’t implying that you’re in the clear, but it’s just unlikely. Strange things happen every day.

Lice are hanging out in your home: Nope. Nope. Nope. Lice want to be in your hair. This is the only place they can feed from, lay their nits, it’s warm and it’s where their mates are. Why would they take up residence on your couch? You should clean your frequently used items just in case a bug has come off. The treatment process is so tedious that you don’t want to throw away all of that hard work by missing a misplaced bug on your hair brush. Stick to cleaning items that have had extended contact with your hair. Don’t worry about the drapes, carpets in every room, and all the clothes in your closet. Having said that, if it makes you feel better to detail your entire house after a lice outbreak, just do it.

New Mattresses: When I first started working for Helping Hands, I arrived at a client’s house to find their mattresses piled up on their porch. They told me that they read online that they should either get new mattresses or quarantine their old ones for about a month. I can’t tell you how hard it was for me to keep a straight face. Lice do not burrow into your items like bed bugs do. Those sprays that you can buy to ” sanitize ” your mattresses of lice are a complete waste of money. Just strip your sheets and wash them how you would normally clean them. Done. No need to buy new mattresses !

Apply product and you’re good to go: As I’ve said before, the most important part about treating head lice is the combing. You need to comb in order to remove all nits and lice from your hair. There is absolutely no product you can apply to the hair that will magically kill AND remove everything from your hair. I hear people say that they’ve been ” treating ” for months and the lice keep coming back. Once I get in the hair and have a look around, I quickly realize that by ” treating ” they mean just applying the product. You need to section off the hair and comb through each section. No product is 100% in killing lice and their nits. There are some schools that have a ” No Nit ” policy in place and the only way your children can return to school is if they are nit free. The only way to achieve this …. is by combing!

Once you’ve had head lice, it’s easier to get it again and again: I don’t quite understand the logic of this theory. Yes, it’s true that if your child gets head lice, there is the possibility that they could get it again. That isn’t because lice know that other lice have been there before. It’s because lice spread in groups of friends or classmates and there IS the possibility that lice can cycle back around to people in these groups. For example, say your child and their classmates at school get head lice. All of the parents of these children perform treatments, but in different manners. All of these kids get rid of their lice, but one child wasn’t combed out properly and they still have some bugs in their hair. It’ll take a few weeks, but this case of lice will grow and eventually there will be enough bugs to spread back to the other children again. It is because of these cycles that I suggest that parents keep an eye out for the signs of head lice for a while. If it does circle back and your child gets it again, you can catch early enough to easily treat it before it gets out of hand.

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Companies like ours have been popping up all over the place in the past 10 years. There are salons you can visit or mobile services that come out to your home. Head lice treatments are a making money industry. I personally strive to make sure that each and every one of my clients are happy and feel at ease when I leave their homes. I go out of my way to be there for my clients and am always available when they call our hotline number. My boss and I keep an open and honest policy and we’ll even work with you if you can’t pay for the treatment all at once. We’re pretty nice people, unless you’re running a head lice removal company and are trying to take advantage of people. In that case, I will happily call you out on your bad business practices. The mention of lice will strike fear and panic into any parent and when they frantically call a company looking for help, they NEED HELP. They don’t need that company to prey on their fears and steal their money. If you’ve ever thought about calling a service, here are some helpful tips for avoiding a scam and wasting your time:

Stick to a locally based company and avoid big business companies. I won’t name any specific names, but there is a large lice removal company that has representatives in almost every state. I have nothing against big businesses, but the price of their services are crippling for most families. This company charges a ridiculous fee JUST to come to your home and treatments are an additional amount of money. Before you know it, you’ve spent over $500 for 2 treatments and head checks. That is not okay. That is stealing. If you feel that you need to charge that much because you’re dealing with icky lice, then maybe this isn’t the business for you.

