I guess at some point in America’s history, lice was public health issue that carried a stigma. Now, it just seems to be added to the list of elementary school rites of passage. As a parent, you hear about lice as if it’s a foreign country, and then one day, it’s here, and your little child has it!
Our first and current experience started on Monday with a call from the school nurse. Eight kids out of 20+ had lice or nits (the lice eggs) and I was asked if I would pick her up and bring her home. That night, we gave her special shampoo from the drug store, and the following day took her to a hair lice specialist called Hair Fairies (is there no job too specialized that someone can’t open a storefront to address it?). Ninety minutes later, my daughter was pronounced clear of nits and could go back to school. Luckily this very expensive trip to the hair salon is covered by many insurance companies (and a petition effort is underway to make insurance coverage mandatory). It will require two more visits of an hour each to make sure no microscopic eggs have grown large enough to be seen, to make sure the problem is gone.
A few things I learned along the way:
1. When you get the call, act fast, get the shampoo and start the treatment. Nits are a pain, but what is worse is full-on lice, which can jump form child to child to mom, dad, dog, cat and around the neighborhood turning your house, sheets, upholstery into a mini epidemic site. Lice jump from head to head and lay eggs, jump off and lay more eggs.
2. Nits are not contagious the same way lice are, but they can be picked up by other people. Our “hair fairy” said that many moms especially, who often get stuck with the “nit-picking” often go through the scalp and then scratch their own heads, moving the microscopic eggs from head to head. The nits can also fall on pillows and be transmitted that way.
3. Take this seriously. If you’ve never had any exposure, you’ll probably think it’s another thing easily fixed by a medicine or home remedy. It’s not. It takes a week or two of vigilance if you just have nits, and turns the household upside down if something more. It’s a community problem and everyone needs to jump in to stamp it out as quickly as possible to stop it.
4. Natural oils are available to put on the scalp that “scare away” the lice. You may want to find some of this stuff before sending your child on the next group sleep-over, which is, by the way, probably the best way to be exposed.