The Heartbreak of Head Lice

Hey, long time no blog (four days is a long time for me, okay?). I have some stuff to post about (fireworks, mostly), but no nails or crafts or anything fun, because this week my house is suffering from the heartbreak of head lice. Warning: do not read this post unless you are prepared to feel really itchy. Also, I promise not to post any pictures of lice.

I never had head lice when I was a kid. My sister’s and I all had hair down to our butts so if there was even the slightest hint of head lice at our school my mom would keep us home. For weeks. A whole month even! Once 80% of our school was infected and I think I was technically homeschooled that year.

Anyway. This lack of lice experience has grown up with me into a total paranoid fear of lice, to the extent that I check Sym’s hair all the time. She is prone to having a dry scalp (like me) and doesn’t do the world’s best job of washing & rinsing her hair, both of which contribute to itchiness and flakiness and oh-my-god-are-those-nitsiness, but in spite of numerous outbreaks at her school she’s never been infected.

UNTIL NOW. As you may recall she was away for most of the last week and a half, only coming home to go to the fireworks with me on Wednesday. On Sunday evening I walked down to meet her on her way home from her dad’s and when I saw her I was like “oh, you have a little bug in your hair!” (my neighborhood is INFESTED with these no-see-um midges that hang in swarms over the sidewalks). I went to pull it out, and that’s when I realized there wasn’t a little bug in her hair- there were TONS AND TONS of little bugs.

It was super gross and I was horrified but I didn’t want her to be sad or embarrassed or ashamed, so I managed to keep it together and play it off like it was no big deal. I did make her wait outside the house while I dropped off the dog and grabbed my wallet though (I’m so mean) but I figured the less time the lice spend in the house not being killed the better.

It was about 7:30pm when we got to the drugstore and can I just say how happy I am to live in modern times where drugstores are open at 7:30pm on Sunday? Waiting until Monday to buy delousing treatment would have sucked. After talking to the pharmacist I decided to try a non-pesticidal treatment, since not covering your kids with poison is usually the best option.

The product I bought is called Resultz, and it works by dissolving the exoskeleton of the lice, dehydrating them to death. Just like my other favourite insect killer, diatomaceous earth! A treatment kit (a bottle of lotion and a comb) cost about $40 and let me say it was WORTH EVERY PENNY. I was able to coat all of Sym’s shoulder-length hair with 1/3 of the bottle, leaving plenty for a second treatment for her or a first treatment for myself or Taylor if we get lice (knock on wood). The lotion wasn’t smelly or gross (it just feels like a really watery soap, kind of like bubble liquid), and in just ten minutes every. single. louse. was dead.

Of course, the treatment doesn’t end with dead lice; you still have to comb out all their little corpses and eggs, which is the really tedious part. I washed her hair twice with tea tree oil shampoo and deep conditioned it so it wouldn’t be a tangled mess, and then I got to combing, first with a regular comb and then with the special fine-toothed lice comb. You have to do the hair in sections, and after each pass through the hair you have to wipe the comb off with a tissue and put the tissues in a ziploc bag. I also rinsed the combs in hot water several times.

After three hours of combing I was fairly certain I’d gotten all of the bugs, if not all of their eggs, so I put Sym to bed and then went crazy on the laundry and cleaning. I don’t know when she was infected so I’d already stripped all the linens and toys off her bed and remade it with white sheets, which would show any remaining bugs better than her Hello Kitty sheets. All the toys that couldn’t be washed went into a garbage bag, which was tied shut and won’t be opened for two weeks. Her washable toys, blankets, sheets, pillowcases, pillows, the clothes she was wearing, the clothes in her suitcase, the clothes I was wearing and all the towels we used in the treating/washing/combing process needed to be washed in hot water and dried in a hot dryer. Basically I was up until 3 in the morning doing laundry.

Even though lice are highly contagious, particularly in a child care environment, they don’t spread diseases and are therefore considered more of a nuisance than a health hazard. I didn’t have to close down, but I did call my clients and let them know that there was a case of lice in my house so they could make their own decisions about coming or not. Thankfully, my only clients on Mondays kept their kid home, because in addition to being exhausted, I had more laundry to do and guess what? MORE COMBING.

After the first treatment you have to comb the hair every day for a week (and then treat a second time), and since there were still quite a few eggs stuck in Sym’s hair it took another three hours yesterday afternoon. This is mostly because the plastic comb that came with the Resultz was kind of crap, and I ended up picking the nits out of her hair with my fingernails. Yes, I was LITERALLY nit-picking. Gross. The lice glue their eggs to the hair shaft and you have to pull them all the way down to the tip of the hair to get them off. This is both time-consuming and gross, but her dad was able to find a metal comb at the drugstore by his house (the one by mine didn’t have any) which he says works really well.

This whole process is ongoing and nasty and a big hassle, but now that I’ve been through it (well, two days of it, haha) I feel pretty good about my ability to deal with it, and I’ve learned some interesting things.

1. Websites with information about treating head lice like to have pictures of enormously magnified head lice on them, which I find sadistic and cruel.
2. Lice are much more likely to infest the hair of white children than black children. Racists.
3. When you tell your kid to choose a movie to watch while you comb and pick nits out of her hair, she will unironically choose Disney’s Tangled.

So that’s what’s up with me. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I caught this in time and the treatments are successful (so far no one else seems to be infested), and I hope to be back to my regular scheduled blogging about nail polish and glitter soon! And a special note to Rhiannon, Erin and Bethany: your crafts/banners do not have any lice in them, I swear.

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4 responses to “The Heartbreak of Head Lice

  1. eck eck eck lice are so groce hahah, I cant even imagine. All Im thinking of it that movie The Switch with Jason Bateman where he’s running around like a wildman all night, only with you instead;P

  2. I never had lice as a child either and am irrationally terrified of getting it. you’re a brave woman, Tanie.

  3. Oh wow, I know exactly what you’re going through. Maya had a recurring case of lice that lasted forever when she was younger. I combed and combed and combed, because I didn’t want to keep using pesticides on her.
    I think (fingers crossed) that we ended up fulfilling our head lice duties for a lifetime with that case, because she made it through elementary and junior high without another case.

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