Headlice: What works, what doesn’t…

If you have kids, you’ve probably had to deal with headlice.

Today I’ll cover why most products don’t work, why headlice are at plague proportions around the world and how to keep children lice-free.

I’ll also cover what does work, what doesn’t work, and what’s complete rubbish and a waste of your money.

So read on to start winning the Headlice Battle!

We’ve been battling headlice a LONG time!

1. Why most supermarket “headlice treatments” don’t work.

Most “natural” treatments you can buy at the supermarket and chemist will not kill headlice or their eggs.

Products that in my experience do not work at all include the major brands “Moov”, “Parasidose”, “NeutraLice”, “Nyx”, “ClearLice” and “QuitNits”.

Most of these products are very expensive ($20 a bottle or more) and several treatments are needed if you follow the manufacturer’s instructions on anything other than very short hair, in order to full saturate the hair as directed. Manufacturers also recommend that the entire family be treated.

These products don’t work because headlice have grown immune to these products, if they ever actually worked at all.

Experts believe that over time headlice have grown tougher and more resistant, and what did work well a few decades ago no longer does. Remember, we have been using more and more chemicals and “natural” insecticides in our environment for a long time now. It’s not just headlice that have grown more resistant.

In short, these products are outdated and useless. Don’t pour your money down the drain by purchasing them.

2. Why headlice are an epidemic.

When I was a child, back in the 1970s, every school in Australia and New Zealand had a school nurse. The nurse’s responsibilities included checking children for headlice.

Kids were routinely sent home for headlice, and were not allowed back to school until they were cleared by the school nurse.

In other words, individual cases were checked, caught and isolated quickly, then dealt with.

Headlice was a rare occurrence. There was shame and stigma attached to being infested. In all my years at school, I never once had headlice, nor did my brother. I remember just one of my friends ever having lice.

The standard treatment back then was using gasoline, kerosene, naptha or turpentine to soak the hair. It worked – and worked well. It killed headlice quickly, and was cheap and easy to do.

However, there were also a tiny percentage of kids who ended up with burns from sitting near open fires and their hair lighting up, and the practice was strongly discouraged for safety reasons.

Snopes lists 9 cases worldwide of burns over a 20 year period. So burns happened very rarely, but when they did they were horrific. This was enough for health and safety authorities to discourage the use of these effective and affordable methods for treating headlice.

The school nurse program was universally dismantled over time from the 1980s onwards due to budget cuts, along with many other health and education programs throughout the Western world.

Without school checks, and with pressure from dual working families to not send kids home due to headlice, nits grew rampant.

Modern issues that have further added to the problem of headlice include children crowding around iPads, phones and computers, sharing electronic resources and allowing their heads to touch, and the fashion of girls having their hair loose and down rather than plaited and in ponytails at school, as well as boys having longer hair generally than in previous generations.

Taking the stigma away from headlice has not helped the situation either, as many parents don’t bother to report their children’s infestations to the schools, and schools fail to notify parents of current epidemics.

So apart from resistance to the products we’re using, we’re also not checking or isolating individuals with infestations as we once did.

Add into this longer, looser hairstyles (schools no longer require that girls tie their hair up or that boys have very short hair), and the sharing of computer terminals, phones and iPads with kids crowded closely together with head-to-head contact, plus the advent of school sunhats which are often mixed-up, and an epidemic was in the making.

There’s nothing much to stop the spread, and in a recent Christchurch study of primary school children about half needed treatment for headlice. Studies in Australian primary schools also report epidemic infestation rates.

3. How to keep kids headlice free.

  • Check your entire family thoroughly every week, including adults, on the same evening of the week. Check under good, bright light. A magnifying glass can be helpful.
  • If one child has headlice, assume all others may have headlice.
  • The Condition and Comb treatment method is the most widely recommended non-toxic treatment known to be effective in eliminating headlice.

  • Keep all your children’s hair short (i.e. a buzz cut) or tied back / plaited. Girls hair should ideally be kept as short as possible if they don’t like it tied back.

  • Ensure your child does not share hats, headgear, hair items (brushes, hair ties etc.) or pillow cases. Teach kids not to lean in for iPads, smart phones etc and to avoid head-to-head contact.
  • If your children have headlice, notify schools and social groups (i.e. Scouts, sporting groups etc.) immediately.

What works – and what doesn’t

  • Hair dryers and hair straighteners. Work! These work very well at killing headlice – and explain why I never had a single infestation in all the years I struggled with my children contracting them.

