This is a post about a hush-hush topic that (shhh!) moms only whisper about: lice.
Okay, I know it’s grotesque, creepy, and unthinkable but September is National Lice Awareness month so I’m going to talk about it.
My kids do not have lice, but they did get it earlier this year. To say that I was horrified is an understatement.
I felt like a leper. Luckily it was during a time when they were not in school so they didn’t have to miss any school or activities, or worse – get blamed for having given it to other children.
Before my own kids got lice, I was what you’d call a louse-snob. I had never experienced lice or laid eyes on even a single louse. I was a clean and hygienic, suburban mom who figured that lice is for other, dirtier folks.
Like prisoners, for example.
I’ve also judged parents whose kids have had lice, wrongly thinking it had something to do with poor hygeine – it doesn’t. In fact, lice prefer clean hair!
After my child started itching her head I noticed a reddish, spotty rash on the nape of her neck so I checked for lice – looking for tiny white bugs, because I wrongly thought they were tiny white bugs – but they’re not, they’re brown! hello! – the nits or eggs are white – tiny white specks. Anyway I found nothing. Our daughter has eczema so we started using only one shampoo, and eliminating certain foods – but the itching only got worse. I hadn’t replaced the cats’ flea collars – so we thought it was flea bites.
Then the same rash appeared on my other child (the nape of her neck) and she started itching her scalp. I once again checked for lice and found none.
I like to think of myself as a pretty casual, roll-with-whatever-drama-comes-my-way kind of mom. I can handle big dramas and ordeals that would make most people squirm. I can take things in my stride – but when it comes to bugs – lice, I become a coward. A bug-o-phobe.
So when I took them to the doctor and figured out that my children did, in fact, have lice, I was in major panic mode. I channeled my panic into plotting their demise. I Googled “lice” + “weapons of mass destruction.”
They were going down. It was going to be a massacre. Obliteration.
This is what I did. After shampooing them with RID (which reeks, by the way, and is not exactly organic) to kill the bugs I had to comb the nits out. Nits are the eggs. Tiny white dots. Apparently the RID kills most of the bugs but does not kill the eggs – so if you do not comb out every single nit (and they are smaller than the head of a pin), you are doomed to a personalized version of Ground Hog Day, that movie where a man wakes up living the same day over and over again.
Note to all my organic “let’s just use lavender and rosemary oil to gently coax the lice away” friends: Please don’t contact me to tell me how toxic RID is and how I should use olive oil and Rosemary Mint shampoo to get rid of these feckers. I don’t know about you but for me if it’s a choice between having LOBSTER-SHAPED BUGS PARTY IN MY CHILDREN’S HAIR or poison-gassing us all in the process of obliterating them – I’m sorry but I’ll take the obliteration option. So please – Do. Not. Comment. On. This. Blog. Post. About. How. Toxic. RID. Is.
I already feel bad enough.
Note: There are non-toxic products out there you can try, and if your kids have lice you should look into them. I didn’t know about these until after I used the RID.
What I Did Next: I am not a methodical person. I’m a by-the-seat-of-my-pants person, a creative, so I knew right away that this task was too big for me to complete in a thorough manner. And there was no way my husband was going to be of any help – he was in a frantic state of pathological denial that children of yuppies could possibly even get lice, and there was no reaching him.
After shampooing my children, I combed out their damp hair with a nit comb for several hours, wiping the comb on a white paper towel after each stroke, and disposing of used paper towels into plastic baggies. I knew that if I missed a single nit, I was ground-hogged.
By the time my husband – who was still entrenched in uber-denial – got home that night, I was brain-damaged from the RID fumes. I forced him to look at a nit.
He said, “It’s dandruff.”
I said, dandruff isn’t mobile.
If you blow on a dandruff flake, it moves. If you blow on a nit, it stays glued to the hair shaft.
But he still didn’t get it, and I realized then there was no time to waste in trying to reach him. He had to be left behind, in the land of denial. I think he was more freaked out by the lice than I was.
He said, “If you pull something off their heads that has legs, and moves, okay. But so far all you’ve shown me is dandruff.”
He was a lost cause. I had to stop trying to convince him and move on (if he didn’t even believe a doctor’s diagnosis, what hope did I have?!)
I had heard of a new kind of salon – a sort of bug salon, where you can go to get nitpicked. I made some calls. One of them charged $80/hour per person but we would have to go to her salon and spend several hours getting combed out. With young children, I didn’t want to do that. And to me – nitpicking is something you would do in private, at home. And also – I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of being around other people in the salon who had lice.
So I called Lice Happens. I liked their tagline: “No shame, no blame.” They were more expensive – $100 an hour/person, and they charged a traveling fee because they had to drive an hour to get to my house. But there would be three of them, and they could come to my house the same day.
I was so relieved when I hung up the phone!
The minute they walked in my house I knew I was in good hands (pardon the pun). It was like having a high-end hair salon come to my house. They set up around our kitchen table, and even brought a library of children’s movies and a DVD player for the kids. The treatment took a few hours and was actually relaxing – the kids enjoyed it, a far cry from my horrid yanking the night before.
As they worked they told me everything I needed to know about lice. Before they left they even gave my kids a hair-to-hair hug to prove they had the all-clear to go out in public. All I had to do was continue the quick comb-out protocol for 14 days and do a load or two of laundry.
And it worked!
Also check out What To Do If Your Kids Have Lice.