Project Alicia : 4 little letters that could change your life...

Thursday, March 10, 2011

4 little letters that could change your life...

L-I-C-E.

I'm cringing just saying it in my head. What is it about lice that makes you scratch the second you hear it? Or think about it? And why is it so taboo? Why do people not talk about it until after the fact?

Lice infestations afflict 6-12 million people in the US yearly and the number is on the rise.

**Please Read This! I am sucking up my pride here and if I help just one person then it is not for naught. I promise to not share photos.**

This post will be somewhat informative only because I have information oozing out of me at the moment after my nightmarish week from hell. (I don't know about you, but when I am in panic mode I tend to read- perhaps in an attempt to regain some control over the situation.) But mostly this is just one mom's thoughts and raw emotions documented for your benefit. If you don't want to read it all, just read the bolded print or skip to the end.

When you see that 6 legged parasitic critter crawling through your own kid's hair... Holy crap. There are no words.

Your heart stops. Your eyes bulge. Your mind races. You go into denial, then immediate shock. How did this happen? When did this happen? For the love of God why the h--- did this happen? This is my worst nightmare staring me in the face...

Boy they are such disgusting creatures. Do they even have a purpose being here? Spiders are nasty, but they help limit the insect population, at least that's what I'm told. Bees are annoying, but they help pollinate plants. They even make honey. Lice? They have no purpose. They are here to torment and piss me off and make me feel dirty and disgusting as I slouch over my kid's head for seven straight hours into the wee hours of the morning until I'm so sore I can barely walk myself to my bed.

Myth 1: It can't happen to me.

I've known people who have experienced lice, but my kids are 9 and 11 and we have never dealt with it. We are clean folks. I keep a tidy house. I thought for sure we were home free. But little did I know- lice afflicts all. At any time. And usually when you are least suspecting and when you are complacent and comfortable thinking "this could never happen to me".

Don't ever dismiss a child's itch. If your child is scratching their head more than normal, it could be a red flag. It could also be several weeks into the lice infestation and by this time, there could be multiple sores or severe irritation from all of the itching which was the case for us. If not tended to immediately it could turn into an infection.

Until you see that first louse you will never totally understand the sheer magnitude of emotions that will plague you. Guilt, Fear, Anxiety, Distress, Shame, Repulsion- to name a few. They take over and turn you into a really crazy version of yourself. Scary. Especially to a little person looking to you for comfort. After my little one starting convulsing I realized that I needed to get a grip. I am the mom here and this is just a bug. I promised that I would get every last one of those nasty buggers out of their hair, but that it might take some time. That was no lie.

Myth 2: Just wash your hair with lice shampoo.

Once the hair is washed with the delousing shampoo of choice, there may still be live bugs crawling around. Wish I'd known that little bit of info. And it does absolutely NOTHING for the eggs that will soon hatch (generally 1-2 weeks after they are laid)- which most people don't realize. If you fail to get even one of those eggs out there will soon be live bugs crawling around and the cycle will start again. Now I know where nitpicking originated. There is nothing worse than looking strand by strand for tiny, microscopic nits that are cleverly hidden away in our very own locks and almost impossible to catch with the naked eye. You may want to invest in a good magnifying glass. Some will be white if they have already hatched or died, others brown that house a live bug inside. A flashlight or a really bright light is a must in order to detect all of them. Even when you think you have them all- you will check later and find more. That is why multiple sessions are required for the first week or two and then daily checks thereafter until you feel confident that all nits are found. Be vigilant. The female louse can lay as many as 6-8 eggs per day, so there may be hundreds to remove depending on the duration of the infestation.

I know that I, personally, will continually check heads- perhaps on a weekly basis for a very long time. I might need to make a visit or two to my local chiropractor at some point in the near future. Nothing about lice hunting is good for the body.

And expense? Be prepared to spend several hundreds of dollars. Lice killing products don't come cheap- especially if multiple family members are infested. Not to mention replacement of anything, say a rug or two that you washed and ruined in a state of panic. The robi comb has been a peace invoking tool for me and worth every penny. It will detect and terminate a louse. ( Retails for about $30.)

Myth 3: Lice like dirty hair.

Contrary to what most of the ignorant population believe (myself included up until last week), lice prefer a clean head of hair. There seems to be a misconception that lice only reside in lower income homes. The problem is that so many families do not have the financial means or know-how to completely rid their homes of lice and subsequently the lice linger and families have multiple reinfestations.

Unfortunately for me, the prepubescent years seem to be an ideal time for lice. Children start attending sleepovers, sharing combs and clothing, playing beauty shop, and taking care of their own hair- which makes detection much more difficult. Had I been blow drying and/or curling their hair like I used to detection would have been much sooner and the chances of a bug taking up residence there would have been much less. Shoulda woulda coulda... Now we will move forward and new rules have been put into play.

