Nothing makes Lisa Rafal happier than never seeing a client again.
As the owner of Lice Lifters® in Clark and Fairfield, and also as a mother who has been through the ordeal of head lice with her own children, Rafal knows the importance of getting rid of the lice once and for all.
Lice Lifters uses the non-toxic, FDA-cleared LouseBuster™ medical device in a comfortable, salon-like setting.
"It doesn't look menacing," Rafal said. "And that really helps take the freak factor out."
Not that there is any need to be freaked at all. Rafal explains that head lice are vastly different from bedbugs, but most people think of them as one and the same, or at least similar, which leads to much of the hysteria when children are found to have head lice.
While many parents want to get rid of all their children's bedding, clothing, mattress, pillows and toys when head lice are found, it isn't necessary, Rafal said.
"Head lice must have a host to survive longer than 48 hours," she said. "They survive in a warm, moist environment, which is why they thrive on the human scalp. But if they get onto your couch, for example, they die. They are not like bedbugs. Bedbugs can live for a year without eating."
Many companies make a fortune preying on the head lice-fueled fears of parents, and are able to sell them everything from rosemary-scented bags to hold all their school materials to steam-cleaning services for their home. It's an unnecessary waste of money, Rafal says.
"Put their clothes and bedding into the regular dryer, and run your vacuum," she said. "That's all you need to do."
When a client comes into Lice Lifters, they sit in a swivel chair in front of a mirror, and Rafal or one of her staff members uses the LouseBuster, which looks like a vacuum but blows hot, dry air onto the scalp, getting it through all the strands with the help of a disposable plastic applicator. Lice need a moist atmosphere to survive, and the hot, dry air kills them, eggs and all.
That's all there is to it.
"It's non-toxic and completely safe," Rafal said. "The over-the-counter lice treatment kits people buy at the store are really just pesticides. And the prescriptions you can get are just stronger versions of the same pesticide or other pesticides that can be even more toxic."
The Lice Lifters treatment also includes a round of follow-up treatments at home. Called The Nit Nanny Lice Solution, it's a 10-minute procedure that uses a solution of dimethicone (a synthetic oil), olive oil, beeswax and rosemary oil. Every family leaves her office with a schedule to follow which makes the follow up easy to do. Unlike the traditional nit-picking approach, days and days of follow-up combing aren't necessary when someone is treated with the LouseBuster.
Rafal said as long as parents do the simple housekeeping and maintain their follow up protocol, the problem will be gone. She said she has never had a client return with a continuing problem.
Rafal said the scariest part of using store-bought solutions is that the lice have become resistant to it over the years, so it often is ineffective. And even if it kills some of the lice, it doesn't kill the nits - the lice eggs. And all it takes is two viable nits to keep the problem going. A female louse only has to be fertilized once and she's fertile for the rest of her life, laying an average of 3-5 eggs twice a day.
While lice left undiscovered and untreated for about a week don't pose any real threat to other people in the affected child's home, they can become an issue when left untreated for longer, and when kids have close contact with others. Rafal said the single biggest group affected by lice is nine-year-old girls, who have a tendency to hug each other a lot, or put their heads together for photos. Lice are often rampant at summer camps, and Rafal recommends kids get checked before they leave so parents know they're sending their kids off lice-free. Parents of boys should keep their sons' hair cut as short as the boys will allow, and girls should wear a ponytail, or better yet, a bun or braid.
While head lice don't live for very long once they're off the human head, Rafal said concerned parents can use a lint roller on seat backs of airplanes or movie theaters. She said that while the chance to contracting head lice in such a way is very small, she said she always takes beach towels when her family goes to the movies, and puts them over the chairs. After the movie, she rolls them up, puts them in a tote bag and leaves them in the car until the next time. Alternatively, she said kids can take hooded sweatshirts and either wear them or place them on the seat backs.
The biggest culprits in a head lice outbreak are parents not getting their children treated effectively, and not reporting it because they're embarrassed.
"When my son got it, I immediately sent an email to everyone in my address book who had kids who may have been around him," she said. She also notified the school nurse, who thanked her profusely for letting her know.
"Too many parents don't say anything because they're embarrassed," she said. "They are afraid people will think they're dirty or their kids are unkempt. And by not reporting it, they're just letting it spread to other kids and risking having their children re-exposed."
Another reason parents might not want to report their child's case of head lice is the way other parents react. Sometimes it's so bad it can lead to the children being bullied. She recounted a story of one parent who sent an email to everyone she knew telling other parents not to let their kids play with certain children - and she named them - because they'd had lice.
"Those kids are marked now," Rafal said. "Probably until they graduate from high school, they'll be 'the lice kids.'"
There is no need for that kind of hysteria, she emphasizes. If your child is diagnosed with lice, get them treated, let your social circle know, and then just get on with your life. She said she's had clients come in, get treated, and leave on vacation the next day without missing a beat.
"I know what it's like to have your kids come home with head lice," she said. "I've been there. Now I use my experience to help other families deal with their lice situations and get back to normal."
For more information on Lice Lifters, visit www.licelifters.com. For Rafal's Clark office, call 732-540-8145. For the Fairfield office, call 973-287-6067.