Those of you who know me in real life or in a simulacrum thereof know what has been keeping me busy the last couple of days:
One of our friends called us to let us know that her eight-year-old turned up with head lice.
It didn't take long to locate some suspicious specks in the hair of our seven-year-old daughter, her boon companion.
And then it was off to the late-night pharmacy for some lice removal kits, the kind that come with a decent metal-toothed comb... and a serious combing-through of the kids' hair... and the inevitable discovery of a pile of egg casings (ew) and a couple live ones (EW)...
... and then we were off on the nitpicking roller coaster.
Today's post, therefore, is....
Things I have learned since our family got head lice
Everybody has a story
Were you under the impression that there was a stigma about getting head lice?
At least here in the upper Midwest, my impression is that mothers brag
about it, trading tales like nightmare epidural stories.
Last night I bowed out early from a homeschooling co-op parents' meeting by explaining that I had to go home and help my husband with combing out the kids.
It seemed like everyone had a "been there, done that" story.
"Oh, I'm so sorry.
You have mostly boys?
Well, when WE got it, I had four little girls with waist-length curly hair."
"MY daughter got it during her first year of COLLEGE."
"I spent an entire summer combing out children's hair while they played with my iPad."
Similarly, everyone has something to recommend.
"Do they have a LouseBuster where you live?"
"Have you tried going to LadiBugs over in Hopkins?
They sell this great peppermint spray that keeps the bugs from coming back.
ORGANIC RAW COCONUT OIL."
"I have to send you the link for the Cetaphil method!"
"Did you try the shower cap thing?"
I am almost embarrassed to admit that in a flurry of panic I had just run to the drugstore and bought three packages of the only thing I could find, namely, the dreaded "poison shampoo."
More new uses for homeschooling science supplies
I am pleased to discover, at least, that the handheld microscopes with push-button LED lighting (40-70x magnification) have gotten more use this week than I expected them to get all year.
They join my mini portable analytical electronic centigram scale in the ranks of Items I Bought For Science-Related Learning That Have Been Repurposed For Unexpected Household Duty.
(The scale got borrowed first to measure out grams of laxative for a child who needed to be weaned slowly off it after a bout of chronic constipation.
Later it was borrowed to weigh coffee grounds, which is what happens when your husband used to work as a chemical engineer for a Giant Company That Sells Coffee Among Other Things and can't bear the thought of measuring coffee in "scoops" when he once upon a time did it in milligrams.)
(I promise you we cleaned the scale well in between.)
Homeschooling guilt ensues inevitably
Probably if we were in school we'd be thinking "If only the kids were homeschooled, they wouldn't get lice."
As it is, not being able to think something like that, we think "If only I was a better homeschooler, I'd have organized this into an entomology unit study and we'd be identifying the differences between the second and third instar instead of growling 'GET OUT OF MY LIGHT' at curious siblings and then just smashing the little bastards with my thumb as fast as I can find them."
Um, I mean smashing the instars, not the siblings.
clear, wasn't it?
A fearful new power.
I made a discovery last night while combing out my three-year-old for the first time just to check.
You know the "cradle cap" type dandruff?
The persistent scaly stuff that shows up on newborns and sometimes lasts past toddlerhood?
The stuff that ruins the finish on the smooth and downy newborn scalp, so that
new mothers bemoan and trade tips about getting it off with warm water or olive oil or breastmilk, and discuss whether gently scratching with a fingernail or rubbing with a washcloth is better?
The cradle cap flaky skin scales that can turn the gentlest mother into a primal picker and scraper, like an obsessive-compulsive gorilla mother?
THE NIT COMB TAKES IT RIGHT OUT.
Come January when my new baby is born I am afraid I will be unstoppable.
Only physical removal is foolproof
You know, the chemicals can speed it up, but when you get right down to it the only thing you can be sure of is that if you comb out a louse, that louse isn't in the hair anymore, and if you comb out an egg, that louse will not hatch on your head.
Combing, combing, combing.
The dryer is your friend.
Your friend that runs all the time.
It's fairly reassuring, given the alarming stories about head lice, to read over the CDC website and see what they have to say about it.
Nits in the hair don't necessarily mean you have an active infestation.
Schools shouldn't have a no-nit policy.
With the possible exception of bedmates, you shouldn't chemically treat household members who aren't infested.
They can't live very long off a human scalp, and there are lots of surfaces they can't cling to at all.
So while some people, upon getting the bad news, are probably ready to fumigate and scrub down their entire house, that would really be overkill.
Still, I was amused by this pair of statements from the website:
Machine wash and dry clothing, bed linens, and other items that an infested person wore or used during the 2 days before treatment using the hot water (130°F) laundry cycle and the high heat drying cycle. ... Vacuum the floor and furniture, particularly where the infested person sat or lay.
However, spending much time and money on housecleaning activities is not necessary.
Can we say "mutually exclusive?"
At least when you have three infested children who like to roll on the floor and build forts out of bedding.
I cannot count how many loads of bedding and towels I passed through the dryer in the last few days.
It was a lot.
Especially after my infested daughter was caught building a fort out of the clean sheets.
And in the end I wound up just confiscating all the extra cushions and pillows, not so much because I believed that the act of sealing them up in a
bag for two weeks would kill lice, but just because there would be so many fewer of them to keep track of.
7. You know what else is in my kids' hair in small quantities, and is tough to get out with a nit comb?
8. At least this didn't happen during first trimester
Can I get an "Amen?"
+ + +
I'll probably think of more before too long, but now it's time to go lie down.
Oof, what a day.