back to school : how I deal with nits

Those of you who already have kids at school will know that it’s not just the homework that will be coming home with your kids once they are back to school. If you’re really lucky you’ll get to experience the whole range of emotions that goes with finding your child has nits. I still remember when my innocence as a new school mum was shattered when I discovered keira had nits one morning while doing her hair. I’d never seen them before and I had no idea what to do. In fact the school office had to tell me what to do. Of course I went and got some terrible smelling shampoo that was so strong and I had to read the instructions and leave it in her hair for a few hours. I’d never even see a nit comb before and now we have several throughout the house. We’ve gone through stages of no nits (as in before my eldest started school), then nits, then trying to beat the nits which kept coming home, then a new school with no nits and then nits again late last year.

My best advice? Just stay vigilant against them. Even if you think you’ve got them all and said goodby to nits, be prepared for them to come home again or for another cycle of nits in your family. It happens.

And how do I check for nits? Well we check (ideally a couple of times a week but usually once a week) with the nit comb when the kids are getting their hair washed. After conditioner has gone in and been left in for a while is a great time to quickly run a nit comb through and wipe on a wet wipe or white tissue to see if it comes out clear.

And what are you looking for? Generally anything light brown to black that could be as tiny as a little speck or fleck or a full blown big nit will come out. It’s really important to wipe the comb on a white tissue/wipe/bit of toilet paper/whatever you have that is white so you can see what is coming out. Otherwise you are just putting the comb and nits back into the hair. So wipe after the comb has been in each time and you’ll use a few wet wipes/tissues but trust me there is a great sense of satisfaction when that last nit comes out of the hair. And after each child has been de-nitted you’ll want to wash their bedding and hats.

And what is my favourite way to get rid of them? We have tried loads of different treatments over the years, trust me I keep finding them everytime we move house and I clear out bathrooms. But they really haven’t worked for us in the long term. At the moment I’m loving oil like argan oil in the hair as they slide out easily and a metal nit comb. Don’t use your good stuff from the hairdresser. I’m using this less expensive one ($8 a bottle). You might like to apply the oil to wet hair or I did dry and also did a haircut at the same time since we were sitting on a stool and dealing with holiday hair. Then wash their hair and you run the nit comb through it and then I dry it with my hot straightener. And yes you better set aside part of your day or night to deal with the nasty nits (I think that’s why mums hate them so much). But trust me if you deal with them now and get rid of them properly then you will be so much better off in the long run.

Now some of your kids will scream the house down when you get the nit comb through their hair. We have a really loud one here who almost runs a mile once she sees the nit comb. A good distraction is to have them sit and watch something on the computer or their favourite movie while we get the nits out. For my really unhappy little ones who hate the nit comb I do them while they are in the bath and work quickly and then act like I have no nit comb, as soon as they turn their head back to play I’m back in there with my comb and getting anything out. Works a treat for my little two.

And preventing nits? For my boys short hair. Keep it short and it’s so easy to get the nit comb through. My boys are never really my problem in the nit department. For my girls it’s hairspray all the way. Go crazy with it. And hair up, plaits are best. If the hair is too long to get the nit comb then they get a generous trim at my ‘salon’. And when I’m on top of the daily hairspraying we seem to avoid nits. Once a lovely friend Sonia made a beautiful all natural spray when keira was in kindy and we were really battling the nits and it worked wonders and smelled so beautiful at the same time. Must get the ingredients from her if she’s sharing her special spray.

And that’s nits! What’s your top tip? Everyone seems to have advice and yes the cheap conditioner gets a workout here too. The funniest tip I ever got was from the GP who told me to sit with the child near a naked flame like a candle and comb each one out and then strike it through the flame to really kill it. Oh for sure. Totally doable back then with 4 kids under 6. Yep. No. I never did that. It had accident waiting to happen written all over it.


  1. Oh yeah. I first discovered the boys had nits when the co-sleeping cherubs infected ME. With my to-the-waist hair.

    Really, nit-combing is the only way. And short haircuts. And no co-sleeping.