Steer clear of companies that charge by the hour. Now there are honest companies that charge by the hour and their technicians are fabulous and work quickly to get your treatment done. However, there are shady people that will happily take their sweet time treating just to rack up the fee. It does not take 2 hours to treat a person who has short hair, no matter how bad they have it. For children that have super short hair like this, who are usually boys, I get them taken care of in 10 to 15 minutes. Even if you were to look at each individual strand of hair, there is no reason a treatment, in this case, should take more than 20 minutes. If they are charging you $90 a hour, why would they get you done in an hour when they could keep combing for an hour and 10 minutes and to make $180?

Question all of the fees before making an appointment. When you are calling around to price out companies, be sure to understand all of the fees for their services upfront. Some companies charge you a fee for performing head checks AND for treatments during their visit. You end up being charged $ 200 for your family to be checked and then an additional $ 100 or more for each treatment. If you can, avoid companies that double charge for their services. Also, avoid companies that charge a fee per head for checks. These “per head” fees for head checks force parents to pick and choose who gets a check and that’s not fair. What happens if that one person you didn’t get checked is carrying lice. Now you are going to have your case return and end up spending more money down the line. This is another example of how companies try and take advantage of you. They know you don’t want to take this risk, so you’ll more than likely pay for everyone to be checked. They also win if you decide to pick and choose. There’s a chance that someone not checked will have it, and a month or so later the company will be back out to your house charging you again for treatments and head checks. It’s a win/win for these companies. We charge a fee for coming out to JUST perform head checks, but in the event we find something and need to treat, we waive that head checking fee and the client only pays for treatments.

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Okay, you made it. How itchy are you now? Don’t worry, it’s all in your head! Remember that if you or your children get lice, it’s not the end of the world and there are worse things that could happen. Just stay calm, keep your cool, and get a really good comb. We use ” The Terminator ” and you can purchase it here. It’s a great item to have ready in your home. You never know when your child will come home and complain about how itchy their head is or when you will get that dreaded call from the school nurse.

I hope this post has helped you and I appreciate you taking the time to read it. Send this post to friends dealing with lice and I’m sure it will help them as well. As I stated above, people are always more than welcome to call our hotline number and ask questions. Our number is 1-888-206-8773. Be sure to ask for Brittany. You are also more than welcome to comment or private message me.

If you would like to support our business, you can purchase these recommended items from our website at www.HelpingHandsLiceRemoval.com. You can also support us by spreading the word about this post and how our company can help families in need of lice treatments or just advice!

On a different, less itchy topic… I also run my own mobile arts and crafts company for children and teens. We do birthday parties, painting parties, and art classes. If you’d like more information about this service, you are more than welcome to email me at COFLH@yahoo.com, call me at 1-757-812-5310, or visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/CreativeOutletForLittleHands. If you’d like to see some images and details from our previous events, visit our posts ” Dream Catchers ” and ” Fairy Gardens “.




8 thoughts on “The Life of a Lice Picker: Expert Advice on Treatments, Cleaning, and Prevention”

  1. Hello my name is Michelle
    I am a small business owner in Richmond Texas. I am a Lice Removal Technician. I want to thank you for publishing this blog. I thought it was amazing and very accurate. I felt so good about my business and how I run it after reading this. I have a pretty big competitor about 30min away from my office, so it is definitely a bit intimidating. But your blog has given me the confidence to continue to run my business with strick morals and values in belive in.
    Once again thanks!

    1. Michelle,

      I’m so happy to hear that you found my post helpful! I’m also happy to hear from a fellow nit picker :). If you are honest with your clients and show the compassion they need to see, you’ll build up clients without having to advertise at all. Stick with your business model of honesty and strong morals and that other business won’t be able to compete !

