Ugh. I debated long and hard before writing this post, but my blog is a place where I try to keep things real. To say what’s really going on in my life and what I think about it from time to time. So after taking a deep breath or three, here we go:
The kids have lice.
Even typing that makes me feel like I need to go on some walk of shame, Game of Thrones-style (except with my clothes on, ideally). Lice have such a bad rap. It makes me feel like I’ve failed as a parent somehow, to have my children infested with the creepy crawlies. (It also makes my scalp itch. A lot. Denisa’s too. But no matter how many times either of us have checked the other, we still somehow appear to be nit-free.)
But let me back up.
Yesterday morning, Denisa mentioned in passing as I was on my way out that MC had come down in the middle of the night with her head itching. It was Monday morning, and early, so my brain didn’t really put anything together. I just nodded and said she should check on it when the kids were up, and off I went to work.
At 10:15, Denisa texted me: “M definitely has lice. I caught one and then checked it against a picture online.”
Things went downhill from there. She checked the other two kids, and they both had it as well. She had them check her, but they couldn’t find anything, although that just made her think they’d missed seeing them. So she headed to the store and got some delousing supplies and came back to put them into action. TRC was done first, and then MC. But there was a meltdown with MC, which slowed things down a fair bit.
Finally, Denisa asked for reinforcements, so I left work (itching my head the whole way) and came home to help.
I used my typical approach to crises: research the problem, make a plan, and then put it into action. From what I found out online, I was relieved to discover that lice don’t actually transmit diseases, and that they’re actually pretty fragile little bugs. Take them away from a human head for more than a day or two, and they die. They also need to be 9 days old before they can lay eggs, so if you kill the live ones before then, then you’ve stopped the problem.
When you have lice, you need to treat anything that might have been in contact with the infected head in the last 48 hours. Wash it, dry it. Spray it down with delousing spray. That kind of thing. You need to kill all the lice in the hair, and ideally pick out all the nits that are present. Check back each day for more, and maybe repeat the killing in seven days’ time (to take out any lice that might have hatched since.)
In a nutshell, they’re bugs. Catch them before they lay eggs, and the battle’s pretty much won.
So now that I knew what we needed to do to get through this, I wanted to assess the problem. TRC had already been deloused, but Denisa and I looked through his hair for the nits. It took a bit to figure out what they looked like, since I couldn’t see the difference between nits and dandruff. YouTube was the most helpful resource. Basically, nits are glued onto hair. They won’t move if you brush at them. You have to pinch and slide them off the whole follicle.
TRC definitely had nits. Knowing what they looked like now, I turned to Denisa and she turned to me. Both of us checked out clean. Huzzah! I called DC in (MC was in her nap still). After a thorough check, DC turned out to be nit-free as well. No lice, either. So the crisis was downgraded from a 5/5 to a 2/5 right there.
But how to get rid of the nits? One thing TRC inherited from me is exceptionally thick hair. Dense. And his hair was pretty long. After I looked through it, I told him and Denisa that I thought it would take forever to get that clean, and that even then we wouldn’t know for sure if we’d gotten it all. My suggestion? Scorched earth. Buzz his head and then check over the stubble that remained.
TRC thought about it a while. He’d never had really short hair. But in the end, he agreed to go through with it. (No pics posted here, because he didn’t want them online. Sorry.) He actually looks really good with short hair, and it’ll be a lot easier for him to take care of it, so that’s something. Once that was done, finding the few remaining nits wasn’t too hard.
TRC was clean.
Which left MC. She got up from her nap, and Denisa and I went through her head again. We found a live louse, but almost no nits. (MC has much thinner hair, which made that job significantly easier, at least.) We’re pretty sure she’s clean now as well.
So then it was a matter of washing all the bedding, spraying down all the surfaces that might have had lice on them, and drying it all on high heat. By 9:30pm, we were pretty much done.
There’s no guarantee we got them all, of course. From what I’ve read and heard, they can come back fairly easily. (Miss just one, and it can lay 8 nits per day.) Still, once you know there’s a problem, it’s easier to get on top of it.
So there you have it. My big dark secret laid bare. From what I’ve read online, this brush with lice wasn’t nearly as bad as it usually can get. It seems we actually caught it sooner than later, and so it wasn’t as bad as we feared. Where did the kids get them? No idea. We’ve thought through all the likely places, but we’ll probably never know. Denisa called around yesterday to alert kids our kids had been in contact with, though, so hopefully this infestation stops with us.
It’s not nearly as big of a deal as I’d thought, now that I’ve researched it. It’s got a seriously bad stigma, but I think if people were more open about it, that would improve. (Hence my final decision to write this post.) Lice spread when they have a chance to go from person to person. They can’t jump or fly. They need scalp to scalp (or brush to scalp) contact to really be able to get around. If you have them in your family, just admit it, tell other people about it, treat it, and move on.
At least, that’s my suggestion. Now excuse me while I go itch my head one more time . . .