Help! My Kid Has Lice {Large Family}

posted in: Large Family | 12

Post contains affiliate links.If you suspect your child has lice: Do not panic! Here are the best tips for getting rid of lice.

My little earthlings…circa 2001

Once upon a time, many years ago, I was soaking up every day of summer here in the Pacific Northwest. Our winters are wet and rainy so we always live summer to fullest. I noticed my three-year-old had been scratching her head a lot, but I chalked it up to the endless hours spent in the sun, dirt and dry grass.

When the scratching continued after bath time, I decided to take a closer look. I had never seen a louse or a nit before. I had no idea what they looked like but the minute I saw my daughter’s hair shafts covered with suspicious lumps that would not move, I knew.


I wanted to panic. Shave her head. Shave my head. Burn down the house. Be a childless widow. 

Instead, I packed up the kids and headed to our local pharmacy where I bought a product that said it would kill lice and nits with just one treatment. Perfect! Just what I needed.

{Oh, I was so naive!}

I treated all four older kids with the shampoo, shaved the two boys’ heads and went to work combing through the girls’ hair.

I soon learned two things. 1) Killing the lice with “one treatment” wasn’t quite going to work and 2) the flimsy plastic comb that came with the lice shampoo was completely worthless for lice removal.

Help! My kid has lice. How to survive with our sanity intact.

Over the years we have unfortunately dealt with lice a few more times. The good news for you is I have learned a lot about lice treatment and tried many different products. Here is what I have learned.

Have the right products (specifics below)

I know many people want to avoid the harsh pesticides in lice shampoo. Me, I want to avoid little bugs crawling around and reproducing in my children’s hair. In my experience, the brand of shampoo really doesn’t matter. The lice shampoo will not kill every living louse (we still pull living bugs off of the kids). But, it does help. Many of the lice pulled off our kids’ heads after treating with shampoo were dead or slow-moving and lethargic which made them much easier to catch.

After combing through and picking up lice, I would dip the comb in a cup of soapy water to make sure nothing could escape.

Nit picking is king.

If you have every picked actual nits of someone’s head you will completely understand the term, “nit-picking”. In my opinion, this is hands-down the most important part of treating kids for lice. Nits are basically glued to your child’s hair shaft, close to the scalp. Ridding your child of lice means removing every, single nit. It is tedious. In a head of long, thick, hair expect the first treatment to take an hour or more.

Put on a movie, give your child a snack, and be prepared for the long haul.

This video shows how to comb lice out of hair.

Wash bedding and cloth toys, but don’t go crazy.

Lice can only live 48 hours off the human body.  This means that while I think it is prudent to wash bedding and bag up stuffed animals, you don’t need to go crazy. When I find lice on one of my children, I wash their bedding, bag anything from their beds that can’t be washed, and put it in our carport for a week.

It is also a good idea to vacuum your floors and furniture. Stock up on lint rollers. You can use these along the back of the couch, vehicles and car seats.

Use a hair dryer.

The warm air from a hair dryer has been proven to kill lice and nits! Just keep in mind it is the blowing air, not the heat that kills them. No need to burn your child’s scalp.


Day one of lice annihilation I comb through the hair and examine every strand. This takes an hour or more for each head. I go through the hair on day two and if I am no longer finding lice or nits I drop to every other day. I check every 2-3 days for the next two weeks. At the month mark, I do another very thorough exam and treat if necessary.

As way of encouragement, we have never had a horrible infestation like that first one (since now I know what to look for) and never had every single child get them. Usually, the ones who share a room or have beds close together are the ones who will get it.

My Favorite Lice Products:

I personally own and have used every one of these products.

First get a good, stainless steel comb. I have two favorites.

This Medi-Comb is inexpensive and does a great job of pulling out both lice and nits. It does pull hair, so I have learned to comb through hair with a regular comb before using this.

How to survive when you find lice in your large family.

How to survive when you find lice in your large family.

How to survive when you find lice in your large family.

This Nit Free Terminator comb has spiral micro-grooves that are supposed to help remove lice and nits. This has much longer teeth than the Medi-Comb so I find this is easier to pull through my girls’ thick hair.

Both of these combs can be cleaned with boiling water.

How to survive when you find lice in your large family.

The third comb I like is the Robi-Comb Electronic Lice Zapper.