    A standard home hair dryer will kill nearly 98% of eggs with good technique. Hair straighteners are just as effective when used properly.

    If you have a daughter with long hair, hair dryers and straighteners are a great line of defence against headlice, especially when used in combination with the Conditioning and Combing technique.

  • Listerine. Works! I found that Listerine worked quite well, and killed a large majority of active lice in my daughter’s hair when I tried it a couple of years ago, but I couldn’t confirm it killed eggs. I used this method in conjunction with the condition and comb method with 100% clearance results.
  • Cetaphil cleanser. Works! Using Cetaphil cleanser (not the moisturiser) achieved a clearance rate of 95% when combed on then blow-dried in.
  • Gasoline / kerosene. Works! But beware! These products are highly flammable and one spark will set them alight. If you intend to use them, do so carefully.
  • Coca-cola. Unconfirmed. This treatment is all over the internet. I haven’t tried it, but it might be worth a go. If it does work, it’s certainly cheap and safe enough!

    The Coke method is unconfirmed, but worth a go!

  • 4% Dimethicone. Kinda-sorta works. The website states that dimethicone 4% eradicates headlice in at least 70% of patients. I’d call that an “almost win”. Dimethicone 4% is available on prescription only in New Zealand. Honestly, I wouldn’t bother. A hair dryer yields better results, for free.
  • Bug spray. Untested. I haven’t tested this and don’t want to. I have no intention of spraying bug spray on my kids. Don’t do this!
  • Pet flea treatments i.e “Spot on”, “Advantage” etc. Untested. These products work, and work well. On pets. By turning their blood toxic to insects. Seriously, don’t use these. Some of the ingredients can cause seizures, weakness and fatigue, and heart problems. While some of the same ingredients are being tested on humans for headlice in the USA, they’re being tested at 1/50th the strength. Very, very different.
  • Electronic comb i.e. “Robicomb”. Doesn’t work. Don’t bother. This is a big expensive waste of nothing.

    Listerine worked well for me, in conjunction with the Condition and Comb method.

  • Mayonnaise. Doesn’t work. I tried the “smother the head with mayo and wrap for hours” method. Either I didn’t wrap my daughter’s head for long enough or this just didn’t work. Either way, it was messy and difficult. Avoid.

  • Tea tree oil. Doesn’t work. While tea tree oil is a great deterrent (water down, put in a spray bottle and spray your child’s head each morning), it didn’t work to kill headlice.

  • Petroleum jelly. Doesn’t work. Creates a big, sticky mess, and expensive.

Summary

Health authorities around the world recommend the Condition and Comb method. This is still the best way to treat headlice, along with using a common household hair dryer. There is some evidence to suggest old bonnet-style hair dryers work well too.

I firmly believe that common-sense will return to our societies, and that we’ll return to having school nurses again. Headlice is more than a nuisance – it prevents our kids from concentrating and learning.

It’s time we took things seriously.

Simple fix: Treat day!

Every Friday is Treat Day for my kids.

I buy them a bar of their favourite chocolate each, and they look forward to it, counting down the days.

Prior to creating “Treat Day”, treats were out of control. Every time I went shopping, the kids wanted something, and treats were becoming more and more common. It wasn’t good for the budget, and it certainly wasn’t good for my kids’ health or their teeth!

If the kids are with me at the supermarket, they know there’s no point asking for goodies if it isn’t Friday, because only Friday is “Treat Day”. It saves a lot of nagging, and makes shopping so much nicer 🙂

I’ve recently added myself into the “Treat Day” routine too, as my own chocolate addiction was getting out of control again – just ask my partner!

Now I have to look forward to Fridays, right along with the kids! 😦

Sometimes, simple guidelines and a regular routine can make a huge difference – save a lot of money and make families healthier too.

Do you have any routines such as “Treat Day” for your family, or do you think having a “Treat Day” might help create routine for your kids and you?

chocolate

My favourite chocolate!

This lapsed vegan-turned-omnivore is thinking maybe the vegans are right, after all…

My confession: I’m a lapsed vegan.

I was a vegetarian for a long time, almost five years, and then a vegan for ten years or more after that. I stayed vegan right up until I bought my own farm and it seemed crazy to buy tofu from China while we had our own organic lambs in our own farm, barely a few feet away.

So I became a meat eater again. What started as a “only our own meat” exercise gradually became an “all meat” thing, and before I knew it, I was an omnivore again.

Sayonara veganism.

