When Lice Attack
I noticed my seven-year old scratching the back of his head a lot. Every time I saw him do it, my head felt itchy too. It’s psychosomatic, I decided.
I asked the pediatrician to give his head a once-over when we were there last week to get his stitches checked. All clean, she said. But I still wondered and scratched and itched.
But when my neighbour said that all her kids had lice and so did she did I start to go into panic mode. Monday morning after a weekend of scratching I checked my hair with an old lice comb and then called The Lice Squad. I could not rest until I knew the answer: were we infected?
(Take a minute to scratch your head before you click to the next page.)
Kathy from Lice Squad arrived at lunch time with her suitcase full of goodies, including her head lamp. My daughter with the long, tangled tresses went first. After a boatload of conditioner, treats and a video, she gets the all clear. My oldest son with his surfer mane is also clean.
But it’s not all good. I have a few bugs and eggs (and yes, I feel sick even as I write this). And my 7-year old is also infested. Kathy pours on the non-toxic goop and then combs us out. I can hardly look at the remnants on the lice comb that she is wiping away without feeling some serious nausea. Kathy loves to talk lice and after two hours (and $200 well spent) I have learned a lot about the little critters who invaded our heads and my psyche.
- The key to getting rid of lice is the comb. You need to have a metal comb with long talons that are close together. The comb that comes with the kits at the drugstore is not good enough
- You do not need to use pesticides. Lice squad uses an enzyme-based solution that breaks down the exoskeleton of the bug and weakens the glue that attaches the egg to the hair.
- Combing is everything. Dump on some conditioner and comb out the hair every 24 hours, and brush in four different directions.
- Continue the combing out for two weeks until you don’t see any more eggs.
- Lice like around the ears and the back of the hairline
- Your scalp is like an incubator for the eggs, so the tiny eggs are laid very close to the scalp (which is why flat ironing does not work). You have to drag the comb on the scalp, which is not the most pleasant sensation.
- Lice CANNOT jump, only walk. So there needs to be physical contact to spread. But since we all cuddle our kids it’s hard to avoid.
- Lice have an incubation of about 7- 10 days, so if you find multiple sizes of lice and eggs you’ve had it longer than you want to think about.
- Lice need human blood to live. They can live approximately 24 hours off of the head, but no longer. They do not burrow into helmets, or pillows and can not live on pets.
- Kathy said that it seems to her that the dads rarely get lice. It may be because lice do not like testosterone. When she finds a dad with lice, she always says: “You are one of the good ones.”
- High heat of the clothes dryer will kill the bugs lingering on your pillows. You do not need to bag everything and leave it for two weeks, 48 hours is fine.
- Check your kids regularly when you hear about lice at school. If a bunch of kids in the class have it, your kid probably does too. If your kid’s two best friends has it, your kid probably does too
- Check kids after they return from sleepover camp
- Lice are gross, and people will treat you as a pariah if they find out you have lice. (I used to feel the same.)
There are lots of good resources out there. I am a huge fan of the Lice Squad (and they did not give me a free service. I paid!). I can not imagine doing the first stage of nitpicking myself. I can barely do it now that the bugs and eggs are gone. There are also a lot of myths, do not listen to people who tell you to smother your head in mayonnaise and that is all you need. You will smell like a deli and still have lice. Remember, combing is the key.
And to distract you from scratching; a short video from the South Park Lice Capades Episode: