7 Reasons You Keep Getting Lice and How to Stop Lice From Coming Back
Discover the reasons you keep getting lice and more importantly, how to stop it from coming back.
You discover head lice on you or your kid, then use a lice treatment or home remedy to try to kill it, followed by painstakingly removing lice eggs, hours of housecleaning, and loads of laundry--only to discover lice is back again a few weeks or even days later!
Does this sound familiar to you?
Most websites or products will say things like, “When lice come back, it is usually because you did not follow the directions carefully enough.”
You know, though, that it’s just not true. You have done everything, yet lice keep coming back!
There are seven major reasons people get stuck in this never-ending lice cycle, and it is not because they aren’t following the instructions.
More important than why you are stuck in the cycle, however, here you can learn 7 WAYS TO STOP LICE FROM COMING BACK. EVER.
#1 Super Lice
Super lice are on the rise. If you have gone through multiple rounds of lice treatment and lice keep returning regardless, you probably have the unfortunate pleasure of hosting super lice.
Super lice look and act just like ordinary head lice. They are the same size, shape, and color, making it so you can’t tell them apart just by looking at them. The difference between super lice and regular lice is that super lice have a mutation that makes them resistant to almost all over-the-counter and prescription lice treatments.
If you have gone through multiple rounds of lice treatment, but lice keep returning, you likely have super lice.
These super lice become stronger and more resistant every time you use one of these ineffective lice treatments on your child’s head.
When you use an over-the-counter or prescription treatment, you kill the weakest head lice, but the strongest lice live on. These strong lice then breed together and produce more lice that are even stronger than the previous generation. Every time you use one of these pesticide treatments, super lice become more “super” because you kill the weak ones and leave the strongest lice left to multiply.
Traditional Lice Treatments Don’t Kill Super Lice
For years, the go-to lice treatments were over-the-counter pesticides.
Unfortunately, many people run to the drug store and grab these same pesticides without knowing that all of the treatments we used twenty years ago are no longer effective against the new strain of lice (super lice).
Name brand and generic treatments with pesticides as the main “lice killing” ingredient do not kill super lice or their eggs. Prescription lice treatments also use these same pesticides, just in larger doses or more frequently.
Recent studies show that up to 98% of lice and super lice are now resistant to these types of treatments, so it doesn’t matter the dosage or how long you leave them on. The treatment only kills the weakest lice, and the strongest super lice continue to breed and multiply.
Unfortunately, these products are heavily advertised and recommended by folks without a lot of hands-on lice knowledge. These products were indeed effective forty years ago, but since lice have evolved, these products are no longer useful for killing lice.
Since pesticides are no longer adequate to eliminate lice, it can be challenging for most people to navigate the lice shampoo world. There are hundreds of different lice products, and each one of them claims on the box to effectively kill lice.
The honest truth is that many statements on the boxes are flat-out lies.
The Solution: Use a Lice Treatment that Kills Both Lice and Super Lice
In my lice center, I’ve tested and studied just about every lice treatment out there, and the most “popular” treatments are among the very worst, so don’t be fooled by big name brands or hollow promises of “killing super lice” on the boxes.
In years past, the only places you could buy a lice treatment that killed super lice was at a professional lice center, but fortunately many professional lice centers now sell their products on Amazon. (A quick disclosure: these are affiliate links, and I do earn a commission from qualifying purchases; however, all of my reviews are based on the quality of the products, and the decision to purchase through these links is entirely up to you.)
The best lice treatment kits on the market for killing lice and super lice use dimethicone (a silicone-based product) to kill lice.
Ladibugs Elimination Kit and Lice Clinics Kit are the very best true lice killers I have found. All lice and super lice are dead within only twenty minutes. Ladibugs also comes with an enzyme mousse that helps to loosen lice eggs.
The Ladibugs Lice Elimination Kit comes with a serum that kills both lice and super lice. It also comes with an enzyme mousse that helps loosen lice eggs, making them much easier to remove. Ladibugs is a one-and-done kit, which means you have everything you need for one person in one kit. The enzyme mousse can be used multiple times over several days to remove lice eggs.
