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10 Stages of Head Lice ... And Yes, You Will Survive

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I am just a mom who’s had head lice, twice. I have four kiddos, three girls, with the thickest hair, ever. It's pretty much Disney World for head lice - the fun just never ends for those little guys.

As part of the healing process, I have developed the 10 stages (and emotions) of lice.

Stage 1 - It’s here.

You see it. Your kid taking his or her fingers, all ten of them, and aggressively scratching away at his or her head, and in that moment, you think to yourself … "NOOOOOO. This can’t be happening. I don’t have time for this."

(And side note: Yes, boys get head lice too. Long hair, short hair, head lice like it all.)

Stage 2 - Facing it.

Okay, now you have to find that lice comb you tucked way somewhere and face it. You have to comb out your kid’s hair in the search for bugs. Gross.

This is where it gets really fun. Just kidding. It totally sucks.

Stage 3 – There. It. Is.

You say all the bad words (silently in your head, of course, because your kid is directly in front of you). Your heart literally sinks. The bug is smaller than a teeny tiny breadcrumb but man, just like that; it’s turned Sunday bath night into total hell.

Stage 4 – Complete and total panic.

Psycho lice mom has arrived. What’s psycho lice mom, you ask? You literally want to stop everything, get in the car and drive to a “lice treatment center.” Like right now.

But it’s 8:30 p.m. It’s bedtime. The head lice is not going to actually hurt your child, so you put your kid to bed and start the search for every treatment center in the area. You call them all … because you want to get the very first appointment in the morning.

And, guess what? You are not going to sleep. You are going to scratch your own head all night and imagine bugs crawling all over everyone in the family. If you fall asleep, you are going to dream (or rather have nightmares) about head lice.

Stage 5 – The treatment.

You can’t get there fast enough. You walk into the treatment center and look around. The place is packed. Other people have lice. You are not alone.

You watch as the technician literally digs through your kid’s hair informing you that yes, you are correct. She has lice. (High five, you got it right.)

Then, it’s your turn because let’s face it, something like 80 percent of moms get it too, if it’s in the house. So, there you are as they now dig through your hair and confirm your snuggles at bedtime were costly (literally). Perfect, you have it too.

Three hours and hundreds of dollars later, with buns in your hair, you are “clean.”

Stage 6 – Telling everyone.

It’s the dreaded phone call, email or text, letting your friends know that they may have been exposed to head lice. Ugh.

Here’s the thing. Try not to get too stressed. Your mom friends can only be upset with you if (1) you DON’T tell them OR (2) you have ignored the head lice when you knew it was in your house. Otherwise, this is life. It sucks, but it is what it is. Someone gave it to your kid and so on. All you can do is try to control the spreading as much as possible.

Most importantly, it’s nothing to be embarrassed about, which is something I have to remind myself. We didn’t do something wrong to get the lice.

Stage 7 – The clean up.

Now, you have to deal with your house. You have two options … (1) Book a hotel room for the night. Leave the house for 24 hours and come back like nothing has happened because lice can only live off the scalp for 24 hours max, and there is only a two percent chance they can transfer from an object back to a head.


(2) Clean all the sheets, blankets and towels; vacuum the house; throw all the pillows and stuffed animals that may have been “exposed” in your dryer on high heat; stick all the hair brushes in Ziplocs in the freezer … and if you are like me, go completely nuts. Clean the house, from top to bottom, which is unnecessary but it feels right.

Option one is definitely more fun. Option two is what I do.

Stage 8 – The follow up.

To have nits or not to have nits. The weekly follow-ups bring a mix of emotions. As you pull up to the treatment center, you remember the emotions of stage five and how far you have come. You wait anxiously as they comb through your kid's hair, hoping for those four wonderful words … "YOU ARE ALL CLEAN."

And then, you say goodbye to your new lice BFF at the treatment center and hope to never see her again.

Stage 9 – Living in fear of lice.

You literally think that you have it … and will always have lice, at all times. You see your daughters snuggling up and all you can think of is … lice. You see a picture on Instagram of two friends close together with their hair touching and think … "well, one of them is giving the other one lice." It’s school picture time and you are all … “sorry kiddo, your hair is in a bun this year. Actually, you can never wear your hair down again.”

From some people, this stage could last just weeks. For others, it can go on for the entire school. And for a few, they are never the same.

Stage 10 – Back to your “normal.”

… until … itch, itch, scratch, scratch. And then, all the bad words ensue.

Just remember, you will survive head lice.

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