Removing Nits The Right Way

Okay – you’re armed with a really good nit comb, and you’re fired up. Ready to get those things out of your kid’s hair! Here’s the best way to go about removing nits:

Set The Scene

Get comfortable in an area with really good strong lighting. Natural sunlight works the best; we did our nit-combing out on the deck. If you need to be indoors, sitting by a window on a bright day is a good idea. Or get a strong lamp – ideally one that can be directed at the side of the head you’re combing.

Wrap a towel around your child’s shoulders. Seat your child comfortably in front of you – and make yourself comfortable too, in a position where you can comb your child’s hair easily.

Have a bowl of hot water next to you (to dip the comb into between passes), or a box of tissues (to wipe off the comb between passes). If you use the tissue method, make sure you have a wastebasket to drop the used tissues into.

Prep The Hair

Combing wet hair is easier than combing dry hair. And adding a lubricant can make removing nits much easier. If your child’s hair is curly or hard to comb, or if your child has a sensitive scalp and dislikes having her hair combed, you’ll definitely want to use a lubricant.

Regular hair conditioner works very well. Just massage it into the wet hair from scalp to roots, and leave it in for the combing process. Leave-in spray conditioners work well too. Lice MD is a dimethicone-based product specifically designed to make the combing process easy.

Comb the child’s hair with a regular comb, to get all the tangles out. The regular comb should glide through the hair very smoothly after detangling. If it doesn’t, you should use more lubricant in the rough area before beginning to use the lice comb for removing nits.

Separate the hair into small sections. You’re only going to be removing nits from one section at a time. A section should be no more than ½ an inch wide at the scalp, and not longer than the width of your nit comb..

I used blue ponytail holders to put lots of ponytails all over my daughter's head. I would undo one of them, comb that section thoroughly, and then fasten it up again close to her head with a yellow band. That was an easy way to keep track of which sections I had combed.

Slow And Steady

For each section, first look carefully at the roots of the hair. Nits will be attached very close to the scalp. They are light-colored oval containers, only about the size of the head of a pin. You may see only a very few nits, or you may see a whole lot. Either way, your goal is to remove every single one.

Putting the comb teeth as close to the scalp as possible, insert the comb through the entire ½-inch section of hair. Angle the comb sharply in the direction you're combing, and run it along the scalp through all the hair roots. Then pull the comb through the hair from the scalp all the way to the ends, using pressure to make sure that no strands escape from the comb. (You’ll get the hang of it quickly.)

After running the comb through the hair section, dip the comb into a bowl of water to remove any lice, nits and stray hair (or wipe it with a tissue that you toss immediately into the wastebasket). Look carefully at the section of hair again. I always ran the comb through one more time, just to be sure I didn’t miss anything.

Once a section is done, band or clip it up close to your child’s head, away from the areas of hair that you have yet to comb. Repeat this careful comb-out process for removing nits from every small section of hair.

After you have combed out all the sections of hair, heave a sigh of relief and get up and stretch your legs. This is the hardest part of getting rid of lice, and you’ve done it!

Now you can start taking out the clips. As you let down each section, look at the roots of the hair again. You don’t want to leave any nits on the hair—and they are very easy to miss the first time around.

Don’t see any more nits? Great! Rinse all the conditioner out of your child’s hair, tell her how great she was at sitting still, and let her go do something fun. Remove debris from the nit comb and soak it in really hot water for 15 minutes. If you’re using one of the two really good lice combs, you can boil it for a short time to get it really clean.

Tips

Sitting through nit-combing of her entire head can be difficult, especially for a younger child. If it’s challenging for your child, encourage her to get up and walk around to “get the wiggles out” in between sections of hair.

If your child is still very fidgety during the comb-out, to the point where it’s slowing down the process, you might try setting up a video for the child to focus on, while you focus on removing nits. It’s a lot harder for kids to remain still for sustained periods than it is for adults.

Once your child’s hair is dry, use a good light and check her hair thoroughly again, all over the scalp, to see if you missed any nits. (Nits can be easier to spot on dry hair.) If you don’t have the nit comb to hand, another way of removing nits is to use your fingernails (“nitpicking”).

But if you do find even one missed nit, you should definitely do a full-blown nit-combing session again. (It’s easier and faster each time you do it; really it is!) You want to finish the job for good now, and not let the little creatures get another foothold to start multiplying.

After all the nits are gone, you should still periodically check your kids’ heads for nits. Right after we got rid of the lice, I found that I couldn’t help but check my kids’ heads every time they came near me. After a couple of months I relaxed a bit, but I still do careful checking around the backs of their necks and near their ears regularly.

Read more about how to treat head lice ...

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