Lice Clinics Lice Remover Kit comes with an easy dispenser and is probably the easiest treatment to use. It kills all lice within 20 minutes. You’ll need to retreat in about ten days.
Enzyme-based treatments can be a good choice as well. These ones take a little longer to kill head lice, but in exchange, they break down the glue that holds lice eggs in place, making them easier to remove. The best enzyme lice treatment kit is Fairy Tales Lice Elimination Kit.
#2 Lice Eggs
Another unique thing about super lice is that lice treatments do not kill their lice eggs or prevent them from hatching. Thirty years ago, you could use a lice treatment and the lice eggs may not hatch, but today’s lice lay very resistant eggs that do not die with these standard over-the-counter treatments.
You’ll find many products advertising “kills lice and lice eggs,” but don’t be fooled. Some lice treatments may kill some eggs, but no treatment today kills all lice eggs. Nits have a thick, waxy coating that makes them nearly impossible to kill.
Because lice eggs are resistant to chemicals, glued to the hair, and impervious to damage, the best thing you can do to “kill” lice eggs is manually remove them from the head. Once lice eggs are pulled from the hair and thrown into the trash, they will not be able to hatch because you have removed them from their heat source.
A crucial fact that many people overlook is, regardless of what a lice product may advertise, your goal should always be to remove all lice eggs from the head. Leaving any of these nits behind means lice quickly make a comeback.
If you focus only on killing lice and not removing the eggs, you will find yourself stuck in an endless lice cycle because new lice keep hatching from the eggs that weren’t removed from the head.
Here’s what this cycle looks like...
You kill all the lice. You think you’ve gotten rid of everything, but you leave a few lice eggs in the hair. Those lice eggs hatch within a few days and, shortly, those lice begin laying eggs. Within a few weeks, you have a full infestation all over again. You go around and around in this circle of “getting lice back” from yourself.
Removing lice eggs from the hair, however, is difficult. Anyone who has tried to use one of those plastic lice combs that come in a standard lice kit knows that these combs are next to useless. Most plastic combs are weak and often break in thick hair. The teeth of plastic combs are spread so far apart that they are incapable of removing nits, even if you comb over the same area multiple times.
After using a poor comb with little success, many people resort to “nit-picking,” which is manually removing individual lice eggs from the hair with your fingers. Nit-picking is incredibly time-consuming, tedious, and overwhelming. Sadly, most parents that spend 6-12 hours “nit-picking” and believe they have removed every nit inevitably miss some, and just two nits means staying trapped in this lice cycle again and again.
The Solution: Nit-Free Terminator Comb
The fastest, easiest, and most effective way to get rid of lice eggs permanently is with a professional-level head lice comb.
I know what you’re thinking: “I’ve tried lice combs and they don’t work.” That’s because you’re using a bad comb. There really are only a few good lice combs on the market today and you can’t find any of them at the drugstore. The very best lice comb out there is the Nit-Free Terminator Comb.
If you ask any lice professional, they will almost certainly tell you this is the comb they use. The teeth of this comb are spaced tightly together, but the real secret is that these teeth have small spirals, creating a “barbed wire” effect on lice and nits, catching them and dragging them down the entire hair strand and out of your child’s hair.
#3: It’s Passing Back and Forth in the Family
Lice are very contagious, and even more so among family members. If one child in the family has lice, the chances of a sibling getting lice are estimated to be as high as 80%!
If you’ve checked all of your children and think that only one of your many children has lice, you are usually wrong.
It’s common that just one child has a serious case of head lice while the others are in the beginning stages. Head lice in the beginning stage are often missed because there are only one or two lice and a few lice eggs in the hair.
Usually parents focus all of their attention on just one of their children because they think the others are in the clear or they will be able to stop lice from spreading if they concentrate on killing all the lice on that one kid. However, if one of the other children in the family has head lice (even only a couple nits), they’ll just give it right back to their sibling.
I know I’m gonna make your head itch (no pun intended), but in my experience, moms end up getting head lice from their children about 50% of the time as well. So, consider that maybe YOU could be the one giving lice back to your children. Save yourself a lot of hassle and make sure you get yourself checked out as well.
