Friday, September 10, 2010


Lice is one of those things I always dreaded. While I kind of enjoyed the school nurse combing through my hair during lice checks, I was always grateful when she didn’t find anything. I made it through an entire public school education without ever catching lice. I’ve slept in primitive conditions and played with kids whose mothers handpicked lice from their hair. Yet I continued to avoid it. I thought perhaps we’d run the risk again when River entered school. But not now.

Just when I least expected it, I got my first introduction to lice.

I noticed I was itching my scalp during the past day or two. But unlike dandruff, there was nothing flaking off. I looked in the mirror, but didn’t see anything. It became annoying enough at work that I googled “itchy scalp.” I planned to ask Mark to take a look at my scalp when I got home.

Upon arriving home, River sat in my lap and I happened to notice small brown marks in his part. I was told that they wouldn’t go away, even after shampooing, and that he’d been itching his scalp all day. I looked closely, and one seemed to move. Then I googled what lice look like (the internet is a wonderful tool) and I believed I made the match.

I called the pediatrician, who recommended the following treatment for both of us:

-Purchase anti-lice shampoo – we got RID – and follow instructions

-Purchase green Palmolive dish soap. After washing with the RID, wash with the Palmolive, which suffocates them.

The RID instruction emphasized precise delousing after shampooing. The doctor seemed to think the Palmolive was more important. We did all of the above, but it was so hard to get the nits out of baby fine hair that I’m sure I left many. I plan to apply the Palmolive again within the next few days and to do another RID treatment in 7-10, after any remaining nits have hatched.

So, after having a friend over for dinner, we spent a fun Friday evening shampooing, delousing, putting all clothing and linens that we’ve touched in the past 48 hours into bins to wash in hot water and spraying the things we couldn’t wash. Mark was concerned about all the pesticides. Normally I’d be concerned too. But I was more concerned about live insects procreating on my head and my child’s head. Getting rid of them ASAP was my prime concern. Luckily, my case seems to be a more minor case than River’s.

At first I thought we might have caught the lice from our hotel stay last weekend. But upon reading that nits take 7-10 days to hatch, and another 7-10 days to become adults and lay eggs, and realizing that River’s case was more advanced than mine, my guess is that he picked it up at the large family gathering while I was in Vermont. I’m thinking he may have received it from his cousin, who gave him a hat that River is fond of and has been wearing frequently since late August.

It’s gross, really gross, to pull a live bug off of your child’s scalp. Or to comb through your own hair and wipe dead insects onto a Kleenex. But it’s just one more of those things that you steel yourself to get through, because as a parent, you have no choice.

If anyone has tips on how to make sure we really get rid of this batch, and prevent future reinfestations, please share!

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