A few years back when the girls started showering on their own and washing their hair by themselves, I would spot-check their head to see how they were doing. Every once in a while I would have to step in to give it a more thorough once-over or simply to get excess soap out. One day, one of the girls started itching a lot. Figuring the residual shampoo on the scalp was the culprit, I attempted to resolve the problem. After a few days of that not working, we switched to a dandruff shampoo. That didn’t work either. It was about that time the other daughter started having the same problems.
I decided they were probably just rushing their showers and not getting their heads adequately washed and rinsed. Independence has a learning curve so I encouraged them to tolerate my assistance until we were able to get the situation under control.
Then one day while washing her hair, I saw it. A bug. What… the… “Scott!” I asked my other daughter to let her dad know to clear his desk, grab a tissue and his loupe. I was on my way with a bug that needed inspecting.
We looked. Then we researched. It was at that point that we realized that those bugs do not discriminate. They can easily find their way to any head, of any age, of any race, of any economic status. Apparently our great school had known it was going around however they don’t notify parents until a certain number of kids in a classroom report noticing a problem. Even then, they only notify the parents in that particular class.
Now my head itches.
No, really. It itches. What do they call it? Psychosomatic? There’s really nothing wrong with my head, but it is the time of year when notes get sent home from school and parents start lamenting on Facebook. “Lice is going around the school.”
When it happened to us the first time (yes, it has happened more than once), we followed the advice we could locate online. Wash hair immediately with a medicated shampoo designed specifically to battle lice. Wash everything. EVERYTHING. Then nit-pick at your child’s head to remove any eggs and repeat daily – or multiple times daily – until you don’t find any more for several days in a row. It worked, but it also left a lot of carnage and chaos on the trail behind it. In addition to what you can find about head lice on the Center for Disease Control’s website, here are some tips to help you survive a bout with those nasty little critters.
Lice Treatment Kit
Buy a lice removal kit. Put it in your linen or medicine cabinet. Pray you won’t need it, but if you do you’ll appreciate that you didn’t have to rush out to the store to buy it. If you child has lice, chances are other kids do as well. Going to a store during your pre-bedtime bath routine only to discover the shelves are bare and you need to go to ANOTHER store isn’t any fun at all. Especially knowing that once you are back home you have a lot of work still ahead of you. We don’t have a preference on brand of kit. If you get it before you need it, you’ll have time to price compare. Our experience has been that they all are pretty similar in effectiveness. The key is to do all the follow-up steps according to the instructions to make sure you clear the mess out of your child’s hair as well as the rest of the home.
The process of nit-picking is monotonous for everyone involved. The lice removal kits usually come with a plastic nit comb, but they aren’t durable and break easily. If your child has thick hair or hair that knots easily you will want to have a metal comb. You can purchase one labeled for nits, but pet combs work as well and are usually cheaper.
Large Storage Bags
Lice need a host to survive. Starving them is sometimes the best course of action. One of the things I regret most about our first episode is that I followed the recommendations of laundering everything. Stuffed animals included. I placed them in a laundry–safe bag to prevent damage in the washer and dryer but that didn’t go as planned. The Gund bear that I’ve had since I was a kid, that Miss K now loves, suffered greatly with damage to the eyes and nose. Had I known the animals could go on vacation (AKA quarantine) for a few weeks then I would have saved us a whole lot of heartache. Keep a few giant sized Ziploc bags on hand for these types of emergencies. You can cram a whole lot of stuff into these, zip them up then store them in a guest room or closet, in the basement or some other storage area away from curious little hands. When the stuffed creatures are done with their vacation, throw them a nice welcome-back party.
Thoroughly Wash and Vacuum
Bedding needs to be washed immediately to kill any that are lingering and waiting for their host. It’s also helpful to wash any clothes or rugs that may be out in the open. Hats and scarves can either be washed or quarantined. Don’t forget to address jackets and hoodies that are kept in coat closets. If you want to play it safe, launder or quarantine everything else in that same closet. Combs and brushes should be soaked in hot water but we decided to run a load through the dishwasher with nothing else in it. Brushes, combs, toothbrushes and anything else from the bathroom or bedroom that could withstand the heat of the wash. Vacuuming everywhere is important to sucking up any stragglers. That means vacuuming the furniture as well as the floor. Don’t forget to launder or vacuum the car seats, too!
One of the mistakes during our first outbreak involved lack of communication. We wanted to bury our heads in this issue thinking it was just us. It wasn’t. When one child has lice, it spreads easily. It was in hindsight that we realized a friend had cut her long hair off about the same time as we were seeing our first symptoms. Had that mom told us of the problem, we might have known to research lice as a possible issue. In other words, don’t be ashamed. It isn’t personal. Notify other parents and the school ASAP so they can keep an eye out for the problem. If someone had let us know the first time, it would have saved us a lot of time as we struggled to find the cause of the itching.
It wasn’t dandruff. It wasn’t poor hygiene. It was lice.
Does your head itch when someone says “nitpicking” or mentions lice?