DUNLAP — Princeville resident Ashley Coulter knows from personal experience just how disturbing a lice infestation can be.

“My daughter, when she was about 3 or 4, ended up with a case of lice, and I completely panicked,” said Coulter while sitting in the office of Peoria Lice Nannies, a franchise of Lice Nannies USA that Coulter opened in November. “If I had had a resource like this, I would have picked up the phone and called them for sure.”

Situated in a spare, unmarked storefront in Dunlap, Peoria Lice Nannies is a discrete option for parents struggling with a lice infestation. Though it is a common issue — an estimated 6 million to 12 million infestations occur each year in the United States in children 3 to 11 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — people are usually embarrassed about it. The infestation is often spotted by a teacher or school nurse, and children are typically not allowed to go back to school until they are lice-free. Adding to the angst is the fact that lice have become more difficult to get rid of in the last few years.

“Super lice is a very real thing,” said Erin Sheen, the founder of Lice Nannies USA and a Pekin native who now lives in Dublin, Ohio. “Some lice have become resistant to permethrin, which is in the over-the-counter lice treatments. You can treat 100 times with permethrin but not all the bugs are gonna die. Parents spend hours on the problem and kids can miss a lot of school.”

Sheen developed a different type of lice treatment with the help of her brother-in-law, John Khoury, a pharmacist. The main ingredient is dimethicone oil.

“This is not a toxic product. It’s an oil that essentially suffocates the bugs,” said Coulter. “It’s a product that’s in a lot of cosmetics.”

Sheen claims that, used correctly, the Lice Nannies treatment is 100 percent effective. The product is applied to hair and a very fine comb is used to remove nits -- lice eggs. The client leaves the Lice Nannies office with the product in their hair. They can wash it out at home 45 minutes later. On day three and day five clients are instructed to comb through their hair with the special comb, and on day seven they do another treatment for 45 minutes.

While Lice Nannies products can be purchased for parents to apply at home, Sheen and Coulter said most people prefer to let an expert do the work.

“Many people prefer to outsource the 'ick,' even though it’s not a complicated procedure,” said Sheen. “Some parents have dealt with it for weeks and they are just done and they are ready to throw money at it. And some people are bug phobic. People really freak out about it. I seriously get phone calls from moms sobbing hysterically. This job is about 80 percent social work, calming people down, reminding them that it’s not life or death, and assuring them we are gonna get rid of it.”

Lice have been around forever and are apparently aren't going to be eradicated any time soon. Young children are usually affected because they very sociable, frequently touching heads with their friends during activities. Parents get infected from their children.

“The only way you can get it is head to head contact — they have to go from one warm head to the other,” said Sheen.

When counseling her clients, Sheen calms them by relating the facts, which are actually fairly reassuring. Lice die in a matter of minutes once they leave the host. They can’t live on clothing, stuffed animals or bedding. They can only survive on the head where temperatures are ideal and food (blood) is readily available.

“They are super sensitive to temperature change,” said Sheen. “But there is this perpetuated myth that you have to clean the environment to get rid of an infestation. I get moms who say that 'my washer has been running for days.' I tell them, ‘You can stop cleaning.’ You can unpack the lovies — they’ve been told that they have to put stuffed animals in a bag to suffocate the lice. There are so many people on the internet selling scammy stuff, and you don’t need any of it.”

To learn more about Lice Nannies Peoria, visit www.licenanniesusa.com/peoria/ or call 370-2858. To learn more about head lice, visit www.cdc.gov/parasites/lice/head/gen_info/faqs.html

Leslie Renken can be reached at 686-3250 or lrenken@pjstar.com. Follow her on Twitter.com/LeslieRenken, and subscribe to her on Facebook.com/leslie.renken.