This comb uses batteries and detects and kills lice on contact. I found this comb very easy to use and less painful for my kids. However, my daughters’ hair is too long and thick for this to be useful. This works fabulously on my boys’ short hair so I keep it in our arsenal.

This is also something that is quick and easy enough to go through your kid’s hair once a week or so for lice prevention!

Lice Shampoo/Sprays

In my experience, the brand and type of shampoo don’t matter much. The generic brand I bought last time had the exact same ingredient as the more expensive brand name shampoo.

How to survive when you find lice in your large family.

I also like this Licefreee Spray.

The bottle says, “One Easy Step! Spray on hair as directed. Nits can be combed out if desired”. Nits should always be combed out. Do not skip this step, no matter what the product claims are. The physical removal of lice and eggs is the most important part of ridding your child of lice. In my opinion, with thorough combing, you don’t even need chemicals but I personally like to be aggressive and attack from every angle.

It is all natural and smells like black licorice. Yum!

Other products to have on hand:

Lots of ponytail holders (to contain hair while combing)

hair clips (to keep hair separated while combing)

regular comb (to remove tangles before combing)

garbage bags (to bag bedding and toys that can’t be washed)

spray bottle (to help with combing)

lint remover (to use in car seats and on furniture)

hair dryer (to help kill lice)

You can Download the Lice Survival Kit PDF here. I created this as an easy, printable reference.

Other lice treatment resources:

Did you know you can hire a professional lice remover?

The Headlice Center

Head Lice Facts

And to keep things light, you  may like to check out these:

Bugs in My Hair!

Head Lice!

And, of course, who doesn’t need a stuffed louse?

I hope you found this information useful. If you have anything else, please share in the comments!

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12 Responses

  1. I agree with everything you have said, but I have another treatment option. Listerine…plain, brown Listerine. It works!!! The key is to start with dry hair and then saturate the hair with Listerine. Cover the hair with a shower cap and leave on for about 2 hours. I have never pulled a live louse off a head after using this treatment method.

    • Listerine? That’s a great idea! I swear it burns off my tastebuds every time I try to use it…

  2. Mominator

    We had lice 6 years ago. I spent over 6 hours nit picking 4 girls’ heads of long, thick hair. I did 22 loads of laundry in 2 days. I shaved my son’s head and washed the shiny bald head with lice shampoo twice. I never want to relive that experience again.

    And I want to say you left alcohol off the list. Not as a topical. Ingested. I can’t say that though because I don’t drink. But, I’m pretty sure if I did the lice would have driven me to alcoholism.

    • Mominator

      ps. I spent 6 hours a day nit picking for 7 days straight. I became a tad obsessed.

  3. As a preventative step, if your kids are in school (or wherever they’re around other kids) have them put their jackets IN their backpacks (rather than hang them up next to other kids’ coats), and keep long hair braided or pony-tailed rather than hanging loose.

  4. Just a caution. Our oncologist & hematologist both recommend NOT using the shampoos. The pesticide exposure in a kid, family member or classmate with a weakened immune system can wreak havoc. Sadly we’ve dealt with lice several times since they told me that (elementary school! & chuch) but ongoing combing, as you described and/or a well planned 72 hrs out of our house (camping or hotel) has always worked just as well. I still feel compelled to vacuum &change sheets, but somehow knowing that they’re dead makes it less stressful

    • Really? I have never heard this, thank you for sharing. Several people mentioned using Listerine. I just like using *something* before I start combing through. The only time I have every found a ton of lice was that first time though. Now I inspect my kids on a regular basis…especially if I see them scratching.

  5. Where we live, a majority of the lice are resistant to the pesticide shampoos. I find that twice a day combing for the first 5 ish days then once a day for the next week, daily drying of the bedding, robicomb, and the lice freee spray worked.
    It really creeped me out to find lice still racing all over a freshly washed-with-nix head and them running up my shirt and arms too.

    • Yes, most lice are resistant. After my first time, I would never trust just using lice shampoo (but found it seems to slow them down). For me, I like to attack from every angle but I agree that combing is absolutely the most important step!

  6. Paidi Violi

    My mom used to rinse my hair with vinegar after washing my hair, as precaution.

    • Yes, I have done this as well. I read it loosens the glue on the nits.

  7. Corinne Gonz

    My daughter-in-law has been using listerine on the girls long hair to get rid of bugs. They put that on the head then put a bag over it for a few ours then when she was done she added coconut oil on it with a bag over head to sleep in. Seems to have worked.

Please share your thoughts!