  2. Moov shampoo on dry hair, followed by conditioner and nit comb, done for all 7 of us (regardless of number infected!), weekly three times AND washing and changing all sheets at the same time AND putting all the currently-on-the-bed-teddies in big plastic bags away (alternating weekly with the hair/sheets ordeal) AND vacuuming everything AND taking away all loose cushions/blankets. And then they will be gone. Until three months later when someone else catches them. Kinder and year one for really cute kids is the worst. One of my littlies would cry when we found them and say “why can’t all the kids just stop hugging me!” She is very little and cute, so everyone wanted to hug her: welcome nits! I know many articles will say not to worry about washing everything because nits can only live 24hrs without a food source etc. BUT we all go to bed less than 24hrs after the last time our head was on the pillow, and really, after spending a fortune on the shampoo is it really worth the risk? We tried a couple other methods, but they didn’t work so we went back to the old faithful method. It has worked every time.

  3. We have only had it once in our house, but I will never forget the time I discovered them. James and I were on a train for a day out at Bondi and I thought, why is he scratching his head…. Infested! I thought I was going to be sick, lol. Thankfully Layla only had a few when we checked her.

    We have such an awful time brushing her hair…. Tears every day! If she was to get them again I would have to cut her hair off, otherwise the neighbours would probably call DOCS from her screaming over the nit comb.

    Thanks for the reminder…. Must get the preventative spray happening again.

  4. Whats the name of the comb you’ve used on your post photos? Thanks for addressing such an unpleasant topic! :-)

  5. The main thing is to retreat the hair on exactly Day 7 from the first treatment. No nit shampoo kills all the eggs (in varying stages of development) so you need to treat again 7 days after the first treatment to get any little ones that have hatched which you might have missed when getting the eggs out first time. There is no need to wash bedding, vacuum, etc if you treat the hair correctly as nits need a human scalp, and its blood, to survive. To be extra sure they’re gone, I try to do a couple of conditioner comb throughs during the week before retreating again on Day 7.

  6. The last time we had them, and they were bad, I used cheap conditioner and tons of it. I didn’t treat it any other way, just cheap conditioner, a nit comb and paper towels, daily then every second day for two weeks. It worked better than commercial toxic products.

  7. I’m with Andrea and her advice. A huge bottle of cheap conditioner and a nit comb does the trick – no need to run to the pharmacy for the expensive lotions and potions. Every night they are in the bath – a dollop of conditioner and a quick comb through will keep them away.

  8. I use cheap conditioner as well as a treatment. As a deterrent though, a few drops of teatree into a water spray bottle and using hairspray. Lice don’t like teatree or hairspray.

  9. Great advice, I wish I’d had this a year ago! The key for me was I had to change my thinking from expecting 2 treatments of chemicals to fix it, to making a weekly school time routine. Whether we have them or not, Friday afternoons here are now tv, cheap conditioner under a shower cap & a nit comb through before the shower. After routine to get back in place!

  10. We wash all the bed linens including pillows and doonas and then put them through the dryer on hot after they have been mostly line dried. The heat kills them just like your hair straightener does. Also putting a few drops of tea tree oil into a bottle of hair detangler and spraying on hair each school morning because we’ve had boys with nits too! Then just do it all year instead of waiting for infestations or school notices. Was having the kids hair cut at a discount cutting place that only does cuts when they discovered nits on the kid next to us, they informed the mum that they shouldn’t be cutting his hair due to infestation until it was treated, but she was fairly unhappy and they relented and cut it anyway. I watched as that hair sat all over the floor for a good 30 mins….no wonder why we have such big infestations if hairdressers don’t even follow headlice protocol. Had my child not been half way through his cut I would have walked out. Not happy Jan

  11. My youngest’s pre-school had bottles of anti-lice spray at the sign in desks in each classroom. It was just tea tree oil in water and they asked parents to please spray their child’s hat and hair each morning and there was never a problem. When he started kindy at big school last year, I kept the spray routine going for both boys and no nits at all even though the problem has cropped up at both schools. It’s just 20ml of tea tree oil topped up with water in a spray bottle and right before we walk out the door each morning, I spray their hats and spray their hair. I ask them to close their eyes when I’m spraying their hair. We do have nit combs at home and check their hair regularly, especially when one of those head lice alert notes that we all love comes home from school.