There will be no more sleepovers indefinitely. No sharing of brushes or combs. I will use a heating tool daily for at least 2 weeks and regularly thereafter. (I've been told that the heat kills the nits.) Vinegar will be used on the hair a few times a week (it loosens the glue that makes the nits attach to the hair shaft and also makes the chances of them attaching less likely) and mayonnaise treatments will be used periodically (it suffocates the lice after 30 minutes) just for peace of mind. Sure, you may smell like a salad, but so worth it to be rid of any bugs. I've also read that blue listerine, cetaphil, vaseline, olive oil, tea tree oil- and several other herbal products do wonders to make lice stay away. Read up. There are tons of products that smother them or that they don't like the smell of. Let's outsmart them.

Myth 4: Lice jump and everyone will get it.


Lice are some of the slowest moving critters I've seen. They do not have wings and therefore can't fly and their stumpy legs make it impossible to jump. They can only be transferred via bedding, clothing (including coats, scarves, and hats), or close proximity of hair. And there is still a chance that you won't get it. Only 1 of the 4 in our household was affected even after weeks of having it and our being in the dark. We even shared brushes. Lice only live on a human host, so your pet is also safe from this parasite. I've also read that african american hair is not a favorite of the louse, possibly because of the structure of the hair shaft.

Another important bit of information that may have been nice to know in my initial state of panic is that lice can only live for up to 48 hours without a host. So, if you have any bugs in your home it is more likely that they are dead than alive.

Vacuuming, spraying, washing clothing and bedding exposed, drying stuffed animals, coats or pillows (or putting into a garbage bag for 2 weeks), and tossing or boiling brushes is a good idea though. Better to err on the side of caution. Make sure to vacuum right where you have been delousing. Heaven forbid any were to fall on the floor.

My dryer is on the fritz and not the best for massive amounts of laundry. In retrospect a trip to the laundromat may have been a better idea.

Myth 5: Your child may only go back to school lice free.

This is the most disturbing discovery of all, and may even be the reason we contracted it in the first place. The Cedar Rapids Community Schools do not require children to be lice free before returning to school. They could have bugs crawling around and be allowed to stay in the classroom. The Iowa Department of Public Health only says that "treatment should be started before returning to school" but the schools do nothing to verify or enforce this and shampoo treatments do not guarantee the removal of the crawling lice. Some lice are even becoming resistant to the over-the-counter treatments (permethrin and pyrethrin- which includes rid and nix). It took us 2 treatments plus a night with mayonaisse to finally get rid of all of the live bugs.

You should find out what your school's lice policy is. Most school districts do require a head check by a nurse before they are able to return, but evidently this is not the growing trend. The American Academy of Pediatrics came out recently saying that head lice pose no disease risk and that "there's no evidence that sending a child home reduces the spread of lice, or that in-school screenings can control outbreaks".

I am not certain if our school's lice policy is based on "no risk of disease" or if it is a "lack of funding when there are not enough children in the classroom" issue. Either way, it does not make me feel warm and fuzzy as a mom. Particularly a mom of a child who was infested most likely by a classmate that is probably still carrying the bug. This thought makes me feel sick.

Lice is not like the flu or a cough that will eventually go away on it's own. It is a lengthy, labor intensive process that takes diligence and consistency on your own part to be rid of it.

And as parents we musn't get complacent. Prevention and early detection is a much easier route.

Please, Please- go check your child's head right now. This very minute. Before you forget. Whether your child is 2 or 12; if they have been at daycare, church, camp, a sleepover, school, a friend's house, the movies, football practice, an airplane, a crowded room, or scouts. Whatever it be- do me this one favor and look at their head now. If you find something on the hair shaft (most often located behind the ears or at the nape of the neck) that is close to the scalp, oval, white to yellowish in color, and .8mm to .3mm in size that doesn't want to come off easily, your child might have lice.

Just look. If every parent in America did this today the chances of nipping this in the bud become much greater.

Better to be safe than sorry. Plus, no one wants to be the one to have to call all their closest friends and family and explain that they were possibly exposed to lice because of them.

I hope that you can extract one piece of information from this post that you can use or share with a friend. Let's not be in the dark about this. Knowledge is power. I'm doing what I can. Are you?

