What To Do When Your Kid Gets Lice

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Marlowe Martino gets her hair treated for lice at a special salon in Connecticut

A little Mama rite of passage over here– Marlowe got LICE! We went through this recently and it was one of the more stressful Mama Milestones I’ve been through, so I figured I would share my experience and what I learned! I feel like Lice is one of those bizarre things where people don’t really talk about it, even though it’s such a normal kid thing– especially when your kids are entering school for the first time.  I never got lice as a kid (but I remember all the regular checks with the school nurse very well– is this still a thing in elementary school?) so I really didn’t have any information or know how to proceed or react when Marlowe got them! I did learn a ton from the experience, though, so here are my two cents…

Marlowe Martino gets her hair checked for lice

Marlowe came down with lice in a pretty typical way: there was a little mini “outbreak” in her class at school.  I did as much prevention as I could, thought we were in the clear about ten days later, and then BOOM.  There they were! Those little crawling suckers, and my toddler scratching her head like it was going out of style.  And poor Marlowe…she has SO much hair! It’s so thick and long–I feel like living in it must be like a Four Seasons for Lice.  Hahaha.  (I can laugh about it now, but I was crying when it happened, trust me).  A common misconception about lice is that it has something to do with dirtiness, or dirty children, but the reality is that they looooove super clean hair.  And hair that is a bit damp.  So thick haired little children with freshly washed hair are a super target! I will tell you for sure, though, that I totally freaked out when I found the lice.  I’m a little bit neat-freaky when it comes to our home, and I immediately started turning the house upside down, stripping the sheets, etc.  But what I learned is that there are a few things that are VERY helpful when it comes to combatting lice, and then a lot of things that aren’t very helpful (and are actually a total waste of time).  Here are my tips and insights for what to do when your kid gets lice!

Marlowe Martino gets her head combed over for lice


Lice 411

Nits are the eggs, Lice are the bugs.  A pregnant louse (or multiple lice) crawl from an infested head on to your child’s head and lay eggs.  If there are multiple lice they can mate on the head and lay eggs.  These are the nits and they are tiny white looking dots on your child’s strands of hair.  When they hatch, the tiny babies crawl around and will mate and hatch eggs again! I have goosebumps even typing this out.

Get Your Child Checked Immediately When You Know Of An Outbreak & Keep Checking.

So I actually took her in someplace to get checked (the place shall remain nameless) a few days after the lice outbreak at school to see if she had any nits.  They “didn’t find anything”, which is maybe because they weren’t looking properly for nits, or maybe because Marlowe has more hair on her head than an average grownup and therefore it was super hard to see anything.  In any case, I wish that I had taken her back in again a couple days later or continued the checks at home myself afterwards.  Lesson learned.

If You Can, Leave It To The Professionals

When I first found the lice, I got RID over the counter solution to treat her, and to also treat the whole family just in case.  I followed the directions to a T, and then when I was combing through her hair with the nit comb to remove the “dead” lice I found a bunch still partying and crawling around! AKA the RID did nothingggg.  (I have since heard that NIX Creme Rinse is the only good over the counter treatment) Our pediatrician said that most lice now are resistant to the over the counter stuff.  They can prescribe some prescription strength lice killer, but that seemed harsh to me, so I took her to the professionals.  We found this awesome place in our area called Hair Genies. IT WAS NOT CHEAP, but it was so worth it.  The solutions they use are totally non toxic, and they go through the hair literally check and clean every single strand.  By the time your child leaves, their head is totally lice free.  I also thought the salon had a great vibe and really calmed me down when I was feeling frantic about the lice! They also can give you great tips for how to clean and control your environment to make sure that the lice don’t live in your home. Unfortunately I have the squirmiest toddler around with a crazy amount of hair so it took a long time (two hours) and she got majorly impatient.  If you go someplace like this bring an iPad, snacks, toys, and bribes.  They gave her a lollipop at one point which I think actually made her entire life (first one ever!)

Marlowe Martino eats a lollipop while she gets her hair checked for lice

Control Your Environment & Clean Your Home

Your first instinct when your kid has lice crawling on their head is to burn everything in your house, sell it and move away.  LOL.  It turns out that most people go waaaay overboard with the cleaning during a lice occurrence in their home and with just a few controlled steps it is just as effective.

