Saturday, August 11, 2012


Late yesterday, my husband and I received the call from my daughter’s pre-K that parents everywhere dread.  “We’re pretty sure your daughter has lice.”  No!  It can’t be true!  Please!

So many things ran through my head at the speed of light:  Bugs in my kid’s hair! Bugs!  In hair!  *shivers*  Smelly hair treatment.  Nitpicking (that phrase – being nitpicky – will never sound the same again to these ears). Lice combing. Washing and sanitizing every sheet in the house, since Ballerina likes to make her way to everyone’s bed to snuggle. Washing and sanitizing all the kids’ clothes. No activities with other kids for a week.  No pre-K for a week (shoot me now).  Trying to keep the kids apart so the bugs don’t spread to Bear, who is set to start first grade on Monday.  Keeping the snuggly 4-year-old off the couches.  Keeping snuggly 4-year-old off laps.

Not a photo of Ballerina, but might as well be.
None of this is good. None.

As of the writing of this post, we have been dealing with this tiny menace for around 18 hours. Last night, while I took a moment to get in the right mental state for this (as if that’s even possible for a head-bug-phobe like me) and cooked comfort food for dinner, my husband kindly performed the initial step of washing Ballerina’s hair and applying the treatment to her head.  After dinner, I did the initial lice combing and nitpicking (there’s that phrase again), which I repeated this morning. 

Now that we’re self-designated experts at this, I will share my newly acquired parental wisdom with you, hoping the entire time you never have to apply said wisdom with yourself or your kids.
  1. Prepare for several days of house arrest.  You don’t want to expose others to your child’s new friends.  That means you are stuck at the house/condo/apartment, too, and your little one likely will get bored at some point.  Set up the movies.  Pull out the art activities.  Line up the books.  Decide to learn a new language together.  Send someone out for materials to build a next generation tablet computer. [As I’m writing this, Ballerina is sitting off to my right, on a plastic chair, watching Disney’s Jungle Book.]
  2. Expect your head to feel really itchy. Seriously. From the moment we heard the word “lice,” my husband and I have felt dramatically itchy probably a few hundred times.  Neither of us has lice.  How do I know?  We’ve checked each other’s heads at least five times apiece so far. But we still itch. So we will continue to check. Obsessively.
  3. The person with the strongest back needs to be the lice comber/nitpicker.  I don’t care how cleverly you situate yourself as you begin your designated hour to two hours combing and picking your child’s hair; at some point you will find that you’ve been standing over him or her, bent over awkwardly from the waist, for several minutes or longer. It’s not comfortable. Knowing this may happen someday to your child is reason enough to start a workout regimen. Believe me.  Believe my back.
  4. Wear all black while you lice comb and nitpick. Lice and nits in the hair look white. On a paper towel some can look brown, but some still look white. Black makes them all stand out. If you wear black and the little buggers jump onto you – and a few may, trust me – you can spot them and nab them.  Today, I’m wearing a black t-shirt and black skirt.  I look like a cheerleader in mourning.  But it’s been worth it.
  5. If you have long hair and you are the hair-comber, pull your hair back snugly. The last thing you want is to offer a safety rope to the few still-living lice trying to escape your child’s head.
  6. Don’t expect the lice comb to get the nits out.  You’ll need to meticulously go through your child’s hair to pick the nits off the hair follicles with your fingers, then recheck through nearby hair shafts to make sure the nit didn’t fall onto one and reattach.  And then you’ll have to do it again.  And later, you’ll have to do it again.  Get out your glasses and your patience. Truly, there is no alternative.  
  7. Repeating #2.  Your head will feel itchy.  A lot.
  8. Do NOT make jokes to your partner along the lines of, “You do the lice combing. It seems right up your alley. You enjoy obsessively looking for problems” or “Nitpicking! You’ve found a physical manifestation of your true calling!”
  9. Do not beat yourself up and assume your kid is unclean in some fashion. There are urban legends about lice preferring clean hair to dirty hair and some anecdotal “evidence” that the nits have more trouble gluing to oily hair than clean hair. That’s not a reason to obsessively shampoo your kid’s head.  Kids get lice. Clean. Grungy. If they have hair, they’re susceptible.
  10. Don’t make faces or shrink from your kid or otherwise make your child feel icky.  Yes, that’s the technical term – icky.  They’ll likely be freaked out that they have bugs on their head.  Possibly more than you.  It’s the kid’s head harboring the bugs, after all. 
  11. READ THE DIRECTIONS on the treatment. Seriously, people. For instance, our treatment states that if after 8-12 hours, the lice aren’t dead or sluggish, do NOT use the treatment again; rather, call the doctor to determine if you need another type of treatment. The treatment is a pesticide.  Do you really want to keep dousing your small child with pesticide?  READ THE DIRECTIONS. And follow them.

I hope this is helpful. Or actually, I don’t. Because if it’s helpful, that means your kid has lice. And that would suck.

Excuse me… time to go nitpick. Apparently, it’s my calling.

Both kids ended up with lice (not shocking, since they're very close).  After treating each child twice in far faster succession than is recommended - though done with a doctor's direction - the little head bugs remain tenacious. So I am providing additional insight and advice:

  1. Know your school's and county's lice policy. Our county recommends allowing children to return to the classroom the day after treatment, even if some nits remain, because at that stage it's highly unlikely the child will transmit lice to classmates. The nurse at my son's elementary school is a bit more hesitant, though she pins the blame on the teachers.  I got into it with her this morning regarding the whole lice thing.  If you want details, email me... not in the mood to post here.  Suffice it to say, Mama's Irish was up.
  2. The American Academy of Pediatrics has these recommendations, which concur with our county's policy... some of the information is reassuring, some disconcerting.  
  3. There are magical places that specialize in lice removal.  As in, you take your child there and they'll do the whole thing!  Some places will even come to you at your home!  They guarantee one treatment and done, and as in the case of the place we're going - Elimilice (cute name) - they even provide documentation that allows them back in the classroom the same day as treatment!  (This service apparently warrants a 3-exclamation-point information bullet.)
Ballerina, exhausted from days of Mommy scouring her poor head.

1 comment:

  1. Yikes! Great info, Megan. Thanks for sharing. Best of luck with all this. :)


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