The 7 agonizing stages of getting rid of your kid's lice (GIFs)

Jan 26, 2016 at 5:00 p.m. ET
Image: Image Source/Getty Images

So you've spotted a nit, the school nurse made the dreaded phone call or your kid won't stop scratching his head. Welcome to the club no one wants to be a member of, Mom. Here's what you'll go through as you deal with your very own lice infestation.

Nobody wants lice, but it's unlikely that you'll never have to experience it, either as a child or as a parent — the CDC estimates that between 6 and 12 million lice infestations occur in the U.S. in kids 3 to 11 years of age. Lice know no bounds, and can infest the head of just about anyone, no matter what their personal hygiene habits are, who they are or where they live.

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Here's the nit-picking, hair-washing, bug-zapping path you're about to head down:

Wait. What was that?

Wait. What?
Image: Giphy

You're combing your kid's hair, and wait a second... did you see something there? Seriously. Did something just move? Are you dreaming? Maybe you need some coffee. Get control of yourself!

Hardcore denial

Image: Giphy

Well, if you did see something, it definitely wasn't a bug. Or a louse egg. It was dandruff... a piece of lint... It was just hair, dammit, and hair moves sometimes. Right? You call in your partner, your other kids, anyone to take a look and go down the path of denial with you. Together, you agree that it's just a bit of food... something. Anything.

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You really can't stay in denial for too long, because there are bugs in your kid's hair. Whether you visibly freak out or tuck it away neatly inside, you may go through feelings of fright, horror, revulsion or some other unpleasant emotion. All normal.

Your scalp is getting itchy

Jack Skellington head scratch

Once you spot that first egg, nymph or adult louse, your own scalp will begin to prickle. Your thoughts will automatically go to a place where you'd prefer they not go: "Do I have lice, too?" Chances are your scalp is getting pretty itchy just reading about this. Sorry.

Acceptance and action


Once you get through the above stages, you'll probably accept your situation and spring into action. You'll want to get rid of these little jerks ASAP. Whether you take your child to the doctor for a script or tackle the lice-removal section in Walgreens, it can feel like there is no time to lose.

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All the combing

Combing a bird

Lice eggs are tiny and close to the scalp, and they cling like crazy. You have to get each one with a lice comb or pick them out with your fingernails, even after you've annihilated all of the live lice. And you'll be doing this for a while, so get used to it.


Watching out

Once you've banished lice from your child's head, you will be on alert for months down the road. Does it look like your kid is scratching more than usual? Do you feel like going over her head once more "just in case"? Wait... is your scalp itchy?