LICE: Striking Fear Into the Heart of Every Parent
“That’s it. There is nothing to do but shave our heads and burn down the house.”
I was serious when I said this.
A few weeks ago my I bought new children’s shampoo/conditioner. It was a name brand, but I got it at the dollar store which always makes me a little nervous, because why is it here at the Dollar Store and not at my local Target for five times as much money. But since it is only a dollar, and judging by the way my children leave the shower with half of their body still dry and the shampoo bottle conveniently left open lying on it’s side next to the shower drain, I can justify it.
A week or so after the new shampoo purchase I noticed my daughter scratching her head. I examined her scalp and hair, didn’t see anything and using my Google M.D. decided that she wasn’t rinsing her hair out well enough. And thus began two weeks of me reminding her nightly to please rinse her hair out well and for the love of God stop scratching her head.
During the next two weeks I periodically checked her head. I wondered if she had invisible dandruff.
Saturday we had gone shopping and were standing in the parking lot talking to a friend. The sun was shining bright. My daughter reached up to scratch her head which made me look more closely at her hair in direct sunlight. I saw a tiny little white dot on the shaft of her hair. I looked closer and saw several. Honestly I had no idea that was what nits and lice looked like. The nits were so tiny, like grains of sand stuck on strands of hair. I’m not sure what I thought I had been looking for.
I went back into the store and bought a lice killing kit, all while trying not to think about the volume of hair we have in our house. So much hair (on seven kid heads). So much upholstery. So many stuffed animals. And beds. And pillows.
When we got home I began treatment on my daughter’s hair and looked through the hair of the kids that were home. No one else had it. I was feeling very relieved until my youngest came inside and I checked his head. Nothing in my life has ever prepared me for what I saw, keep in mind I brush his hair every single day and one would assume I would notice if something were amiss. Apparently I need a stronger prescription for my glasses.
It was like Pigpen from the Charlie Brown cartoons, only instead of a clouds of dirt when he shook his head, it was lice flying everywhere. I am only slightly exaggerating. I put the bug killing shampoo on his head, per the instructions, and when I began massaging it in adult lice began falling from his head. I may have screamed. More than once.
I ended up taking the scissors to his long hair with the promise that he could get a faux mowhawk. I have no hair cutting skills, even my bangs I leave to the experts. But desperate times and all. I just grabbed hair and cut it off in clumps. It looked like he had a three year old cut his hair, a blind three year old. Even with the little bit of hair it took so long to treat and comb with that annoyingly small comb.
The advice started rolling in from friends about what to do with the house and how to make sure the lice stayed away. Apparently there are SUPER lice out there that cannot be killed by ordinary measures, according to friends who went round after round of delousing their children. This is the advice I received (but not necessarily followed) from various people:
- Bag all the stuffed animals for 4 weeks
- Throw away the stuffed animals
- Put the stuffed animals in the dryer for 30 minutes on high
- Wash everyone’s hair with strawberry shampoo
- Wash everyone’s hair with tea tree oil shampoo
- Spray everyone with tea tree oil
- Tea tree oil repels lice*
- Flat iron everyone’s hair
- Spray everything with a “Raid-like” lice killing product
- Buy all new pillows
- Treat the mattresses
- Buy a special lice picking comb
- Check everyone’s heads every single night for the rest of your life
- Slather their heads with mayonnaise and wrap in Saran Wrap
- Make lice checking a family activity, like monkeys do!
- Throw a virgin into a volcano as a sacrifice to appease the gods
*I assume because it smells so bad, people do not come near you
Clearly, you can see why the most reasonable option was to just burn down the house.
I wrote something about this on Twitter and immediately people told me about a lice removal salon in Austin, TX–which is where I live. While it was too late for us, I had already done all of the work–procuring the virgin was no easy task–I saved this number. I hope to never need it, but if there ever is a next time this is one job I have no problem outsourcing. Apparently these types of lice removal salons are all over the country. They do the work for you and guarantee the results.
It has been one week. So far, knock on wood, the lice seem to be gone. I am not finding any nits (eggs) What did I do to get rid of the lice? I went the traditional load-the-hair-up-with-toxic-chemicals route, combed through with regular conditioner, and then used a flat iron. The conditioner isn’t necessary perse, but it makes the fine toothed comb go through the hair more easily and keeps the nits glued to the comb. After each pass through the hair, I would wipe the comb off on a paper towel. Even though I was advised by well meaning friends to treat everyone in the family, I only treated the kids with the lice. My kids’ hair has never looked better. Or mine, because I had psychosomatic lice. Even now my head is itchy from the memory. I washed all the bedding, coats, hats, hoodies, blankets, throws, towels. I put anything that couldn’t be washed into the dryer for 30 minutes on high. This included stuffed animals, throw pillows, bed pillows, baseball hats. I vacuumed all the carpets and then steamed cleaned them. I cleaned all the hairbrushes and dipped them into boiling water. Was this overkill? Probably. But I didn’t know what else to do while I was dying a little on the inside.
Facts I learned about lice that might be helpful should you or your family members ever get lice:
1) Lice are not like bedbugs, the won’t live indefinitely, through the Apocalypse, waiting for you and your hair to come back. They will just die without you.
2) Lice can’t run, fly, or even jump.
3) Lice do not hang out on your furniture waiting for your hair to come by.
4) Lice prefer clean hair to grasp onto with their little legs.
5) When re-infestations occur, it is usually because you didn’t get rid of every single nit (egg) on the hair and it hatched into more lice, rather than a bad disinfecting job.
6) Lice can hold their breath for 8 hours, which is why swimming and shampooing do not get rid of them.
7) Lice do not survive more than 24 hours off of a human head, so if your kid has too many stuffed animals or toys to deal with, just close off their bedroom for a day or so while you delouse their head.
Have you had to deal with lice in your family and all the friendly advice on how to get rid of it? What did you do? Have you used one of the lice removal services?