    I have had to deal with nits once when my big boy brought them home from his school before we started using the spray. Having to chase a screaming child with autism around the yard to get the medicated foam on his hair wasn’t fun. At that stage, he hated to get his hair wet. By the time the whole shampoo, rinse, conditioner, comb, rinse, comb palaver was done, I had a slight case of industrial deafness and scratches up both my arms. Not an experience I’m keen to repeat!

  12. Either I am very slack or my kids haven’t got nits yet. I use lots of conditioner? Thanks for sharing the tips about the tree oil and hairspray. I use to spray my eldest girls hair and may start again this year when I have both girls at school.

  13. So. Now I feel itchy. Note to self don’t read anymore nit posts 😛

  14. I would love the ingredients for the special spray if you’re able to share. Isn’t it funny how your head immediately becomes itchy as soon as you start reading about nits? We are at the end of a nit eradication. I like to be over vigilant when head lice is discovered and do a few more treatments on the entire family even when there are no more eggs or lice to be found. Pure orange juice is supposed to act as a natural insecticide and kills lice and loosens eggs. We do the same thing as you, though I use white conditioner and a family box of tissues. I set up, and every member of the family comes through my lice checking and eradication treatment centre (aka bar stool next to the ironing board). I was tempted to cut my girls’ hair; my 11 year old has thick hair nearly to her bottom!

  15. my teenage daughter had nits on and off for years…was driving us both insane.
    The thing that finally broke the cycle for us was a Robi-comb, one of those electronic zappy things. I got one second hand off eBay!

  16. For years we have been mixing tea tree oil with water and spraying our kids hair. Worked great. Until this year. Our daughter has caught nits twice in the past 2 weeks from a child at church. Our 2 boys and daughter all had their hair treated, so it wasn’t passed on. The most recent case was Tuesday morning (first day of school) and we quickly treated her hair. So much for getting to school early. My sister recommended Nyda Plus (family pack). Leave in hair for 1hr, and it is free of neurotoxic insecticides. We found it difficult to remove all the eggs. We have been using Neutra Lice conditioner shampoo Lice Egg Remover. I found at Coles – Redwin tea tree shampoo. We are alternating the 2 shampoos and continually checking hair. The lady at the chemist mentioned the Robi Comb Pro. Glad it worked for you Jill. We might invest in getting one

  17. Fortunately we haven’t had to deal with nits yet – I can imagine it isn’t a lot of fun. I’ll have to bookmark this for when my little man goes to school, I have no doubt i’ll need it.

  18. Olive oil works a treat for a full-on infestation. You need an oil based solution to suffocate the eggs. Just wet hair with the oil, leave in at least half an hour, and then just use a nit comb to comb them out, then wash the hair a couple of times to get the oil out. I find it takes a couple of days to completely get rid of the oily look (though if you didn’t know you wouldn’t notice), so I do this on a weekend if I can. Otherwise, at least once a week I do the conditioner and nit comb treatment in the bath or shower, just to check and remove any eggs I can’t see. Regularly washing hats and bike helmets really helps too. And remember to get rid of any hair bands you may have been using while infested. And either replace combs and brushes or wash with a nit shampoo. Some of these eggs are so small you just can’t see them.
    Now that I have 5 kids in the same primary school these little monsters make a regular appearance in our home. It only takes one child with nits in one of those 5 classes to bring it home to the whole family.
    I have tried hairspray and even the straightening iron and they haven’t worked for me so far, but if it works for you, keep it up I say.

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