Now I’m not one to criticise other people’s diets any more, although I certainly used to be that way. Maybe being a meat eater again has helped me gain some perspective. I hope it has. I hope I’ve mellowed.

But I can’t help thinking that maybe, just maybe, we need to start eating less meat again.

However…

Maybe the hard and fast lines aren’t helpful. Maybe we need soft lines, soft focus, and an understanding that judgement and rules aren’t useful for anyone.

Maybe the way forward is to be kind – to ourselves, to others, as well as to the planet.

I love food, and I’ve come to really enjoy my meat again. But I can’t help thinking that we’re all eating way too much of it. Humanity’s endless lust for protein is killing not just the planet but us as well.

I’m hearing about the way our fisheries are collapsing.
I’m seeing the way dairying is killing our river systems here in New Zealand.
I’m seeing and hearing the way cattle are destroying the Amazon, which used to be the lungs of the planet.
I think we all just need to take a breath, own the damage we’ve done, and recognise that our diets are a significant factor in all this.

I think we need to change.

So I’m drawing a line in the sand. I’m going back. Not to veganism again, not yet. But to being vegetarian during the week, and to leaving meat for weekends instead.

It’ll require a re-schedule of our rotational menu, but I think we need to do this. Two days of meat should be enough for anyone. We can also have meat on birthdays or special events, if they fall in the week. But I think reducing our meat intake won’t hurt us, and will probably make us healthier.

That’s what I’m going to do. Because the only way to be the change in the world is to make the change we wish to see.

earth

Take a step back…

“If everything that is really so small suddenly seems too big, take a step back.”

Sometimes we get all caught up in workplace drama, or the bickering between friends, or even the latest reality TV instalment.

All these little things seem so important to us at the time – so much so that it’s hard to see out of the mess. We become involved and intense, the little things overshadowing everything that is truly important in our lives.

I realised this recently, when the drama in a community with which I’m involved spilled over among my friends, and even affected my mental wellbeing.

So I did the sensible thing. I took two weeks away from it all – I said nothing, did nothing – and took that time to regroup, reflect, and nourish my own soul yet again.

It was one of the best small things I’ve ever done, and truly helped put all the nonsense into perspective again.

The truth is, there will always be drama.
Friends will always bicker.
Needy people will always need.
And some people seem to lurch from one tragedy in their lives to the next, dragging us all into the maelstrom if we’ll let them.

Don’t let them.

Time for reflection can truly help. If everything that is really so small suddenly seems too big, take a step back.

Breathe.
Meditate.
Care for yourself again.
Stop giving so much of yourself and your time to others.

You might just find, as I did, that all those little things are just little things after all.

aramoana_beach

New year fitness resolutions that work!

Happy new year!

So here we are, in 2016, and we’re all cringing a bit at the heavy food we ate over the holiday season.

The ads are on TV for every kind of weight loss program and fitness machine you’d care to name, right? And every time we even think about fitting into our tightest pants, we heave a sigh of regret.

That’s how a lot of us feel, anyway.

But before you go signing over your money to the next program that doesn’t work, take some time to reflect. Not on the fastest way to lose weight, but on what will work for you.

Consider me, for example. I hate running. I’m 45 years old, and I know enough about myself to know that I hate running, hate exercise machines, and there is no way in hell you’ll get me on an elliptical at the gym.

Sure, I could do it for a while, but inevitably I’d stop and stall, and the program would end.

Likewise, although I love to swim, it’s too hard for me. The nearest pool is a fair distance away, I’d have to book a lane, it’s expensive, and I feel insecure in my swimsuit.

On the other hand, I love to go for walks. I live in a relatively flat area, with lots of beautiful scenery and few cars. Walking is easy. I can take my music player, and I find it relaxing and enjoyable.

I also love lifting weights. I love the challenge, and I’m really good at it. My gym is close by, and it’s cheap and friendly for women.

Now, you might be different. You might love swimming or adore running, while hating the very thought of lifting weights or going for a walk.

What I’m saying is, it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you do it, and keep on doing it. And the only way that will happen is if you genuinely enjoy it.

Tips for choosing a sport

Do you have good hand-eye co-ordination?

If you’re the kid who was picked first for teams at school, then yes, you probably have good hand-eye co-ordination. Consider ball sports such as soccer, netball, cricket, football, volleyball, tennis.

Do you prefer: Group activities or singular activities?

If you love being with others for sport, try team sports. If you don’t have good hand-eye co-ordination, try rowing, sailing, group dance, lawn bowls, yoga, judo, a bushwalking club.