  1. Wash Sheets, towels, and clothes that the child has worn or used in the past 48 hours
  2. Vacuum the floors,rugs and couches, and any upholstered headboards.  Don’t forget to vacuum out the car seat if your child uses one, and the head rests of upholstered cars!
  3. Kill lice on any pillows, stuffed animals, jackets, etc that have been used in the past 48 hours by sticking them in the dryer for 40 minutes on high heat.
  4. Anything that has come in to contact with the infected person in the past 48 hours needs to be either stuck in the dryer, or bagged in garbage bags for 2-3 days.  We bagged all our couch pillows, throw blankets, jackets that couldn’t be dried, bean bag chairs in Lowie’s room, and large stuffed animals.
  5. Any brushes and hair accessories (bows, scrunchies, hair ties), or even styling tools don’t need to be thrown out if they are bagged and put in the freezer for 2-3 days.
  6. Create an essential oil spray to spray over the rugs and couches, couch pillows etc to prevent lice.  They hate Rosemary and peppermint so I filled a spray bottle an added 5 drops each of Peppermint Essential Oil, Rosemary Essential Oil, and Lavender Essential oil.  You can spray this during the 2-3 day “waiting period” or even from time to time during the week as a prevention technique (If you don’t want to make one, you can also buy one)

Lice Can Only Live For 2 Days Off The Human Body

That’s it.  So if you get them off the head, they can’t infest as badly as you’d think.  I left everything bagged for 6 days as an extra precaution but it was definitely overkill.  The experienced Lice Ladies at Hair Genies told me that two days was plenty of time!

Prevent Lice In The Future

Whenever your child is going to school, make sure you’re creating a line of defense against lice.  I learned that since Marlowe has long hair, it’s important to keep it styled when she’s at school to prevent lice from seeking her out.  Two buns on the top of her head, or braids are the best way to go.  Loose, long hair (or even long pigtails) attract lice! Use a natural lice preventative shampoo and conditioner every day for school aged kids.  I Like this shampoo and Conditioner.  Keep a protective spray in your mud room or car to spritz a veil of mist over your child’s hair style before school.  The lady who combed out Marlowe’s lice told me she sprays it on her daughter every single day no matter what.  I trust that coming from her! The one I have is totally non toxic and natural.

My favorite protective products…


I will say that our lice experience was beyond stressful, but I feel much more aware now and able to tackle it.  Plus, it didn’t end up being as long-lasting of an ordeal as I originally expected.  If you’re reading this right now and going through it yourself, hang in there! It will be a tough 4 or 5 days and then all will be fine.  Resist the urge to shave everyone’s head in your family.  Unless of course you’re a Stranger Things fan. Then go for it! LOL.



*Dodgy iPhone photographs by me (I definitely didn’t think to bring along my nice camera during this whole ordeal– sorry for the subpar images!)



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  1. Lisa says:

    Omgosh … lol. I’d never gotten lice as a kid and never knew anyone who did. So when my daughter got them, it was traumatic! After I found them, I called my (then) husband at work crying so hard I was hiccuping. It was terrible … and a steep learning curve. Nope, RID doesn’t work. Nope, you don’t have to bag everything for 3 weeks. Yes, plastic air brushes will melt if you boil them long enough. Thanks for putting out accurate info for what can be a confusing problem/rite of passage.

    11.03.17 Reply
    • Ummmm…my husband may have gotten a similar call. LOL. It’s the worst! (but survivable)

      11.03.17 Reply
  2. Krystal says:

    I had goosebumps while I read this. I also enjoy a clean, bug free home.. so the thought of little bugs mating and laying eggs on my kids head is ?. I had lice when I was 8 or 9 and it took my mom 4 hours to clean my hair with whatever drug store brand was available in the 90’s. I remember it being awful and sans lollipop. Now with three kids under 6 in my house – I’m grateful for the household tips you mentioned!

    11.03.17 Reply
  3. Amy says:

    My head is itching just reading this! Thank you for always posting about real life topics bloggers don’t normaly want to talk about – such great advice here (that I pray I never have to use).

    11.03.17 Reply
  4. Amy says:

    My head is itching just reading this! Thank you for always posting about real life topics bloggers don’t normally discuss – such great advice here (that I pray I never have to use).

    11.03.17 Reply
  5. tara says:

    OMG! I experienced this last winter…it was a serious mom challenge!! Like you, I felt like an expert after going through it….so helpful of you to make a guide for others!!

    11.03.17 Reply
  6. Rebecca Nidorf says:

    I have 4 kids and consider myself a lice expert at this point. I too went to the professionals and will echo your statement re RID and NIX and the like, they do not work and they are TOXIC. I now use an amazing product that you may purchase from Amazon called Lice Logic. All natural and it kills both nits and lice! It’s NOT TOXIC, and it works! The bottle says leave on for 15 min, however the experts told me to leave it on for two hours or overnight. I leave it on overnight for 5-8 nights depending on the case. And we do combouts using a lice comb also found on amazon called the lice meister. The comb out should be done with a very thick conditioner and then baking soda patted on the hair for resistance and each swipe, should be wiped on a paper towel. Do this through the entire head in sections until whole head is clear. On day 5 or 8 depending when you do your last comb out, if all paper towels are clear, your child is lice free.