28 comments:

  1. Ha! We went through this drama, twice. My eldest got hit by lice in her second week of school, when she was 5, her younger sister was 3, and I had two 9 month old boys crawling around as well. Let me tell you, all the washing and frantic combing and inhaling fumes of that smelly lotion - arghh. Never again. I thought. And then it was Ronja´s turn this fall. It´s really totally annoying, and leaves you with the feeling of being somewhat dirty and trashy, even though you know it´s not reasonable.
    And it´s the same in our school -teachers are not even allowed to check the student´s heads. But parents are! So, last month, after those lice just didn´t go away, I positioned myself in front of the classroom door together with two friends, and we checked all the kids - and sent those 4 (!) to the headmaster who had actually grown lice crawling. Sigh. I hope this will help for a little longer ;)
    Just think to yourself something along the lines - in 20 years I´ll tell this to my grandchildren, and I´ll laugh about it. That helps ;)

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  2. Helen, I hope it doesn't come to that, but it is a route that I had never even considered before. I hope one day to be able to laugh about this. Thank you for your comforting words.

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  3. i can't believe your school doesn't require that the children be lice-free befor returning! how frightening (and something i never would have thought to ask at the school). i will for sure be checking with my kid's school. thanks so much for all of the very education (although a bit "icky") info. :)

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  4. *ick*

    We went thru this about a year and a half ago when my oldest boy was in daycare and I had a 2 month old at home.

    Neither of my kids got them but I felt so bad for the little gal that did. Her parents paid for a service to come 'clean' her hair at a very hefty price (they didn't want to cut her long hair).

    But I had the heebie-jeebies for days...always checking both kids and so worried about my newborn.

    Thanks for all the valuable info!!!

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  5. Thanks for the info. There was a lice outbreak at my sons day (a daycare! they share everything there!) I was afraid he would get lice in his mouth or something from daycare. Can that happen? If it could it would have. I wound up being lucky and my son did not get lice, but it sounds awful.

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  6. Been there done that. Twice. Sooooo awful. Hugs.

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  7. Tracy- Lice are icky. No doubt about it. I hope that I might be able to get a good night's rest one of these days again.

    Luckydame- A service? Really? Sign me up! Where do you live? I am going to have to google this brilliant idea!

    Adrienne- I think the lice are tiny enough that the chance of being able to pick them off the floor is rare. And it is not ingesting them that is the concern, it is when they start laying eggs in the hair that is the real nightmare. Count your blessings that you didn't get it.

    That Girl Blogs- Thank you, thank you, thank you. I know that your words come from a place of understanding.

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  8. Heebeegeebee's, that's what even hearing about lice. Knock on wood haven't had to deal with it as a mom but, as a kid we had a couple scares. Best of luck! Keep your chin up!

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  9. Confession: I had lice twice. Oh, the horror my mother went through. My hair? Chopped off. It was a nightmare all around. My heart goes out to you, it really does.

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  10. I hope my children never get infested with the horrible lice bugs. They are such a pain to get rid of. Prevention is much better in the case of lice.

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  11. Hi Alicia,
    We had our turn with lice six years ago and I remember it like yesterday. I kept thinking Middlest had dandruff, but the darn things wouldn't brush out. She must have had it for awhile I was so clueless. She just kept telling me her head itched and I told her I would by some dandruff shampoo. A great post. Until you've been through it you have no idea.
    Dana

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  12. What terrible school policy! We've been lucky in the past that the schools our kids have attended would send a note home to all parents that basically said lice was discovered on a child in the classroom and to take precautions, etc. The child would not be allowed to return until they were bug & nit free. Having a lax lice policy like they do in your area only complicates things! I think it's great that you shared your experience. You had such great facts and tips! However, I'm terribly itchy now. Please know that I read this post just because I like you so much and I'm trying to be a good friend. lol Talking, reading and thinking about lice sends me in a tizzy. Good luck getting rid of them. I sure hope this nightmare ends soon. :(

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  13. Of course you see, that you are not alone. We had a lice problem two different times. Hard to get a grip on. A HUGE pain. I always think twice before putting my head back on a theater seat :)

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  14. Great post. a few years ago, my Sugar Bear got lice as well. I made sure I posted about my experience as well. We all need to understand that Lice do on discriminate. It can happen to anyone.

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  15. ugh! This is probably my worst nightmare!! Lice is going around my daughter's school now for the past 5 months. I've been putting her hair in a ponytail, gelling it, hair-spraying it to death from the 1st day of school. She didn't get lice but one of her friends did. Now, I buy the Fairy Tale Lice Repellant spray and spray that on top of her hair (along with the gel and hairspray). Everyone who used the repellant hair spray has gotten positive result. It smells like Rosemary and is organic so it won't damage her hair. They have a whole line of shampoos, conditioner, the lice removal kit, etc. Also, there used to be a sign in front of our school that a company was advertising their lice removal service but the sign has since gone down. I remembered they were called The Nit Fairy. I wonder if it's just a local company or a chain. I feel for you Lish...it's 100% worse when they have blond hair because then you really can't see it. I remembered when we were younger, the schools would line us all up and checked everyone's head for lice...whatever happened to that procedure? Why don't they do that anymore? When one of my friends asked the school this question...the answer was "We don't want a stigma attached to our school".
    I'm about to raise some hell just over that ignorant statement right there.

