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Get the facts on lice infestation treatment

March 30, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
It's a problem that is usually stigmatized, but having your kids come home from school with lice is not uncommon. There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to lice, like who gets it and how to get rid of it.

It's the four-letter word, no parent wants to hear: "Lice."

Even the mention of your child having it can cause embarrassment, panic and dread.

However, a lot of what you hear about lice is misinformation or a misconception.

The first thing parents need to realize is that having lice is nothing to be ashamed of.

McKenna Lowry, 6, probably had head lice for months. No one knew. At first, her mom was in denial.

"Oh my goodness. Not me. Every other parent, every other child, but not my family. That's what went through my mind," said Melissa Lowry, McKenna's mother. "I felt like a victim. And I definitely felt a little helpless."

But Melissa jumped into action, buying all the known tools: over-the-counter shampoos, gels and combs. She was even prepared to clean out her whole house.

But before you get carried away, experts say people need to get the right information.

"When we first started our business, we would get a lot of moms who would call crying, on the verge of panic," said Hilary Scofield. "And I had parents who literally had thrown away their sofa. I had a client who had given away their dog to the Humane Society."

Hilary and her partner, Michelle Aloisio, call themselves the Hair Angels. They make house calls to anxious, worried families.

While they guarantee their meticulous combing technique will get rid of the lice, they feel education is the most important part of their job.

"Lice don't discriminate," said Hilary. "They don't care if you're a girl or boy, they don't care if you're rich or poor, and they don't care if you're clean or dirty. They just want food, and they're parasites, and they'll go wherever they need to get it."

Hilary says lice shampoos, even the prescription ones, may kill the bugs but they don't completely get rid of nits, or eggs.

The only way to end the infestation is to manually remove the three stages of lice: The adult bugs, the baby ones and the eggs.

"They look like a sesame," said Michelle. "They have a little bit of shine to them, and if in fact they do not flake off the hair, and if you try and blow on it and if they do not blow off, then that is a nit."

Hilary and Michelle prefer metal combs with special grooves that grab the eggs. They are both trained in the Shepherd Method of lice removal.

"And I go all throughout the hair in very paper-thin, fine layers to make sure I have not missed anything."

Lice can only survive for a day off of the human head. It's only necessary to clean or throw away items that have touched your child's head in the last 24 hours.

But the most important way to stop the spread of lice is to speak up. If you don't, your kids will get re-infested again.

"I would say, Don't be embarrassed," said Michelle. "Here I am on the news -- you've got to own it. You've just got to say it happened to my child, you treat it, you get the right information, you're proactive, and you move on."

The Hair Angels charge about $90 per hour. Treating one person usually takes about an hour and a half.

Hilary and Michelle say if parents can't afford their service, the most important thing is to get the right comb, and then they can explain how to do the technique