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A dreaded four letter word and how to deal with it.

It’s a four-letter word people don’t like to talk too much about. Lice.

The mere mention of head lice not only makes you itch, it can also bring a bit of embarrassment because really, who wants to be a nitpicker?

Lice don’t carry disease, however they’re highly contagious when someone is carrying the nit-laying louse. These pesky bugs are just plain gross and a hassle to eradicate. How do I know? Well, last fall we experienced our first—and hopefully last—bout of head lice. Yuck! It was downright “lousy” to say the least! {pun intended}.

There are four females with long hair in our household and I was holding out hope that we’d never have to deal with this darn sesame seed sized bug. But we did. And it happened at the most inopportune time—while my husband and I were on a trip a couple thousand miles away.

My dad and step-mom were graciously watching our kids for a ten-day stretch last December. During a routine check-in call my dad calmly mentions the fact that he believes one of our daughters has lice. How could he be so calm? I mean, really?   I could hear my daughter in the background saying that the classmate she shared a locker with had had lice. Ahhh!! Are you kidding me!!?? I felt horrible for two reasons. One: that my dad and step-mom had to deal with all of the details of lice treatment, etc. Two: how did I not realize my kid had lice?

No one is immune to these unwanted visitors, yet lice infestations are most common in children ages 3-11 says the Centers for Disease Control. Not too surprising since kids in this age group are still learning personal space boundaries.  My kiddos are among those who love to hug their friends.  Although, I do cringe when I see hair touching hair. I remind myself–don’t freak out. Remain calm.

Knowledge is helpful to prevent these pests from invading your child’s head of luscious locks and your home.

Source: Center For Lice Control

FAST FACTS
The 411 on head lice:

  • Lice spread by direct contact with the hair of someone who is infested.
  • Head-to-head contact with someone who already has head lice poses greatest risk.
  • It is not commonly spread by contact with items used by an infested person. (such as hats, scarves, coats, combs, brushes, or towels)
  • Nits (lice eggs) are about the size of a pinhead and are glued onto the hair shaft.
  • Lice do not jump or fly and typically cannot live off it’s host for more than 24 hours.
  • Personal hygiene or cleanliness has nothing to do with getting head lice.
  • Schools may choose to keep an affected child in the classroom and not inform other parents.

Source: Centers for Disease Control

We have lice, now what?
After receiving word of the situation back home, I immediately called a local lice treatment clinic. It’s where I encouraged my dad to go to suffocate these bloodsuckers instead of dealing with the process of an over-the-counter treatment. He insisted on heading to the store to pick up something else to try and save a couple of bucks.  Unfortunately that lice treatment didn’t work.  In fact, some strains of head lice are resistant to certain over-the-counter treatments.  After some persistent persuasion, my dad took the girls to Air Fairies lice clinic. 

Air Fairies clinic staff screen, diagnose and treat about 50-100 people per month.  Clinic owner Wendy Betters says there are options for all budgets. The do-it-yourself home treatment kit costs about thirty-five bucks and goes up from there. To minimize stress on my dad and step-mom, we opted for the in-clinic treatment and even purchased the nit comb and lice spray.

Perhaps the best defense is a good offense. Betters also suggests that parents assume it’s in the classroom as to not let down your guard, but remember there’s a balance when taking preventative measures. Be prepared, not paranoid.

PREVENTATIVE TIPS

  • Put long hair in ponytails, buns and braids to avoid/limit hair-to-hair contact.
  • Once a week, take a peak. Run a nit comb through wet hair to check for lice eggs. Wipe the comb on a white paper towel. Nit eggs should be visible if present.
  • Apply a preventative spray. Few studies prove its effectiveness, but if it’s non-toxic and pesticide free, why not?
  • If your child has head lice, be proactive and find a treatment that works. Inform teachers and friends whom your kids may have come in close contact with so they can be on the “lookout” for lice too.

Yes, my girls wear ponytails EVERY day. Yes, I do apply lice spray nearly EVERY day. Yes, I’ve checked each of my children once with the nit comb since the start of the school year after one of my kids came home and told me someone in their class had it. Do we freak out about it? No.

Bottom line, dealing with head lice is inconvenient but there’s no need to hide in shame. Keep the conversation going with other moms about what they’ve done to battle this superbug. It’s key to keeping these pesky parasites at bay. 

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