There aren’t a whole lot of things that make me feel like I’m going to be sick (okay, there are), but lice is one of the biggies. Lice?! But they’re so tiny, you say. Let me explain.
When my daughter was in Kindergarten, we received a notice home from school saying that one of the children in her class had lice. The notice asked us parents to check our children simply as a precaution. I dutifully sat my daughter at my feet while I gently used my fingers to create parts in her hair. There, in her beautiful spun-gold locks, was a nasty black bug that ran from me when we made eye contact.
I broke out in a cold sweat. My daughter, my sweet, hygienic, little girl had lice. Don’t panic, I thought. My ghost-white face turned to my husband and told him I needed to run to the store. I went to the nearest pharmacy and bought some Nix, the only lice treatment I was aware of, despite its hefty price tag. I usually buy generic, but not with something like this.
Nix is a worse-than-turpentine-smelling pesticide that you put on your body. To use it, you shampoo your child’s hair, saturate the wet hair with Nix, let it sit for about ten minutes, then rinse. Voila. Lice be gone! I can still hear the lice chuckling under their breath at me.
In the same box of Nix was a lice comb with a handy little magnifying glass on the end. The better to see you with, my dear, I thought. I combed through my little girl’s curls, confident that our lice encounter was behind us. I put her bed linens and her stuffed animals in the wash and dried them several times in hopes of killing anything that was living on them.
The next day, I received a call from the school nurse. She was calling because she had randomly checked a few children from each of the Kindergarten classes and had found lice on my girl. But I treated her with Nix last night! I said defensively. She assured me that sometimes several treatments were needed.
When my daughter came home from school, I combed through her hair very carefully. The comb, which was supposed to pull the eggs and bugs off of the hair, wasn’t “getting” anything. And I could definitely see the eggs and bugs dancing in a conga line with my bare eyes.
I did what any good Mom would do. I bought another bottle of poison, I mean Nix. This time I let it sit in her hair for longer than recommended. As I combed through her hair afterwards, I could see the damn bugs, still crawling.
I decided it was time to get serious. I put a flashlight in between my teeth, got a pair of hair cutting scissors, and tediously cut each and every hair off of her head that had an egg or a bug on it. I knew she’d have little spiky hair everywhere in about a month or 2, but I didn’t care.
I carefully placed the contaminated hair follicles in a Ziploc bag so I could dispose of them afterwards, confident that they wouldn’t hatch and infest my garbage can and home. The following day, I checked her hair. It was pristine! I was very proud of my lice-eliminating skills.
The next week, we received another letter from the school saying that a child in my daughter’s class had lice. I nonchalantly checked her hair, knowing that Nix was supposed to prevent reinfestation for a long time. And there it was. Another creeper.
I ran to the drug store and bought two bottles of Nix, because by now my scalp was itching, too. No self-respecting, college educated woman will casually treat herself for lice without getting out the Napalm. I treated both of us, got out the scissors for my daughter’s hair, but realized I had no one to comb through my hair and examine my scalp.
I called a girlfriend who was intrigued. I’d be delighted to look through your hair, you filthy woman, she thought. We sat on my front porch, me at her feet and she didn’t find anything. But I can feel them crawling around! I whined.
I sent an email to my daughter’s teacher reassuring her that we were doing everything we possibly could to get rid of the lice. It was consuming my every thought and itch. Her darling teacher said that there was a woman who would come to your home, check whoever you needed checked, and treat you non-toxic shampoo only if necessary. Sold!
I found the nit-picking woman’s information online and she was at my home the next morning. She spent several minutes checking my daughter but only found a couple of eggs and no bugs. She said that since I’d treated her with Nix 3 times, I had already exhausted her lifetime maximum of Nix treatments. Sweet baby Jesus, I prayed, please protect my daughter’s ovaries from all of the poison I just put on her body.
I was next. I told her that I’d been really itchy. She told me that many parents had some itching, and that for most of them it was psychosomatic. No, but I REALLY felt them, I told her. She got to the last little section of hair, ready to wrap up, and said, Uh oh. I found one.
I shouldn’t have been as excited as I was. But it was so reassuring that it wasn’t just my imagination. I had lice! I was 33 and I had lice! Section by section, she combed through my hair again, assuring me that she had gotten everything.
She left me with a magical comb (appropriately called the Terminator!) and lots of knowledge. The magical (in my mind, at least) comb has teeth that are much closer together than the average lice comb that you can get in the drug store. It separates each hair follicle out and grabs those nasty nits and lice before they can say boo.
Anyway, the nit-picker said her goal was to never have to see me again. She told me that all I’d ever need to do in the future was carefully comb through my daughter’s hair with this comb and we’d never have to treat ourselves for lice again!
Here what I learned from her:
1. Water stuns lice. If you’re going to comb your hair for lice, make sure it’s wet. Otherwise, the lice may travel around your scalp and end up travelling to a section you’ve already combed.
2. Nix is toxic. It’s really, really toxic. Don’t use Nix.
3. Lice like clean hair! So if your child has lice, take it as a compliment. It means they recognize your superior hygiene.
4. Get a really good comb. Use the comb as prevention and to eliminate lice and nits if you see them.
5. Washing linens isn’t necessary. It’s the heat from the dryer that kills them. And if you suspect lice on something you can’t put in the dryer, put it in an airtight bag for a week. The lice will all be dead within that timeframe.
I really hope you never need this article, but if you do, know that the lice will be out of your hair and your home very soon!
P.S. I’m really itchy after writing this.