When Daughter Number One’s school called and delivered the news that she had lice, I was in disbelief, and I was also immediately annoyed.
As long-time readers will know, we’ve been on a bit of an illness rollercoaster ride around here for the last six months or so, and now we had another thing to contend with.
Before this most recent plague, I knew as much about head lice as the average person – they usually prefer to attack girls, they like clean hair, and they’re hard to get rid of – and now, well, now I know a little bit more. I spoke to the pharmacist, read a lot of articles online, and spoke to many other parents whose families had been through this ordeal before ours.
Luckily, my friend and co-worker had some experience in dealing with these annoying pests. She’d worked at a summer camp where she was handed the glamorous job of inspecting infected campers. And while I’m sure this isn’t a chapter of her life she warmly recalls, it sure was a valuable for the rest of us.
She selflessly volunteered to help out, and I’m incredibly thankful she did.
We shampooed Daughter Number One with the specialty product for this purpose – it has to stay on the child’s head for ten minutes – and then she started combing through Daughter Number One’s hair, dutifully pulling out lice and removing nits.
I couldn’t even see most of them. This is work that requires incredible eyesight and a lot of patience.
When my wife got home from work – as quickly as she possibly could – my friend trained her in these tried and true techniques and they spent the next five hours going over Daughter Number One’s hair.
For her part, Daughter Number One was remarkably well-behaved. She watched a lot of Christmas movies, and although she did her fair share of fidgeting and whining, she was as good as could possibly be expected.
Everyone felt itchy watching her and going through the process.
I did too, and I don’t even have much hair to speak of.
While everyone was involved in the Lice Capades, I ran around the house washing and drying bedding, clothing, stuffed animals – and quarantining things that couldn’t be washed or dried. The carpets, rugs, and furniture were vacuumed, and combs, brushes, hair ties and clips were disinfected.
Oh, and all the snow was shoveled.
I had to call Daughter Number Two’s daycare centre and let them know the bad news. They’re trained in searching for head lice, so they said they’d check her out and let us know as soon as possible.
We anxiously awaited the phone call, and when it rang, I could feel bad news in the pit of my stomach.
But, miraculously, Daughter Number Two was in the clear. She’s got curly hair, and it’s usually clipped to the side(s) of her head – so maybe that’s what spared her.
My wife and my friend took turns inspecting and itching ach other – I was itching just watching them – but they came out okay. When Daughter Number Two came home, she was inspected too – they didn’t take any chances – and she was clean.
I’m not sure how we would have kept her occupied for five hours.
We’re still on Lice Patrol, however, and I don’t want to jinx the situation with any proclamations, so I’ll make none.
Daughter Number One was cleared to return to school on Friday afternoon. Her Principal couldn’t believe she returned lice-free the very next day.
We were relieved.
The other students who’d contracted the pesky buggers were not allowed to return to school because they were still infected.
And every night before bed – and every morning – the routine inspections continue at our house. The sheets and bedding are cooked in the dryer, and the cycle – no pun intended – repeats itself.
Looking for tips? Here are some.
Lice don’t like hair products. So send your kid to school with plenty of hairspray and with tight braids. It is said that braids make it harder for lice to transfer from kid to kid.
Lice don’t like oily hair – it makes it hard for them to attach themselves, and the nits don’t stay in – and I’m told that tea tree oil and mint oil are available in sprays for this purpose. Tea tree oil shampoos are also supposed to help, but this is still to be verified. I bought some anyway, because, well, I’m not eager to have anybody go through all of this again, and it’s Christmas and we’re broke anyway, so what’s the harm?
A note on shampoos: We read the instructions and did everything the box told us to, but there were still many lice that survived the treatment. Only using the shampoo is useless. You really do need to comb and hunt and seek and destroy all the lice and nits.
Lice can’t live in a clothes dryer set to high heat. Cook anything in the dryer that can’t be washed. They say it takes 20 minutes. I did 40 just to be safe.
Lice can’t live out of hair for more than 48 hours. If you can’t wash it or dry it, wrap it in a plastic bag and throw it in the garage or in the basement and keep everyone away from it. I’m giving it an extra few days just to be safe.
I vacuumed every soft surface in the house. This may be overkill. I don’t think there is such a thing in dealing with these pesky pricks. I really don’t.
Find people who’ve worked in a summer camp who know how to tackle this problem, then get them to volunteer to help you.
And make sure they drink for free for several weeks afterward.
Or plunk down the money and go here.