The Solution: An Enzyme Shampoo
The best solution for a situation like this is to use an enzyme-based lice treatment shampoo on the whole family, parents included. Enzyme lice treatments are made with all natural enzymes and are safe to use on anyone in the family older than two years old.
A great option for families is LiceLogic Free & Clear Shampoo. This 8oz bottle has fourteen treatments’ worth of shampoo, which is enough to treat all your children to ensure they aren’t in the beginning stages of lice.
To be clear, if you find that any of the siblings have lice, you will need to go through and remove all lice eggs from their hair, too.
If you don’t want to use an enzyme shampoo on the siblings, another solution is to check all your kids for lice using a lice comb. Do this by combing through each child’s hair and ensuring that no bugs come out.
#4: You Keep Getting It From a Close Friend
90% of head lice is passed directly from head to head. Lice spread among close friends for the same reason they spread among siblings: a lot of head to head contact. The chances of hugging, snuggling, whispering in each others’ ears, and even bumping heads is much higher among your child and their close friends.
Think about your child and her best friend. Do they...
- Hug each other when they see each other or before they leave?
- Whisper in one another’s ears?
- Tumble/wrestle together?
- Look at video screens such as a tablet or phone together (heads touching)?
- Watch movies together on a couch?
These are all prime times for head lice to spread.
The Solution: Tell Your Close Friends
Whether your child got lice from her best friend or your child gave lice to her best friend really doesn’t matter. In the end, you want the same thing: no more head lice! Tell other parents to check for head lice and get rid of it so they don’t spread it back to your child.
A call or text to your child’s best friend can look something like this:
“Hi, this is Bailey’s mom. I’m just letting you know that Bailey has head lice. You’ll probably want to check Sarah because they spend so much time together.”
You don’t need to feel embarrassed or ashamed about reaching out in this manner. Parents will feel grateful that you gave them a heads’ up, and you’d also want to know if someone your kid spends a lot of time with had head lice.
#5 It's Coming Back from School
After you have taken care of your own children and contacted your child’s closest friends, many people worry that their child will pick up lice again from school. This is a possibility, but it is less likely. Because lice is spread head-to-head in most circumstances, the chances of getting lice again from going to school isn’t very high.
However, if many children at your child’s school have lice and you are concerned she is getting it there, here are some things you can do to decrease your chances of your child getting lice back from school:
Lice Prevention Spray
Lice have a keen sense of smell and are attracted to humans because of their scent. You can, however, use lice’s heightened sense of smell against them by putting fragrances in your child’s hair that repel lice. Essential oils like peppermint, tea tree, citronella, lavender, eucalyptus, and rosemary are among the nineteen scents proven to be effective against head lice. Preventative lice sprays are packed with these essential oils and, when sprayed on your child’s hair daily, can keep lice away.
Wear Hair Up
The less opportunities lice have to come into contact with your child’s hair, the better. Keeping hair up in buns, braids, or ponytails gives lice less space to grab on. This also decreases the chances of your kid’s hair accidentally brushing up against someone else's. Implement a “hair up at school and down at home” policy. There are even lice repellent hair bands you can buy for added protection.
No Back to Back in PE
It’s not uncommon for kids to be required to buddy up in PE class. Many PE teachers tell kids to stand “back to back” after they have found their partner. Imagine, two little girls with long hair standing back to back with their heads touching… Head lice heaven! Instead, a better way to buddy up is to link arms. Their heads won’t touch and they’ll still be easy to spot by their teacher.
Jacket in Backpack
If you’re concerned because your child’s jacket is on a hanger with everyone else's jackets, you can encourage your child to put her jacket in her backpack instead of hanging it on the hanger. You can also spray her backpack or jacket with a preventative lice spray that repels head lice, such as Lice Clinics Repel Spray.
#6: You’re Getting It Back From Your House
The least likely place to get lice back is your home.
Generally speaking, lice stick solely to the head; they don’t hang out on your furniture, waiting to crawl on you. Lice must feed frequently on your blood in order to survive. Usually, the only times lice leave a head are if they are switching to another head or they are dying.