If you prefer to work alone, consider billiards, swimming, running, weightlifting, sculling, archery, golf.

Diet tips

You probably already know what to eat, and the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans are out. Marion Nestle explains them well at her blog:

  • Less than 10% of calories from added sugars (esp. sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages)
  • Less than 10% of calories from saturated fats (esp. meat)
  • Less than 2,300 mg sodium (esp. processed foods and junk foods)

It’s not rocket science. Just clear your pantry of junk and processed foods, drink water, and limit meat serves. Then make sure you bring lunch from home and cook dinner instead of eating out.

Follow these guidelines and those extra chocolates and cake will be sure to come off in no time! 🙂

Our Day of Rest…

Life is too busy.

So my family and I decided a while back that we’d start having Sunday as our Day of Rest.

Yes, I know that sounds all biblical and old-testamenty. And we’re not even religious! But it makes sense, and we’re not fools who would throw the baby out with the bathwater.

You see, we realised a while back that if we don’t ensure that we take time out from life, life takes over.

Every day. All the time.

If we don’t schedule breaks into our lives, there will be no breaks. If we don’t plan rest, no rest will occur.

Taking a break is important. We all need to recharge our batteries regularly, have a bit of do-nothing time, take some time out for relaxing and resting and wearing pyjamas all day and eating pancakes and popcorn – or whatever takes your fancy.

I think we forget sometimes that our rest time is important. We humans are so busy rushing on to the next big, important, big-as-our-gumboots thing that we don’t take time to stop and think, Is this really as important as doing, well, nothing?

Our day of rest is a day when we value ourselves. If we don’t do it, we soon forget to treasure ourselves and put ourselves and our families first, and we falter: get sick, get stressed, exhausted, overworked.

I think our Day of Rest important. I think we’ve got it right. And maybe a bit less work and a bit more play would make us all a bit happier.

Picton_2011 016

It’s time to breathe…

There’s so much pressure these days, on all of us.

We put pressure on ourselves to be perfect parents. We go back to work the moment our babies are old enough to roll over so that we can buy them everything they need. Yet we feel a heart-wrenching guilt for leaving them behind and missing so many “firsts”.

Our children go on to be pressured to achieve at school, and to be great at everything. So we give them music lessons, extra maths lessons, sports coaching, art classes.

We strive to have the perfect home, a nice car, nice clothes, great furniture. We want to fit in with others, impress them, make them jealous, climb the social ladder.

We struggle to maintain our weight, our hair, our nails, our bodies. We go to the gym and do hours of cardio, we say no to that piece of cake we really want, or we feel guilty when we say yes.

Everywhere we turn the world seems to want more from us. This hurts us, wounds us. It pulls us in so many directions that we can’t ever feel whole and healed.

Something is missing. We feel empty inside.

Draw a line in the sand…

It’s time for us to draw a line in the sand and say, You know what? It’s okay to just be ourselves.

Draw a line in the sand, and breathe.

Draw a line in the sand, and breathe.

Imperfect, human, real, complete, flawed, damaged.
Wonderful, inspired, loving, courageous, powerful, brave, open, trusting, caring.
We are all these things, and so much more.

It’s time to let go.
It’s time to breathe…

From guilt and pain to acceptance and love

If we stay at home to watch our babies turn into toddlers, we won’t ever, ever regret it. But it’s just as okay to go back to work if we need to.

No guilt. No pressure. Choose what is best for us, make the decision, move on.

It’s okay to not give our kids all those extras. They’ll be just fine as long as they are loved and cared for.

Have faith in your children. Trust them to grow strong and true. If they are loved, they will know it. They will always know it.

It’s okay to have a messy home, a rented home, a small or humble home. It’s just fine to have a home that isn’t gorgeous, as long as that home is full of love and is welcoming to others.

It’s okay to drive an old car and have old clothes. It’s okay to have an old sofa or rickety dining chairs. Old belongings sometimes have intriguing stories to tell.

It’s okay to have wrinkles, or grey hairs. They’re silver medals, all of them, for getting through life and being a star! Did you ever think of it that way?

And those wrinkles – they’re “power ups”: a maze of beauty that only the senior members of our society get to have. You’ve earned them. So enjoy them!

It’s okay to carry a little extra weight, and to take that extra piece of cake. And it’s absolutely okay to enjoy every single bite!

This world needs more love.
This world needs more thoughtfulness, and more care.
Let’s begin by loving ourselves.

It’s time to breathe.

breathe


Line in the sand image by zengartner.com