      Best of luck, B

  2. Hi!
    My sister has been dealing with lice for over a month now, everyone in my family pitched in and put money towards this product called ClearLice. She is going to treat her hair in the next coming days but then she wants me and my grandmother to comb through her hair to make sure she gets all the eggs out.. (Me and my grandma don’t have lice) we are willing to do it, I’m just worried I might get it myself and as a mother, the last thing I want to do is bring it home to my own family. My grandma and I were going to spray lice repellent as well as washing out hair with apple cider vinegar AND wearing caps while we go through her hair, as soon as we’re done we plan to take our clothes and wash them immediately.. Do you think we should be ok as far as catching anything with the precautions or should we see if someone else could help her out? I want to be there for her, I just am scared to get it myself. Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Crystal! When I treat people, I am sure to have my hair pulled up and back in a bun. I also make sure that I am wearing a white shirt of some kind so that in the event a bug does get on to me while I am treating, I can see it and remove it. As long as you do those two things, you’ll be fine. Using repellent on yourself is a great idea. Wearing a shower cap isn’t necessary and neither is washing your hair with vinegar afterwards. However, if you’d like to take those precautions, go for it! I would urge caution when using vinegar on your hair. Be sure to dilute it and keep it away from your face, eyes, and other parts of your body. It’s a wonderful thing you’re doing for your sister!

      1. Thank you for such a quick response. Your tips came in handy. 🙂 We just combed through her hair yesterday and she already wants to come over and hangout. I’m nervous still though because there is never 100% sure that it is gone.. How long would you recommend I wait before having her over? I don’t to hurt her feelings but I want to be sure it’s taken care of. I felt I was thorough with her hair. She has shoulder length, thick hair.. It took me 4hours to go through every section. I just am feeling nervous because I hardly found any eggs so I felt I wasn’t doing it right (I was pressing fairly hard down on her scalp) and.. I didn’t find any bug which had me worried.. She did treat her hair with some other stuff a week prior to this treatment, something called NIX but I’m not sure how well she combed through her hair by herself. I can’t help but to feel worried..

        1. When treating for head lice, you do an initial treatment and then a retreat 7 to 10 days later. In your case, it sounds like that is exactly what happened. During your retreat, you’re suppose to find less, if anything at all. So don’t be worried that you didn’t find that much during your treatment, since that’s how it’s suppose to go 🙂 Some people do a quick comb through of the hair once a week after these two treatments, just to ensure that everything is actually gone and to make sure that they haven’t be reinfected. If you’re worried about her coming to your home and hanging out, you could always do another comb through of her hair when it’s wet and have her wear her hair up while at your home.

  3. Hi, thanks for this blog. It’s full of great information which is all coming back to me now! I’m a mom and a Grammy who’s been dealing with talking to my daughter long distance regarding my 5-year old granddaughter who has beautiful long hair. Yesterday she got the ‘dreaded news’ from her babysitter that one of her children came home from school with lice!!! My daughter freaked out and I’ve been walking her through the initial ‘check to see if there’s any evidence’ first … hard to deal with when you’re a single mom who has to work and now also has to worry about sending her to pre-school, let alone when she can rejoin the babysitter’s children again.
    It’s crazy! So far, last night she’s combed through her head, checked her scalp for evidence and done the entire cleaning, washing thing… which did make her feel better. Found no evidence.
    I told her to check her head for a couple more days…. that should do it as far as making sure she hasn’t any nits. Right?
    The babysitter issue… babysitter has 5 kids! What should be her criteria for returning there?
    Also, you mentioned in a comment above you said “do another comb through of her hair when it’s wet”… should the hair be wet when you do a comb through?
    Thanks for your information. ‘Been there done this’ years ago when my two littles were 8 and 10… the daughter I’m talking about being one of them! She has bad memories!! Haha
    One of the things we would say as we were combing through was ‘Remember, we’re smarter than lice!”

    1. I would recommend her keeping an eye on the situation by doing the wet comb through. I would also suggest keeping the hair up in a ponytail or bun while she is with the babysitter. I’m sure that the babysitter is doing her part through treatments of her own children, but it never hurts to be on the look out. If she hasn’t found any live lice yet, she’s probably fine. However lice do cycle back around, so it is possible to see another case of it again in the future.

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