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  16. My favorite kids band, Recess Monkey, is composed of elementary school teachers. They have a sonce called L.I.C.E (little insect crawling everywhere). Great song! Gives a good perspective with a great tune.

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  17. ohmygod. ugh. I'm so sorry. And now I'm debating simply homeschooling my kid so she never has to deal with this! I love that you were brave enough to share this. I know it will help so many people! maybe me someday!

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  18. I heard that if you put fresh rosemary sprigs in your shampoo that will keep them away. Good luck!

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  19. What a week you've had! I've always been glad that we escaped the kid years without a case of lice, but we still aren't clear yet. I've had friends go through this too and ugh, not fun.

    Thank you for the valuable information, and I hope you are all free and clear.

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  20. Took some guts to write this, but it is good for other parents. Good post.

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  21. Thank you so much for this post. I am terrified of my kids getting lice and this made it a lot easier for me to know what to look for and how to treat if it becomes a problem!

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  22. Tricky little suckers, aren't they?! Yuck!! Thank your for sharing this. Good information.

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  23. scratch, I grew up with them constantly. scratch this post is making me dig at my head. scratch my mom used kerosene on my hair over and over. scratch scratch some parts of the country actually have lice treatment centers. scratch scratch, I would so send my husband to one of those clinics and empty my bank account so i did not have to worry about it. scratch scratch scratch thanks for the info

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  24. I just found your blog today and I can attest to the school policy-I worked in an elementary school in Florida when pregnant with my oldest about five years ago and our school did not require students to be lice free to return to school. We had one child that repeated came to school with lice and infected the rest of the class. They finally sent her home after I marched into the nurse's office and told them I refused to work around the child until it was taken care of. As someone who has very long, very curly hair and was pregnant there was no way I was getting lice and needing to put chemicals on my hair!

    I got it multiple times growing up from sleepovers, etc. and everytime my Mom just chopped all my hair off because it was the only way to get it out!

    Thanks for sharing this info (although I'll be itchy the rest of the night for sure!)

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  25. Ah dreaded lice, a mum & a hairdressers worst nightmare! Ive found by keeping my girls hair in a bun seems to help, when the pony tail or platt hangs down they can pick them up off seats etc. Putting a few dropps each of tea tree oil, peppermint oil & lavender oil in a spray bottle of water & spraying your childs hair with it before school helps. We shampoo on friday nights so we have the weekend to dirty up their hair. Our school also has a slogan on the weekly newsletter " Check for lice on monday nights". Yes its a problem here in Australia as well!
    Happy hunting!!!

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  26. I feel your pain! Great informative post. Gaby had it once and it was a nightmare. Just the mention of the little critters makes me start to itch. I ended up making a concoction out of essential oils to spray on her braids for at least a month afterwards. I think the CRCSD's policy is ridiculous, and the reason why it continues to be spread around the schools.

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  27. I'm itching now. I use a preventive spray on the kids with rosemary. Makes me feel better.

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  28. WHat do you mean, the AAP says they don't spread disease? Do they not think of TYPHUS as a disease? It is transferred by lice and fleas. Many people died of it in the Nazi concentration camps because of the living conditions and the Nazis were paranoid of getting lice because of Typhus. That's why they waste tax payer money on delousing people in jail. I say waste because if they are slowbugs and don't spread disease, like the AAP claims, then isn't it a waste?

    http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/cd/cdped.shtml
    States otherwise, that they do spread disease.

    http://www.headlice.org/faq/disease/insectdisease.htm

    That's just a couple. I'm not trying to freak you or anyone else out, but YES, lice DO spread disease. That is why they are a health concern, not because they are uncomfortable. And any insect that can bite a person or animal can spread disease. What those diseases are depend on the insect biting.

    You might want to let your school know that. I don't listen to the AAP, they are slow and outdated on their policies and some frankly make no sense, like a lack of corrolation between some red and yellow food colorings and certain health problems, while the WHO and other health organizations in Europe banned it because they DID find corrolation (I know, it's mispelled). I listen to the WHO and EU health organizations first.

    We haven't had lice but one family I once knew had their kids over once for dinner and the girls were scratching themselves like crazy. I looked that their scalps and they had them. Their mother saw it and freaked out as well. As well as my husband. Later, they called us yelling that the kids didn't have it. It was just one of many situations which ended up ruining our friendship, especially when we repeatedly stressed that we empathized with them and weren't judging them and wanted to help them with the problem.

    My daughter was told at the beginning of the school year with the whole class that they weren't allowed to play with each other's hair to avoid that. It might be only a matter of time but I check her as well because when I was elementary school, the nurse checked us and our whole entire class had them, including me and I remember feeling so ashamed, it was horrible.

    Goodluck!

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