    11.03.17 Reply
    • This is absolutely incredible advice, Rebecca! Thank you for sharing with the community!!!

      11.03.17 Reply
    • Andrea says:

      Just added those products to an Amazon list for when it happens. Cause it’s not if, it’s when. Thank you!

      11.03.17 Reply
  7. Liz says:

    I kid you not, my son’s daycare just called me this morning to let me know there was a lice outbreak! The second one in 6 weeks! I immediately started throwing everything into the laundry and freaked lol. Thank you for this post, it couldn’t have come at a better time!

    11.03.17 Reply
    • Oh no! Hang in there! Even if he gets them, you will survive it I promise

      11.03.17 Reply
  8. Amanda says:

    Thank you thank you thank you!
    This has always been one of my worst fears with my preschool aged kids. Your post made it seem like if it happens, it’s survivable.
    I purchased my son the Ybike for his physio as seen on your IG stories, and he loves it. So thanks for that too!

    11.03.17 Reply
  9. Virginia says:

    That’s so funny my head started itching too about halfway through it! Isn’t that so funny how that works. Well that was very interesting and I will pass this information along because I to went through it with years ago with my son who’s 37 now and I’ve had a bout of it myself due to using a brush that was not mine! Which is a very helpful hint you should never share hats or brushes nothing like that! Think of those things like you would a toothbrush. You wouldn’t share that. Thanks for sharing your experience. Love your IG!!!

    11.03.17 Reply
  10. Hanne Storm says:

    Thank you sooooo much! Really informative ❤️

    11.03.17 Reply
  11. Steph says:

    Thank you so much for sharing and helping out moms who haven’t been through this. I would have LOVED to have this info in 2007 when my kids were small. I’m having terrible flashbacks right now. It was so stressful and surprisingly embarrassing (shameful) and it shouldn’t be! One of my daughters had more hair than 2 adults (ughh). When it happened AGAIN with my teenagers (who got it from babysitting small children), I calmly took them to a local lice removing salon and gladly paid the huge sum. Again, thanks for keeping it real and giving support to us mamas. God bless!

    11.03.17 Reply
  12. Amber says:

    I have a 4 year old pre school aged daughter with hair down to her bottom. I am ordering these products RIGHT NOW! Thank you so much for this information! I am a complete neat freak Type A personality and the thought of her getting Lice just about sends me over the edge. I pray I never have to experience this but if we do then I feel way better now having the information you have shared.

    11.03.17 Reply
  13. K. Martin says:

    You had me laughing so hard reading this. I would react the same way you did, sell everything, shave the heads and go and buy new bed linens! I think you got great advice. Before my son started pre-K 4, I asked about lice and the lady who was cutting his hair told me to put moose in his hair every morning. Needless to say, my son went to school with slicked hair everyday until middle school (when I had to tone it down!) and we NEVER had lice – even when there was an outbreak at school. The spray should do the trick for Marlowe. Your humor going through all of this will certainly help others facing this Worse Mom Fear! I see slick hair for Major in the future!

    11.03.17 Reply
    • Oh my gosh, so cute! He was the most stylish little kid around! ha!

      11.06.17 Reply
  14. Oh girl, I am DREADING this parenting milestone! Alexander is starting early preschool in Jan and I know we’re all going to be sick AND now I get to worry about this!

    I appreciate that you pointed out that there are services specifically for this. I am NOT a DIY person when it comes to things like this- and I googled. Thankfully we have the same type of thing here in Kansas so I can call in the experts when this does happen! (I never got lice when I was a kid either!)


    11.03.17 Reply
  15. Lili says:

    As itchy and squeamish as this post made me feel, thank you for writing all this info! Super informative. My toddler just started preschool this fall and I suspect that I’ll encounter this scenario at some point, although fingers crossed I never do! 🙂

    11.03.17 Reply
  16. Tiffany L says:

    My little one will be starting school next year so thank you for the tips!! I will be using the recommended hair products for sure.

    11.03.17 Reply
  17. Holly says:

    Thank you for talking about something that almost no one EVER talks about! Also, as a side note: add a few drops of tea tree oil in your child’s shampoo to prevent lice. 🙂

    11.03.17 Reply
  18. Allyson says:

    Thanks for The Hair Genies mention. It was great meeting you and your super cute family. Just sorry it was there! On our web site (www.thehairgenies.com) people can find our entire line of lice prevention products. They are sold in a few local stores and will soon will be on Amazon and in big retailers such as The Big Y. We are excited about educating everyone about PREVENTION! And our products are truly amazing! Anyway, big thanks again and hope to not see you anytime soon! LOL!!

