I kept meaning to do a head lice follow-up post after our experience in August. I thought about calling it "Jamie: 1, Head Lice: 0" but that seemed like a title devised by someone destined for a cosmic smackdown.
First tip: allow yourself one long shudder and then move on. Yes, it is disgusting that there are bugs living in your children's hair, sucking their blood, but the world is full of creatures that like blood. As parasites go, you could do a lot worse.
Second tip: go thou forth and buy Cetaphil. Commenter JeCaThRe told me about the Cetaphil approach, and I am still grateful. The idea is that you coat the head entirely in Cetaphil, lather it up, comb it out, and blow it dry. The next day you can shampoo it out. (Read the instructions, though. If you're into that kind of thing, the peer-reviewed version is free at Pediatrics.)
Reasons to like this approach: it is effective and non-toxic and the kids in the study had low re-infestation rates even when their friends weren't treated. It is less time-consuming than daily nit-combing -- you treat three times, each a week apart, and you don't worry about it in between. And for me there was a big psychological benefit to it. I did not have to bring a nit comb up to the daylight with wriggling live things on it. I wiped off the foamy comb on a towel and looked at the towel later. I knew that there might well be lice in the foam, but I didn't have to see their wiggly legs and their bellies full of my children's blood. I had hit them with the Foaming Cream Pie of Louse Death (the Cetaphil people should totally use that in an advertising campaign, if you ask me) and I was going to shrink-wrap them with my mighty mighty Blowdryer of Further Louse Destruction.
Another advantage to the Cetaphil approach is that the kids can do part of it. When you get to the blow-drying stage, hand off the dryer to your child for a while and go eat some ice cream. (You deserve some ice cream if you are the louse exterminator-in-chief.) This is a pleasant contrast to nit-combing, in which it's all mom all the time.
One disadvantage to using Cetaphil is that it costs more than louse shampoo. You might be able to find a coupon, but it's still not the cheapest approach. Totally worth it, in my view. If you opt for a more economical solution, I do encourage you to look at the housecleaning steps outlined in the article I linked to above. So many articles on head lice infestations encourage you to clean like a crazy woman: bag up the stuffed animals and put them in the freezer, wash all the linens in hot water, burn all the furniture (oh, wait, that last one is just Renee having an attack of the shudders). Dr. Pearlman says not to be a crazy woman. Just do three things: put the child in fresh clothes after treatment, clean all the combs and brushes (either soak them in alcohol or chuck them in the dishwasher), and spin the bedding in the dryer. The reality is that lice are pretty fragile. They are clumsy little things; they can't jump or fly. You are bigger and meaner than they are.
My unconscious is not entirely convinced of that, however. I dreamed a few weeks ago that they were back, only they were the size of my hand with giant pincers. They were all over my house, just hanging out on the countertops. They looked like pupating Blast-Ended Skrewts, and they were trying to suck my children's blood.
I was telling my MIL about this dream, trying to convey the horror of it. I must have failed, because she chirped, "Oh, well, at least they'd be easy to spot!"
They would indeed.