“There has been a case of head lice reported in your child’s class”
… Oh no not lice.
The dreaded note arrives home in your child’s school backpack. Every mother starts to panic. Many are even brought to tears. Playdates are cancelled. Hair is picked through and pulled into tight braids and ponytails. Hairspray and gel are applied in massive amounts. Carpets are vacuumed, beds are stripped, and stuffed animals and pillows are exiled to the garage in plastic bags. Text messages and phone calls spread through the community like wildfire as moms dispense advice and comfort to their fellow soldiers against this war called lice.
Luckily, somehow- I don’t know why-I was able to avoid any contact with lice for the first 10 years of motherhood. I had no idea how lucky I was. It finally caught up with my last year. My daughter was sent home with lice last January. Ha I was so naive! It is laughable how easy I thought it would be. I thought, some Rid some Nix- one, two, three we would be rid of lice! I laugh even now thinking about how foolish I was. I can’t believe the endless hours of my life I have spent picking through hair. Strand by strand looking and picking with my lice removal tools; my mini flashlight and magnifying glass. All the while my daughters trying to be good, but honestly who could be good with someone picking at your head for hours.
That first night I used a chemical over-the-counter remedy and was up all night picking out nits since her school has a no nit policy. Of course I had to treat all three girls and myself because I just couldn’t chance it. Amelia, my four year old, is so little and hardly has that much hair I treated her as a prevention. When I checked her I saw nothing. She was clean. Or so I thought… as she sat waiting ten minutes with the chemical on her head I actually saw a louse (singular of lice- I am now a lice expert!) run out of her hair and across her face! YUCK!!!
The next day I had to bring my daughter to school where her hair was given a thorough examination by the school nurse. There was a line of us, the anxious mothers with their children bleary eyed and exhausted from picking out nits all night. Some of them made it to school that day while others did not. Sent home defeated to try again. I was so thrilled she passed the inspection and was able to go to school. It had been much harder than I thought, picking the nits, but it didn’t matter because I had won and we were done with lice.
Needless to say we were not done with lice. They just kept coming back. It was disheartening to see my daughter scratching at her head a few weeks later. I couldn’t quite understand it. I am an intelligent person why could I not conquer lice? I ended up trying countless remedies, doing a ton of research, and spending lots of money on lice removal and prevention products. I spent hours cleaning and vacuuming the house. Every night I would strip their beds and throw their sheets in the dryer for 20 minutes. Crazy!! I know of some parents who have even gotten lice professionally removed. There are whole hair salons dedicated to lice removal. At $200 a head I had to decline. With the four of us $800 was just too much. My one friend who did use this service insists it was the best money she ever spent.
In the end this is what I found. Lice are the worst! If you miss one nit its over for you. It will hatch and the whole epidemic starts again. Do not fear, you can get rid of them. They can only survive on hair and not in the environment. If lice could live in couches and pillows and rugs we would never be rid of them. Treatment needs to be focused on removing them from your child’s head rather than the vacuuming, washing, and boiling brushes.
I had to change how I was treating lice. First, I stopped using over the counter chemical remedies. They just weren’t working. I was starting to fear that I was going to be responsible for creating a whole new bread of indestructible chemical resistant lice. I didn’t want that on my head, so I ended up going homeopathic. The lice remedy that worked for me is olive oil. I smother their heads in olive oil, put on a shower cap on and send them to bed. In the morning I wash out their hair with Dawn dishwashing soap. It really does get the grease out. This smothers the lice and they die. It does not kill the nits so you have to repeat the process a week later to smother those lice that hatch afterwards. It takes several days before newly hatched lice can lay eggs so you will get them before they can lay any eggs. If you are really nervous you can repeat it a third time a week later.
They have a really informative site and sell several preventative products. Everyday before they leave the house they spray the conditioner on their hair. Cross my fingers it seems to be working.
So yesterday when the letter came I did not get hysterical or panic. We did a preventative olive oil treatment just to be safe.
Here is Grace getting ready to go to sleep with a ton of olive oil in her hair.