The Cost of Lice: A Financial Evaluation from Recent Experience

by Darwin on December 2, 2012

Lice is nasty, I know.  But now that we’ve had the second brush with it from someone we know, and our kids were around the other affected kids last week, we’re going through our own precautionary measures ourselves to make sure it doesn’t pop up here – and it’s expensive!  A few months back, a friend and neighbor up the road described a story of how she was in the hair salon with her daughters and the stylist pulled her aside, escorted them all out of the salon and told her that her daughters had lice.  She was absolutely mortified.  She said she sat on the sidewalk crying, as she couldn’t believe what just happened.  They are typical middle-class (and clean) people and she suspects they got it from a movie theater with the girls’ resting their heads on the seats for a few hours straight.  It was the only place she could think of since nobody had it at school recently.  Next, someone else we know just informed us that the mom and daughters have it as well, and our kids were at their house last week, so we have to take precautions to ensure that if one made it onto our kids’ hair, they wouldn’t propagate at all.  So far, it’s been a few days of treatments and checking and everyone’s clean. But I’ll tell you, my wife’s been pretty crazy about cleaning, treating and researching, as you can imagine.  So far, so good, but of course, this makes for an informative personal finance post! Kinda like my oddball financial musings of my vasectomy, how much people make garbage picking around my house, whether your wife’s keratin treatment is worth it and other offbeat financial topics (subscribe here for more quirky financial analyses).


Costs of Lice Treatments


Aside from the social stigma and stress associated with lice, it can be quite expensive to treat it and prevent spreading/recurrence.  Depending on how much you try to do yourself versus employing additional help, the costs can really add up.  Here’s what we learned about different costs:

  • Chem treatment twice – The Nix treatment my wife bought for the kids was $20+ bucks per treatment and it’s recommended you do it twice.  So, for a family with several kids and a mom, it can easily run $100.
  • Lice comb is a few bucks.  That’s a one-time purchase that you run through hair with very fine metal bristles and look for any eggs or lice
  • $250/head lice removal service – We didn’t do this since nobody actually has it.  But on the most recent family we know that got it went to some place that specializes in “nit-picking”.  It’s basically a bunch of women in a facility that spend a few hours picking through hair getting each one out.  The prior family we knew took care of it themselves, but I guess it might have a higher chance of success and more quickly rid the family of these critters with the paid service.
  • Animal treatment – This seems a little scammy to me, since lice don’t attack animals (thankfully, because that would be a hell of a job getting lice off our 85 pound hairy lab).  But nevertheless, once our recent family told the local friends and school about it as a warning, the one family in town went to a special animal lice treatment place and paid for their services.  I’m not sure what that cost.
  • Throwing out brushes, other items – For items that had contact with your hair, often times it’s best to just throw them out.  So brushes and other items need to be replaced – $20 or more.
  • Washing/drying everything – With the amount of additional washer and dryer runs of bedding, blankets, pillow cases, clothes and more, it’s easily another $20 or more in added water, detergent and electricity.
  • Your Time – Time is money, especially when you’re trying to use some of your precious free time to either enjoy life or work on your side income.  Instead of doing that, you’re relentlessly changing out sheets, pillow cases, bagging up stuffed animals, picking through hair looking for more nits, vacuuming and many other cleaning activities that you wouldn’t have to be doing otherwise.
All told, even a middle of the road reaction to this scourge could run your family several hundred dollars.  In the event you took all the precautions above and employed outside help, it can run well north of $1000 to treat a family and home for lice.

A Few Closing Thoughts:

I used to think lice was something that only children of lousy or dirty parents got.  I’m now acutely aware that’s not the case.  Both families we know are typical suburban upper-middle class families and the moms are very attentive (both dads have no/short hair so they didn’t really have the same risk at all, nor do they do the girls’ hair daily like the moms do).  It just happened to be a case of wrong place, wrong time and girls are very susceptible to it due to longer hair.  Over the years, we’d had the occasional warning come home from school that a kid had it and all families should keep an eye out and we used to roll our eyes, like “who had it this time?”, but now that we know how easy it is to contract and how diligent and “just like us” the families affected are, we don’t judge.  We learned a bit, and are not judgmental now; and we hope if it ever landed here, others would feel the same.  We also hope we don’t have any signs of lice here in the next week or it’s going to get quite a bit more expensive and stressful here!  I do think given my wife’s rapid and thorough reaction though, even if a couple critters ended up on one of our kids last week, they’re probably long gone by now!


Do You Have Any Experience with Lice?

Thoughts on the Costs and How Society Views Lice?

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

krantcents December 3, 2012 at 5:37 pm

Luckily my wife is an RN and she watched our children pretty closely. Literally, anyone can get it because you just have to be around it such as school.


Darwin December 5, 2012 at 10:42 pm

My wife’s not too happy about our school’s policy on it either. Coincidentally, she just got a note this week that “someone” in class has it. So, she’s in lock-down mode again. But now that she inquired a bit further, the school allows kids back to school even if they have the eggs in their hair, because it’s not a “health hazard”. They also won’t allow more than one notification per month to go home. So, if 2 different kids show up 2 weeks apart with lice, only the first notification goes home. Kinda dumb and arbitrary. You’d think the more you control the situation, the less prevalent it would be.


Paul N December 4, 2012 at 4:59 pm

Instead of all those chemicals – rubbing alcohol or simply spraying a perfume/cologne with a high alcohol content a few times through the areas will destroy them and dry up thier eggs.


Darwin December 5, 2012 at 10:43 pm

I’m not sure if that works, but this week my wife tried some cream and then blowdrying in the hair in case there was anything in there; apparently the heat kills eggs/nits as well. Personally, I don’t think any of them were even exposed, but my wife’s still on a kick!


Joe @ Retire By 40 December 5, 2012 at 12:14 pm

Oh jeez, that’s expensive. I hope your family can avoid it. How does people in the 3rd world deal with this? $1000 can feed the whole family for months.
I’m more incline to just give everyone (except the mom) the Mr. Clean look.


Darwin December 5, 2012 at 10:44 pm

Well, not everyone has to spend the thousand bucks; much of this can be done for less/for free. And in the developing world, people just live and deal with all kinds of horrible parasites ranging from bed bugs to lice to malaria. it’s a miserable part of life. Most Americans have no idea how good they have it.


101 Centavos December 11, 2012 at 7:25 am

I just wrote a post titled “Gold Mining is a Lousy Business”.
This post is even lousier.


Darwin December 15, 2012 at 3:31 pm

Thanks for the laugh – I’m headed over to check out your crappy post LOL!


de February 23, 2013 at 9:34 pm

I house clean and a home has lice, I can not go through this again! I tried to talk to them but…. I guess I have to quit. Every morning, wash my sheets, dry, wash hair, dry, vinegar, mayo etc… car- vac;put covers over couch and car seat. I do not even have a pillow any more, got tired of washing and buying new one. I do everything but if others do not try, I can not help them, or can I? I have tried. I may go in with my usual hair covered in hair spray and gel, with shower cap and then scarf and last week I had saran wrap on my head. I am going to get a toxic plastic body cover! she needs to pay me back. I change clothes and wear many gloves. Cover my body, face with tea tree oil and etc..etc- I am wore out! Any one out there need a great house cleaner who does not have lice? I am trying to a job in my trainning. I pray for them and me too.


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