When you send your kids off to camp, you want them to return with new friends and good memories—not head lice. Enter Dale Longworth, aka “The Lice Expert of Westchester” (914-424-1367; www.liceoffinc.com). Longworth has been a professional lice remover for 17 years, and she gets pretty popular when it comes time for kids to come home from their bunks. “Some people make appointments in May and June for August—when the children come off the bus, they come directly to me,” she says. “They don’t want to bring their child into their household unless they’ve been checked.” Here, Longworth has some advice for keeping the bugs at bay.
Practice an ounce of prevention (and smell good, too). We know you’ve warned your kids not to share pillows, brushes, hair ties, or headphones, but that’s not all you can do to prevent infestation. Longworth notes that lice don’t like certain aromas, so pack sprays that smell of rosemary, lavender, coconut, citronella, peppermint, or tea tree oil as a lice deterrent. “They have to be used pretty often,” she warns. A daily spritz to coat the hair, shoulders, and back is most effective.
Realize that lice have grown resistant to over-the-counter chemical shampoos (which are pretty noxious anyway). “The natural way is the way to go right now, because the louse bug and its eggs are not as resistant to a natural-based enzyme shampoo,” Longworth says. She recommends LiceLogic, a natural peppermint enzyme shampoo that was reformulated in 2012 for the resistant lice. “It’s the only lice shampoo on the market that kills the eggs in 30-plus minutes,” she says. “It has changed my business. We’re doing follow-ups in just four to seven days, while others have to follow up for two weeks.”
Don’t wait for your kids to start scratching before you check them for lice. “Not everybody is sensitive to the saliva of the louse bug,” she says. “Not everybody will be itchy.” If you see a rash or red dots on the backs of their necks, that could be a sign of head lice.
If there’s an infestation, act right away—and follow up. Whether your kids have their lice removed professionally or you (yuck) do it yourself, you have to stay on top of them for at least a week. Longworth’s maintenance recipe: After the initial cleaning and removal, use the LiceLogic shampoo on the second and third day, do another comb-out on the fourth day, then shampoo again on the fifth and sixth days, and do a comb-out on the seventh. “Usually the cycle is broken by then,” she says.
Have the right tools. Like the shampoos, Longworth says that most OTC combs aren’t great, either. Instead, find the LiceMeister Comb or the Terminator Lice Comb, which have an extra bit of pull to them. “We use conditioner and baking soda, too,” she says. “The baking soda makes it more abrasive, and more gritty. It pulls those eggs out much more quickly. We don’t want [the hair to be] silky, with the comb sliding through.”
Don’t forget about the house. “Put the bedding in a dryer on high heat for 20 minutes,” Longworth says. “Vacuum the furniture, and bag any stuffed animals for four to seven days.” Luckily, lice can’t really survive more than 36 hours without a host, and they can’t live on your pets, so you don’t have to get too paranoid about lice in your carpets or furniture.
Now, the big question: Did you make it through this article without scratching your head?