    11.03.17 Reply
  19. Julie says:

    Hi there-totally feel your pain w/the whole lice thing. One of my kiddos got it twice, the other once and then ME!! It was awful, but I did had to do it myself and this is what worked for us/me.

    You can do an olive oil treatment or you can use a vinegar and listerine treatment. It took a good month to make sure they were gone, as I diligently used the formulas every other day. Rid was awful-yuck! But these worked well and I learned to NEVER share hats/scarves again! 🙂

    11.03.17 Reply
  20. Andrea says:

    Omg. What a NIGHTMARE. I’m so glad you shared your experience because the thought of having to wash every single piece of clothing and shampooing the upholstery, along with having to take care of your child, is so daunting. Bagging up everything, heating or freezing, and taking your child to the salon is sooooo much better. I saw on Facebook a while back some ladies were discussing health reasons to keep your children home from school and about 4 ladies didn’t think lice was a reason. They thought it was perfectly fine to send a child with a lice infestation to school!! I didn’t want to get in an Internet argument because if someone already thinks lice is no big deal I doubt you could change their mind, but how inconsiderate and irresponsible and neglectful and disgusting!

    11.03.17 Reply
    • WHOA. No way! That’s horrible!! My kids used to be in daycare, and I was always SHOCKED with how sick some moms would drop off their kids at daycare when clearly they would be better at home resting and recovering. I guess it’s the same parents who send their kids with lice. I mean I get that people need to get to work, but come on! lol
      Poor kiddos!

      11.06.17 Reply
      • Andrea says:

        I was a teacher and parents sent their super sick kids to school all the time. I’d call the parents and either get sent to voicemail or the parent would begrudgingly pick the poor kid up. If intentional, it’s so inconsiderate to the other families to. And sad for their kid who’s miserable :/

        11.13.17 Reply
  21. Michy says:

    About 4 months ago, my 2 year old, who had thick curly hair down to his butt, got a case of lice that was so bad that he had an embarrassingly large amount of live bugs in his hair, that seems to emerge all at once. Then I got it and so did his teacher, who had been rocking him to sleep- which created a nice pathway from his hair to hers. I shaved his hair totally off?. My friends and family were so upset but it was just too much. A nurse friend said he probably caught it on the plane ride when we moved across the country. Ekkkk!!!!

    11.03.17 Reply
  22. Virginia says:

    Lice can be such a traumatic experience. It is actually becoming an epidemic in the teenage population as well, thanks to the “selfie” believe it or not!! A few years back my daughter had a pretty significant case after a few days away at a sports camp. Like you, I tried RID and it did nothing! We then found a completely non-toxic alternative called ByeBye Lice by Happy Heads. It kills the lice organically by breaking down the exoskeleton and because it can be used more often (every 3-4 days) it allows you to get out ahead of the life cycle. Washing with the shampoo and then the daily combing through to remove the eggs is essential to being lice free!! We combed through every day for a little over a week just to be sure. After, we used the shampoo once a week for a while just for the peace of mind! Poor Marlowe and poor mommy, we know how you feel!! I just wanted to share our experiences and to also let parents of older kids know that it’s not just an a preschool/elementary problem….

    11.03.17 Reply
    • The told me about the lice selfies at the lice salon actually! Apparently it’s a huge new problem with teens!

      11.06.17 Reply
  23. Ali says:

    Glad Lowie is better:) I don’t even have kids and I read the whole post! I love that you shot these on your iPhone, they captured her emotions perfectly.

    11.03.17 Reply
  24. Kathy says:

    I have 2 middle schoolers and a high school student. We made it through after the kids got it at camp. After the initial cleanse, they went to bed every night for 2 weeks with olive oil and a disposable shower cap. Their hair looked beautiful after they rinsed in the morning- lol- and I knew that the olive oil was not survivable for our little friends! Also, my older daughter’s school said it is rampant amoung teens because of hugging!

