Thursday, January 13, 2011

Don't be Pediculosis

Do you know what I'm scared of?

I mean, sure there's the normal death/bad things happening to my kids/horribleness I can't imagine stuff. But putting that all aside, there's one thing that scares me like an arachnophobic is scared of spiders.


And if you've never experienced lice, count yourself lucky. Or just accept the fact that you will experience it on day in some form.

They can send a man to the moon and invent the iPhone, but they can't find a cure for lice.

I had to wait 2+ years to even take my experience to written form. I don't have it now (knock on wood), my kids don't either (knock on wood), and the cats are even all caught up on Frontline. Plus, now that it's been over two years, if I admit it to my friends and family, they may be okay with coming into my home. But who knows.

Here's the thing about lice: once you have had it, you are forever paranoid. Just ask my kids. I conduct hair and scalp checks once a week. If one of my kids announces they are itchy, my head whips around faster than Linda Blair's to see where it is they are scratching. Scratching their head means an extra super-duper long hair check. By follicle.

I share my story only to alleviate the fears of those moms who are going through it right now. Google, be kind to me, because when someone's looking up lice, I want them to take a deep breath and see that there's life after a louse.

In 2008, I quit my job to focus on my at-home business. (That's a whole 'nother post.) It was August and Hoover had just come from out of the bathtub. He was sitting on my lap, getting drowsy and watching a show. I was looking through his hair because (and this sounds so, so dumb, but it's the truth) he has one single red hair in his hair swirl and I was trying to find it. (He was a redhead at birth, then strawberry blond, then just blond.) I noticed he still had some dirt left on his scalp even after his bath. He had been playing outside everyday at the babysitter's all summer until I left work a week earlier. It looked like sand.

I took my nail and scratched at it. Picked it up some how and examined it. It wasn't until I held it up to the light to figure out what it was that I actually bought a clue. I saw legs.

Back to the tub he went with a box of lice shampoo. And when he was done, I sat him on the couch to nit pick. Literally. Poor boy was so tired, but he did what he needed to do, and an hour later - maybe about 10 p.m., he was lice free. He went to bed on new sheets and I started to breathe again.

Three weeks later, it was the first week of school. Larry Potter was in first grade and I was home with two kids all day long. I was getting them out of bed when I noticed my head itched a little. I pulled something out of my hair. Guess what.

I ran LP to school and then to Walgreens to buy more lice shampoo. I did myself and checked Hoover and Mini-Me to assess what they had. Hoover had it again, so he went through it again.

Every 4 days, I'd start itching, panicking, and then, lice-shampooing. For three weeks. By this time, the kids had it all out of their system, but it was me, the MOM that couldn't shake it. And I knew why.

Who was going to nit pick Mom?

I tried to do it myself, and if you've every tried,  you know you have a better success rate at shooting 100 free-throws in a row.

The weekend of our anniversary, DH and I took the kids to Mall of America. Only, I packed something a little strange. Frustrated at my lack of ability to rid my scalp of my new little pets, I went online and ordered some all natural lice removal. I wish I could remember the name. It was $60.

We did Mall of America. We did dinner. And then we went back to the hotel for a little family delousing.

Every scientific site I found about lice said that the old ways of lice paranoia were unnecessary. Lice could only live without it's host for 48 hours. Which meant while we were away in Minnesota, any lice left on clothes, sheets, toys, or carpets at home were calling hospice.

Yes, we'll take the Family Delousing package for five, please.

So, with that in mind, we did our delousing. Since it was all natural, I could use it on people that I couldn't see any lice on. Like DH. And LP. So, we did it. It was a hell of a way to spend a Saturday night. And since we were in a hotel, we didn't have to worry about washing the sheets...they did that for us.

We came back, did laundry (yes, our sheets and blankets because I was taking no chances, but I did not tie up all the stuffed animals in a garbage back for two weeks), and that Monday night, our wedding anniversary, I came at DH with the sexiest thing known to man: a lice comb.

I made him nit pick me. And he did a good job, even through the complaints that it wasn't the romantic evening he imagined.

And that's how I beat lice.

I wish I could say it was like chicken pox, and once you get it, you'll never get it again. It's not. But here's a few things I didn't know about lice until it happened to me and my family:

- it knows no class and poor get it all the same
- it's not because your hair is dirty...lice actually like clean, shampooed hair.
- lice can't live without it's host for more than 48 hours (I imagine a lot of overly dramatic lice clutching their chests in a death scene).
- lice shampoo only takes care of the live lice. The eggs (or nits) have to be picked out, or they will hatch and start it all over again.
- once you see a nit, you will never forget what it looks like
- you can tell the difference between a nit and anything else (like dandruff) by blowing on it. Everything else will blow out of the way, but a nit is glued to your hair strand.
- you can't get it from cats and dogs. The lice humans get is different than the biting lice animals get.
- lice can't jump or fly, they can only run, walk, and crawl.

(I was going to include a picture of lice or nits for you, but they all grossed me out intensely. You got to this blog; you can navigate Google.)

What a horrible subject to be an expert on. When my kids had it, I felt like taking them around to various mom's groups to let them all see what it looked like as a service. But I wanted to still have friends and an in-tact social standing, so I didn't do that.

(Does anyone else's heads itch right now? Gotta love psycho-somatic symptoms.)

But here's my best piece of advice: when someone not in your family has lice, RUN the other direction. It's nothing against that person or their family. Really. I've been there, and it sucks, and I'll walk you through it over Facebook or e-mail, but there's no way in God's green earth I'm going to your house for a month. I'll send you a lice care package if need be, but I'm dropping off at your neighbor's house or throwing it from my car on to your lawn.

It's nothing personal. I just really, really hate lice. And I'm pretty sure DH doesn't want to spend another anniversary with a bottle of Nix.


  1. Your post is quite relevant (not to me, not to our house) - - but there is a lice infestation happening in our kindergarten classrooms apparently. So much so that the nurse sent out an email with some facts about them and how they can't jump from person to person. I don't teach Kdg, and I'm several feet down the hallway, but my scalp started itching while reading that email. Thanks for sharing your tale! - Michele

  2. I like how you qualify that, Michele. :) Make sure none of your 4th graders have kindergarden brothers or sisters. And if they do, two words: solitary confinement.

  3. Funny how you talk about lice as "it" like a disease ...I think of lice as "them" -- parasites / uninvited guests.

    When I had my scalp invaded a few years ago after a trip to India, the paranoia kept me itching and combing long after the lice had been killed. I found it comforting to add tea tree oil to my shampoo -- it's a natural antiseptic and it prevents nits from sticking, and I find its scent oddly comforting.

  4. My sister and I got lice when we were kids. I'll never forget it - my mom took us for haircuts at a salon and the woman who was cutting my sister's hair found them. They said they couldn't cut our hair so we left. The 3 of us were mortified. I don't think I have ever been so embarassed in my whole life.

  5. I had lice as a child with three other sisters. 15 years later, and a three year scalp started to itch. I freaked out from past experience and doused the whole family, causing fights and what not. After googling, I realized it's dandruff, I'm paranoid, and there are a lot of funny Moms blogging about this! Cheers.