Warning: The following post will likely make you itchy.
“Mommy, my head itches.” Not the words you want to hear just before bath time on a Monday night. I turned to look at my daughter and she had both hands on her head scratching furiously.
Luckily, my neighbour is a nurse. After knocking on her door, she hurried over and confirmed that Sarah had lice – a virtual lice city on her head. How did I miss them?! Well they blended in beautifully with her thick dark brown wavy hair. After checking the whole family, we discovered that Gillian had a few…but not as bad a case. Operation ‘Disinfect’ kicked into high gear.
I never had lice as a kid and neither had my husband. Not knowing what the heck I was doing combined with an itchy panic was not pretty. At 9pm the only store open was the local drug store. I raced out and consulted the pharmacist. He recommended a treatment and a separate comb. I questioned the ingredients and he offered a different brand that he claims is the “least toxic”. I bought it and treated all of us. I also washed in hot water everything I could stuff in the washing machine.
It was a late night for us grease balls. I combed out the kids hair meticulously. I will spare the gory details but let me say, it took almost 2 hours to pick through Sarah’s thick hair. <eeew>
The next day after all the embarrassing “Hey, you might want to check your kids” phone calls were done I sat down and took the time to investigate treatments and techniques…one day too late.
If you have young children I recommend you look into options NOW so you’ll be prepared with a treatment that jives with your family. Since this is a medical topic I am not comfortable recommending a brand or a treatment especially because we are in the midst of dealing with our outbreak. However, I will caution you that many over the counter topical treatments in Canada contain chemical pesticides. Some of the chemicals, like Lindane (a neurotoxin from the same family of chemical pesticides as DDT) are banned for agricultural use but are still acceptable to pour over our heads to treat lice. Read the labels carefully. There are many reports that indicate some lice are resistant to these chemicals anyway.
There are some funky natural treatments on the internet. Interesting ingredients involving mayonnaise, shower caps, petroleum jelly, conditioner, tea tree oil and plastic wrap (not all combined!) The health food stores sell many non-toxic natural kits with essential oils too. I purchased one for our second treatment next week.
The most important and effective treatment seems to be the combing process. Friends and medical people told me that a good metal lice comb is essential to remove the nits (lice eggs) near the scalp. Invest in the good comb because the ones in the kits are plastic and useless. Muster all the patience you can, section and comb hair lubricated with a slick treatment to make sticky egg removal easier. Comb from root to tip and wipe on a tissue with each pass. Soak the comb in hot HOT water for at least 5 minutes before using it on someone else. To prevent spread or recontamination, make sure to wash clothing, linens and towels in hot water. Pillows and bedding can go in a hot dryer, vacuum carpets and mattresses. Typically, a louse cannot live off the human body for more than 1-2 days.
I used to check my kids by examining the top of their heads but clearly, that is not the best spot. Look behind the ears and the back of the neck first and then move around the head. I have seen magnified pictures before of the different stages of the head lice life cycle, but that did not help me Monday night. If you see what looks like dandruff and it is stuck to the hair (you cannot blow it away) it could be lice.
I hope you will not have to deal it…but if you do, know that it is a very common problem among children ages 3-10 and their families. I will continue combing and checking for weeks after the last treatment. I will also add drops of tea tree oil to our shampoo for preventative measures in the future. One good thing to come of this…my house has never been cleaner.