If by chance a single bug does fall off your head and onto your furniture, they cannot live long. After too long without a blood meal, they dehydrate and die. Lice can not live more than two days off the head.
Although the chances of getting lice back from your home are pretty small, you will still want to take precautions. Here are a few guidelines for cleaning your house:
Think 48 Hours
Focus on cleaning items that have been in contact with the lice-infested individual within the last 48 hours. Lice cannot live longer than 48 hours on household items, which makes this the best place to start.
Do Not Use Lice Sprays
Multiple scientific studies have shown that that almost all lice in the US are resistant to the pesticide found in lice sprays. (This fact is explained in detail in our article, Lice Sprays for Furniture). The only lice sprays that work for killing lice are enzyme lice sprays like LiceLogic Clear & Free All Purpose Spray.
You can vacuum surfaces such as couches and mattresses.
Clean Your Brushes
Soak hair brushes, combs, and hair accessories (such as hairbands, clips, and headbands) used by the person with lice in hot water (135° F or greater) for at least ten minutes. (I do not recommend boiling brushes and combs, however, because they will melt.)
Items in the Dryer
Put items in the dryer for forty minutes on high heat.
Bag Items for Two Days
If an item is something that you cannot run through the dryer, like a favorite stuffed toy or delicate clothing, you can seal it away in a bag for a couple days. Since lice can’t live without blood for very long, anything that could have lice on it will be safe to use again after 48 hours.
Don’t Forget Carseats
Vacuum the car seats of the lice-infested individuals.
For detailed cleaning instructions and a checklist, read the article Ultimate Lice Cleaning Checklist.
#7: Timing Is Everything
Many people use a lice treatment, remove lice eggs, and believe they’ve done all that is required to get rid of head lice. What they miss, though is following up. Lice eggs are extremely small, and it is possible that you can miss one or two of them.
The Solution: Follow-Up
Even the very best lice treatments do not kill lice eggs, so it is critical that you remove all the eggs from the head. In the event that you may have missed a few lice eggs, a second lice treatment may be beneficial.
Many lice treatment kits say to re-treat a week later, but that may be too soon. Lice eggs can take up to ten days to hatch on the head, so if you did re-treat within the week, you may still miss some eggs that haven’t hatched yet. Instead, I recommend doing another lice treatment ten days later (instead of a week).
Let me be clear: This will only work if you use an effective lice treatment like the ones I’ve recommended. Many treatments don’t kill strong lice, so if you use a bad treatment product, you’ll just keep going around and around in circles, no matter how many times you use it.
Another key to successfully getting rid of lice permanently is to check your child frequently for lice, even after you believe it is gone. If you want to ensure lice isn’t going to come back, you should continue to check your child for lice every three days for a full two weeks, even if you believe they are lice free.
Checking your child frequently like this will ensure that you haven’t missed lice eggs. It’ll also help you to determine if you’ve used an effective lice product.
When websites and products tell you that you are using the product incorrectly or you aren’t cleaning your house thoroughly enough, don’t believe them. The truth is that lice today are extremely resistant and most over-the-counter treatments don’t kill lice or lice eggs.
To get rid of lice, return that popular lice treatment from years past and exchange it for an effective lice treatment. Use the Nit-Free Terminator Comb to remove all lice eggs, and then check your child’s head frequently for a full two weeks.
If you’re concerned your child is getting lice from friends or school, use a prevention spray and other prevention techniques to keep them in the clear.
Here’s a summary of the key points from the article.
7 Reasons You Keep Getting Lice
- Super lice
- Lice eggs
- Close friends
7 Ways To Stop Lice From Coming Back
- Use a product that is effective against regular lice and super lice like the ones I’ve recommended in the article - NOT a pesticide.
- Remove lice eggs with the Nit-Free Terminator comb.
- Use an enzyme lice shampoo on the whole family.
- Tell your child’s close friends if they have lice.
- Use a lice prevention spray and follow lice prevention strategies.
- Follow a house cleaning checklist, and don’t bother with lice sprays.
- Keep checking your child for a full two weeks. If you are doing a follow-up treatment, schedule it for at least ten days later.