Misconception #1: The boxed product at the drug store will kill lice.
We have all heard about super lice. If your internal dialogue right now is, "Wait. What? Super lice? Nooo, not ALL of us have heard about super lice!" Click here. Pesticides will rarely work now and who wants to put pesticide on their child anyway? I believe the biggest problem with super lice is that too many parents just don't know enough about it. They see a box at the store that says it kills lice and they have no reason not to believe the claim if they haven't seen the news or read any mommy blogs lately.
Misconception #2: If a child at my child's school has lice they will be sent home and won't be back to school until it is gone.
Both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) advocate that "no-nit" policies should be discontinued in schools. As a result, children with lice are not sent home for treatment until the end of the day and even if parents do not properly treat the lice, the children will still be allowed back in school. Many schools do not alert other parents about the presence of lice in their child's classroom citing confidentiality issues as a justification.
The pyrethrin-resistant super lice, these new policy guidelines, and the age-old stigma have recently created the perfect storm for massive, prolonged outbreaks of lice. Why? Lots of kids at school that don't have any idea they've got lice and parents who have no idea they didn't succeed in getting rid of it. Often, an infestation has begun weeks prior to its discovery. An infested child has probably passed it on to the head of every reading partner, every kid whose coat has hung next to theirs in the closet, all the kids they snuggled with for warmth at recess when it was cold outside, that kid who does not understand personal space and glue's himself to the backside of the child in front of him in the lunch line, and every recent selfie buddy.
Misconception #3: Lice now requires a trip to the doctor for a prescription.
If you already knew the facts on number one, you probably believe this now. You can believe this one if you want. I cannot refute it scientifically, only from anecdotal experience. In fact, the first article linked in this post states this as a fact rather than a misconception. But ask yourself this-- Did people who contracted lice have lice for the rest of their lives before insecticides were created? I highly doubt it. Most likely, they used a natural home remedy. The first time my kids had lice, I ended up being lucky that I could not find a commercial product for treating lice anywhere in my town on a Sunday. I was forced into experimenting with a home remedy I found on-line. First, I covered everyone's head in olive oil for fifteen minutes and then washed it and rinsed it with vinegar. After this treatment, I combed out as many nits as a could with the finest tooth comb I owned and didn't see any more live lice. I had no idea if this truly worked, so the next day I purchased a real nit comb at the drugstore which hadn't been open the day before. I also had an electronic lice killing device on the way from Amazon. I combed every inch of two girls' head with the nit comb and felt pretty confident I got rid of them. I nit-combed, electric combed, and oil-treated them and the rest of the family excessively for the following two weeks despite never seeing another louse or nit the entire time. Months later my son came home complaining of an itchy head, and I quickly found a louse. I had heard about a slightly different method from other moms and decided to put it to the test. I created a concoction of half shampoo and half olive oil and a drop of tea tree oil. The olive oil had been very difficult to spread throughout the hair on its own, and this was much easier. I left it on his head for about fifteen minutes and got smart (or unfrantic) enough to see if it worked this time. I plugged the drain in the bath tub before I started to rinse. Sure enough, tiny dead lice floated all over the surface of the water.
Misconception #4: Every inch of the house must be sanitized to get rid of lice.
You are going to want to. I know I did the first time around. But if you are faced with time constraints, let it go. The focus should be on the head. Lice are not breeding all over your house. They live 2 days or less off of a head, so even if one gets left behind on the couch and gets back on someone else's head before dying, it will die during follow-up treatments. A quick furniture vacuum and a fresh stuffed animal and pillowcase the same day as each treatment is more than sufficient.
Misconception #5: Lice are white.
Contrary to popular belief, nits are not always white, only early in their development and after they have hatched and left behind the white shell. A louse is sort of translucent with a brownish tint. Google has a vast array of pictures. They look different on a variety of hair colors and at different stages of life, so it is important to look thoroughly at the pictures to see all the possibilities, from freshly laid nit, to darker brown ready to hatch nit, to tiny new baby louse, to egg-laying mama louse. I found them easily because my girls have super thin blonde hair which makes is tougher for the adults to hide. A friend of mine was just sure her kids did not have it until she ran a nit comb through their thick reddish-brown hair. She had been looking for something white and the adults were able to crawl away into the thick hair before she could see them.
Misconception #6: If all the nits are combed out after the first treatment, the lice are gone.
This is less a misconception and more flat cockiness. Do you really trust yourself that much? Can you be completely certain you found and removed every single nit? No! Follow-up treatments to kill a few straggling lice whose nits were missed in the first treatment are crucial. Understanding the life cycle of a nit is important. Let's just pretend a few nits are left behind. Some will be freshly laid and will hatch in 7-10 days. Some will be hatching at any moment. The ones that hatch very shortly after treatment, luckily, cannot begin laying nits for at least a week (some sources claim even longer, but I prefer to default to the shortest time I read during my research just to be on the safe side). This means you must do a treatment within six days of the first one to prevent a whole new generation of lice, but there could still be some that haven't hatched yet from the previous generation. The best bet is to treat six days AND 11 days after the initial treatment. This ensures that you kill the lice that hatch shortly after the first treatment before they can begin to lay more nits and any that were laid right before the first treatment but hadn't hatched quite yet by the second treatment.
Misconception #7: The lice will never be gone until you tediously comb out every single nit.
Personally, I like to comb out as many nits as I can just to reduce the chances of my kids spreading it to others. They will not have massive numbers of lice crawling around on them in between treatments if I comb out most of the nits. However, as long as you continue to repeatedly kill adult lice as they hatch, you can get rid of them without combing. If my kids had super thick or curly hair, I would not comb. It would require more hours in a day than I have. If that were the case, I would still want to reduce the chance of my kids spreading it to others, so I would treat with oil every couple days instead of six.
Misconception #8: There is no way to prevent lice.
The boxes at the store have strict instructions about only using them on people who definitely have lice and not as a preventative measure. That is the other beauty of natural remedies. You can use them over and over until your completely grossed-out heart is content! Tea tree oil is widely believed to repel lice. There are also preventative sprays on the market, but I cannot personally attest to their efficacy. I am too cheap to buy them and know I would forget half the time anyway because I am pretty much focused on making sure my kids have lunches to eat and shoes on their feet each morning. Instead, if I get word that lice is going around, I do the same oil treatment preemptively. I can find out if they have it and kill them in one quick step. Hypothetically, imagine the amazingly victorious feeling of killing the first single louse that transferred to your child's head and seeing it float, dead on the water.
Please read another very important lice-related post of mine:
I am the mother of seven children ranging from teens to a toddler, living out in the middle of nowhere, USA. I aim to hone the craft of giving advice without pretending to have this whole mom thing figured out. I am Christian, but not the really nice kind that is good at it. I am also conservative, but I promise not to be in your face with political agendas very often. I like to infuse humor into my writing, so don't freak out if you are offended or appalled by what you read here. There is a very fine line between serious advice and sarcastic hyperbole.