Updated on July 19, 2020
BY Lice Technician Margaret Steingraber
You will read and hear a lot of mis-information about what needs to be done and what does not need to be done in terms of taking care of your home after a lice infestation. Below LiceDoctors technician, Margaret Steingraber, opens the door to the mystery.
Head lice are every parent’s worst nightmare. It causes a lot of stress and anxiety just to get everyone’s heads treated. So getting rid of them from the home can be overwhelming and seem impossible. When I was a child, I can remember my own mother’s stress as she attempted to bag every single stuffed animal I had because she had been told to bag them and put them away for six months or more. Then she took everything in the house and washed it at the local laundromat since we did not have a washer and dryer at home. My head stayed infested for weeks, maybe even months, so doing all of that did nothing but add to her stress and exhaustion.
When I was a young mother, my oldest daughter (now a college student) came home with head lice. I bagged all of her stuffed animals and threw them in the attic. I threw away all of the hair brushes, combs, and hair bows, then bought replacements. I covered my furniture in plastic sheets and washed everything I thought she might have touched with her head. To say I was anxious (and broke) does not begin to cover it. We went through weeks of treating everyone’s heads as it slowly spread to everyone (except me and my husband). I wish I had known then what I know today.
As a LiceDoctors technician, it is part of my job to alleviate as much stress as possible for my clients when I visit their homes. Oftentimes, they have already done the typical “bag it up or wash it” treatment, or intend to after I leave. Keeping in mind that everyone is different in terms of how they choose to deal with it, I always advise them that the old treatments can be helpful, but they are not necessary in order to accomplish complete eradication in the home environment. It is actually quite easy (and cheaper) once you know exactly what you are dealing with.
A louse cannot swim, jump, climb, or fly. They crawl. In fact, they crawl pretty quickly, at a rate of 23 centimeters per minute, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. The only way to transmit lice is through head to head contact, or through secondary head to head contact. Secondary contact occurs when they are transmitted to an animal, mask, or hat found in a store then picked up by someone trying it on, for example. Once they are transmitted, they feed on blood from the scalp and lay nits (eggs). Head to head contact is, by far, the more common way to transmit lice.
A typical lice infestation can be as few as only 5 – 10 live lice which die within a day after removal without blood; the rest of the infestation is the nits left behind. The lice die within hours after hatching if there is nothing to survive on. That’s why LiceDoctors technicians recommend putting small items that cannot be washed (i.e.: brushes, combs, hair bows) into airtight sealed bags for 24 hours. Large items that cannot be washed (i.e.: favored stuffed animals, hats) can also be put into large airtight sealed bags for 24 hours or you can skip this step. Do not drive yourself crazy trying to gather up every stuffed animal your child has ever owned. Only worry about the stuffed animals that are favored – that is, they have come into direct contact just before or during treatment of the head. Much better than bagging every single stuffed animal to be stored away for six months! If the client is concerned about the furniture, I simply recommend that they wipe it off or use a small vacuum. Pillows and linens can be washed in hot water along with clothing worn during treatment of the head.
Here’s the deal though, all of these aforementioned steps are optional. Your technician will give you a follow-up plan which involves sleeping with oil the night of the treatment. If there is anything alive in the house and it tries to get back into the head that night, the oil will kill it.
LiceDoctors also has a Repellent Spray that can be used in the hair in order to help prevent any future infestations of lice. Personally, I use the LiceDoctors spray in my own hair and wear a shower cap on every job. I also use the spray on my youngest daughter who just entered kindergarten along with putting her hair in a braided pony tail or a bun every school day. The nightmare of head lice is exhausting and stressful enough without adding a ton of housework to the mix. Treating the home environment is completely optional and manageable once you understand what lice are and how they survive.
If you find that you have lice in the East Bay Area, call LiceDoctors or night at 510-269-8043 . A lice professional will make a house call and will get rid of the lice, while going over with you what you can do to increase your comfort level with your home. Just remember, it is then head not the house when dealing with head lice.