    11.03.17 Reply
  25. Jo says:

    One easy preventative step – invest in a fine toothed nit comb and comb everyone’s hair every single time it is washed and conditioned. Simple. It may seem like a chore and both my children have inherited my very thick hair, but they are SO used to it now that if I were ever to skip the combing I am pretty sure they would remind me. Daily fine combing at shower time means if so much as one of the little critters crawls onto one of our head it is combed right out and washed away before it has time to get comfortable let alone start a community of it’s own or jump elsewhere. No nits or lice here and my children are now 10 and 13….. x

    11.04.17 Reply
    • oh my gosh, you’re amazing, this sounds so time consuming!!! I’d probably need to drink a bottle of wine if I had to comb through Marlowe’s head of hair every night with a nit comb hahaha

      11.06.17 Reply
  26. Frances Vachon says:

    My daughter (waist-length blonde hair!) got it in middle school.
    We used the products you recommend and they worked great… still use the Repel spray. I teach kindergarten, and use them myself because I am literally surrounded! I also bought this: https://www.amazon.com/LiceGuard-Robi-Electronic-Detector-Remover/dp/B01IAI7ZOW/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?ie=UTF8&qid=1510285652&sr=8-1-spons&keywords=robi%2Bcomb&th=1

    It literally zaps them and kills them! Very Satisfying!

    11.09.17 Reply
    • IC says:

      You are the BEST!! Thank you!! Thank you!!

      12.02.17 Reply
  27. Catherine says:

    I stumbled on to your site reading about your traumatic experience with your newest little one. So, I thought I’d share a couple of helpful(?) stories.
    1. I had 6 kids in just 2 months shy of 8 years. We were aiming for 4, but we managed to round things out with twins. Turns out that keeping a referral to a urologist in one’s pocket is NOT the same as actually have if a vasectomy. (So, total count, if you’re keeping score: 5 girls and one boy – he was 2nd).
    When my twins were 3 months old, my #3, who was coincidentally 3 years old at the time, developed Type 1 diabetes. (For scoring purposes: I had an 8 year old, a 6 year old, and then 3, 2, and 3 month twins.)
    I legitimately remember nothing from that time period. Literally *nothing* in terms of concrete memory. It’s all just a smeary blur of little people, and depression.
    I mourn the loss of those memories, but perhaps it’s better for my mental health that I can’t remember the rough patches. It turns out that my son has inherited bipolar disorder from the family tree; I have very little recollection of his difficult times, but I can vividly remember all his amazing accomplishments. He’s graduating this May -on time, in 4 years – from college. I don’t regret one moment of time with my kids. (Okay – I had 4 girls in high school last year. I may still regret that. Talk about PTSD …)
    Anyhow, I *totally* get your perspective. You don’t have to be a soldier to see your life/worth/motherhood flash before your eyes. Sometimes, it’s just nice to know that there are others who really get it.
    Oh, and the 2nd thing? Yeah … my FIFTEEN year-old twins just got through a round of lice. Did I mention that they are FIFTEEN? WTH. Seriously??
    We went to the Lice Centers of America. I don’t do bugs. Ah’m just sayin’.
    So, if you ever have a need to be validated as a mom, just give me a holler. I’ve been there, done that (probably badly?), but they’re all alive and well. And my kids are he*kin ah-mazing. Wayyyyyy better people than I deserve. Truly. Eons better.
    The take-away here is that you’re probably an incredible mom, kids get lice, and – hopefully – you’re only going to remember the good bits 20 years from now when you’re oldest marries the love of her life.
    Chin up –
    (Oh, and please cut that poor nanny some slack; I imagine she’s crucifying herself. I found my son under the beside table once, having misplaced him whilst nursing. I *may* have fallen asleep. I know his mental health issues are unrelated, but there’s a small part of me that is sure it’s all my fault. ?)
    Parenting is such a trip. Enjoy the ride!

    01.03.18 Reply
  28. Christy Holmes says:

    I’ve been dreading this day, but today we finally hit our kid milestone of lice (on my 5 year old daughter). I recalled a blog post of yours and pulled this up – thank you for the tips!! I did have a professional come to the house to searchand treat her hair today, and check mine (which was thankfully lice and nit free).

    04.24.18 Reply
  29. Samantha says:

    We received a flyer in my 5 year old daughter’s bookbag yesterday about lice in her classroom… I woke up and started putting her long hair (she’s trying to be Rapunzel UGH) into two buns on the top of her head and THERE THEY WERE! I instantly wanted to curl up into a ball and cry! Luckily my hubby was home and he ran out and got lice treatment while I kept my 21 month old away from his sister. Then, I remembered you wrote about this! You are a complete and total life saver! I will start checking out salons and pick up the preventative spray and shampoo. Thank you!

    02.28.19 Reply
  30. Rebekah says:

    Have you heard of Hair Shots by Amy? It’s a kids hair perfume that helps DETER LICE! I got it from a lice clinic and it really works! My kid was the only 1 that didn’t get it when her class had it!

    So many cool scents that all kids will like! Cotton Candy and Cupcake are good ones. I even use the Citrus Sugar scent for myself post workouts!

    09.25.20 Reply