There are a couple of facts that you need to come to grips with right away.
Kids get lice. Not "dirty" kids, just kids. Actually, the little suckers (literally!) PREFER clean kids. Who knew? The stigma behind it really needs to get gone, yesterday, because that's how the little bastards are making their rounds. They are preying on our embarrassment.
I have to say, as I'm writing this, I'm itching my head. A lot. Because they are gross little itchy buggies and they can invade your life, wreaking havoc and destroying work and school schedules.
But as usual, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so I recommend advocating a no-nit policy with your school. I was mad about the first school that had one when we first dealt with it, but after TWELVE infestations (because the school refused to check all the kids or let the parents know someone was infected) It took them almost seven months to find the child who was infecting everyone...and we were long since gone before that. A friend in the school district had contacted the local newspaper, and suddenly, things were being done. But we had moved.
After having a brush in with an almost infestation, I decided to post about this- even with the ick factor. First off, know your odds.
In my experience, we've always seen lice in the winter. The kids pile their jackets all in a row, and it's easy for the bugs to wander from jacket to jacket. Watch for itchy kids in the bus line, or for your kids to be scratching their heads. Yes, itchy heads CAN come from dry scalps, but they can also come from bugs.
Icky, itchy bugs.
I recommend keeping a really fine toothed comb at home. If your little one is itchy, grab some cooking oil-veggie, soybean, whatever, a fine tooth comb, and a shower cap. Saturate your little one's head with oil, hair and scalp, and put a shower cap on their head for one hour.
This does a couple of things. If your child has lice, it makes them stupidly slow. Normally the little buggers are fast as anything, but an hour in an oil sauna and they are kind of punch drunk. This is the reason that this oil treatment is touted as an effective elimination method by some natural websites, but the reality is, it doesn't kill any eggs, and not all of the live lice. It does, however, make it extremely easy to find them with a comb, and it lifts up any dead skin that is causing itchy-ness.
Grab the Dawn dish detergent. It should be Dawn for this.
Take the finest tooth comb you have, and working in sections, comb through the oil saturated hair. There are different stages of lice-and you should treat any bugs you find with concern. Remember, this is NOT your child's fault. You are looking for bugs, or sticky light colored ovals attached to the strand of hair by a tiny sphere. They do not brush away easily, however, they do slide along the strand with fairly little effort. You will find these by the base of the neck and ears mostly.
Find a bug? Wash the hair with dawn, dry, and buy a commercial lice treatment. There is NO skipping this step. Despite the hundreds of home remedies available online, lice are smart creatures that require very little oxygen. Most home remedies plot to deprive lice of oxygen- which is something they can live a really long time without. A really, really freakishly long time without.
No bugs? It's time to celebrate. And wash flakes out of your kids head for the next month.
I highly recommend cutting long hair prior to attempting a commercial product. You canNOT water down the product to stretch it, each strand must be SATURATED thoroughly. The more hair a child has, the more likely it is that there will be unsaturated strands, and the bugs will take safe haven in those dry spots, while developing immunity to the surrounding insecticide.
It's not pretty. Although, they do look kind of cool swinging from strand to strand.
Follow the directions for finding nits (eggs) found in the home chemicals. This the most important step! One little egg left on one single hair means another infestation. And another lice kit. And another missed day of school, work, etc.
More chemicals, more expense, more badness. I did find, once, that we required a call to the doctors office for some super insecticide. This was after no less than 12 treatments and five missed days of school..(itch, itch, itch).
While the treatment is sitting, you need to thoroughly speed clean your house. Bag up any stuffed animals that can't be washed- These need to be out of human contact for two weeks. All bedding needs to be taken to a laundromat-their water is hotter than yours, and washed and dried on the hottest setting. Mattresses should be vacuumed, curtains washed or cleaned, carpeting vacuumed, vacuum bags emptied outside of the house, couches vacuumed. Enlist help in this process...it should be done as quickly as possible to prevent other infestations. I like to wear a plastic bag like a turban while I'm doing the whole process, a shower cap would probably be easier, but it's not nearly as amusing.
Check each day after the treatment. This will be a two week process...don't get complacent. Complacency equals infestation, infestation equals badness.
Good luck and let me know if you have questions!