We’ve Got Cooties!

Every Friday my column appears in a bunch of papers in Ontario and Saskatchewan. This week’s column was really just a shortened version of yesterday’s post, so instead I thought I’d run a column from back in 2007, that I really enjoyed. We’ve had some heavy posts this week, and I thought we needed something lighter! So my daughter does not have lice RIGHT NOW; it was back in 2007!

We've got CootiesRecently, a friend warned me that one of my daughter’s playmates had lice, so before Katie went to bed that night, I called her over to take a peek at her scalp. As I parted her hair, I was greeted by a bug running for cover.

I did what any normal mother would do. “Keith,” I shrieked, “get over here!” He ambled over, not too worried, and gazed at the offending creature. “Huh,” he said. “Look at that.” He’s a pediatrician, and pediatricians have no sympathy unless someone is coughing up a lung.

I insisted that he leave right that instant and get some lice killer shampoo. He asked if it could wait until morning. I gave him That Look. Off he went.

We stayed up until midnight as I picked eggs out of my daughter’s hair. We changed everyone’s bedding, even mine, because she likes to crawl into bed and wrestle in the morning. We banished all stuffed animals to garbage bags in the garage for two weeks. We vacuumed the sofa. Basically, I overreacted. But let me reiterate: my kid had something crawling in her hair. I think I was entitled.

The next day, I ran an internet search for information about lice, and found a very comprehensive site put out by Harvard University. But the more I read, the more I felt that these people had far too much education to understand the real world.

First, Harvard went to great pains to declare that having lice is not a big deal.

It doesn’t cause any illness or infection, and it’s not nearly as transmissible as a cold or flu virus. They went on to say that kids with lice should be allowed in school, because we let kids in who have colds. And colds, to Harvard, are far worse.

Obviously no one at Harvard has ever done laundry.

But here’s the thing, Harvard. I knew Katie wasn’t going to die, or get a debilitating illness, or be disabled. I was not worried about her health. But I was worried because my kid had bugs in her hair. Bugs. In. Her. Hair. Pardon me if I think that’s a big deal, but I think having insects crawling on one’s scalp is enough to cause most mothers to go into panic mode.

Harvard then went on to explain how lice tend to like clean hair, so there should be no stigma attached to it. Again, I understand. I know that it was not Katie’s fault that she got it.

But it would be my fault, I think, if she failed to get rid of it. While clean kids get it, dirty kids rarely get over it. It’s not easy to fight the little buggers; you have to comb those eggs out, and they’re sticky little things. You have to kill all the little babies. You have to wash your child’s bedding and toys. But some parents don’t do all this. And then a few weeks later the child has a full blown case again.

It’s almost guaranteed that there will be at least one child per classroom who has chronic lice, and I know some parents who make sure their children’s hair is not “clean” at school as a precaution. It’s not that they swear off shampoo; it’s that they pile on the gel and hair spray. Apparently the bugs don’t like goop, so it’s like putting a “No Trespassing” sign on your children’s heads. We’re going to do that from now on, even though Harvard failed to recommend it.

They did, however, try to put a positive spin on the lice thing in general, proving once again that academics are overpaid.

“A few lice on the head should not cause alarm; rather, they present an opportunity for parents to spend the needed time with their children in order to find and remove the offending insects.” What a great bonding opportunity!

If any of you would like such an opportunity, we saved a few eggs in a plastic bag to use in a science experiment later. I’d be glad to give them up. Personally, though, I’d suggest a game of Monopoly or a walk around the block. But then, I don’t have a Ph.D., so you’ll have to make that judgment yourself.

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  1. A parent can wash everything, spend hours of “quality time” combing out a child’s hair and quarantine every stuffed animal in the house and still have trouble getting every bug and egg. I spent several of the most frustrating months of my life doing this. Thinking about it makes my head itch!

  2. I feel for you sweetie. We have a wonderful hair stylist and she says that once the scalpe is clean of bugs and eggs, use hair gel in the child’s hair. Yours as well. The bugs do not like the coated hair follicles. They rather like the clean hair.
    I will be praying that the lice pass quickly for you. Hugs sweetie. U

  3. Hahaha thanks for the laugh:). Sorry you had to go through that though!

  4. Lol… Oh gosh… This brings back memories of my childhood. I don’t think you overreacted. My mother was about the same way when I told her I saw bugs crawling in my little brother’s hair. She even ironed the furniture and the carpet! She doesn’t believe in putting chemicals on your body, though, so we used tea tree/meleuka oil and slept with nightcaps and the whole family nit combed constantly. I remember us all going to the library and checking out every book there was on the subject. I’m pretty sure we all had the life cycle and statistics of a louse memorized after that. I’m not sure how long we dealt with it, maybe a month, but I know she wouldn’t let us do anything with other kids until there hadn’t been a nit found on our head for 10 days. I had hair down past my waist at that point and I was determined to not cut it off.

  5. Ordinary coconut oil will kill them. This weekend put a large amount on your daughters head and let it sit there for awhile… it will be ‘greasy’ but it smothers the lice. They can’t live in it and it is natural. Not toxic to your daughter. I also heard that they don’t like the smell of lavender so if you use lavender shampoo it is less likely they will return. Just a few ideas. I am not a doctor just a grandma.
    Sharon O recently posted…Hillsong – Came To My Rescue [with lyrics]My Profile

  6. I have heard that a) you can use common coconut oil and lather your daughters hair in it and leave it in for a while. Then shampoo it out. Lice don’t like lavender so maybe get a lavender shampoo and begin again.
    I am not a doctor just a grandma with a few ideas. It is more natural and less toxic to your daughter.
    Sharon O recently posted…Hillsong – Came To My Rescue [with lyrics]My Profile

  7. Leigh Anne says:

    We went thru that last May…I was paranoid for weeks! And now at least once a week, I check my son’s hair just be give myself peace of mind! Agh! My head itches just thinking about it! Lol

  8. Stephanie P says:

    Sheila mentioned at the beginning that this is not happening to her now…this was back in 2007!

    Other than that, everyone, that is great advice for a young mom who will probably encounter this sometime in the future…You know, it would be kind of neat to have a post where older moms/grandmothers could give some practical advice to us young moms about all kinds of topics like this one. I know we are to learn how to behave in a Christ-like manner from older/mature Christian women, but i think we can also learn a lot about life in general too from them :)

  9. OMG. We dealt with that for two straight years, washing, vacuuming, carpet cleaning, buying new mattresses, new pillows, throwing out toys. And then, I finally cut both of my daughter’s hair VERY short and we bought a lot of headbands. That was the only thing that said adios finally. Since then, I keep a nice supply of lice combs and insist my daughters comb out their hair at least once a week. Some kids are more lice prone than others, and I’ve got ones who are prone. If we find any eggs or live ones, I don’t waste time in treating or cutting off hair again. I cry thinking back on those on again/off again two years. Gah.
    Rachael recently posted…Life as a Stepparent, It’s not Easy, BUT…My Profile

  10. Oh Sheila, I would’ve freaked too! Although, with all boys, who like their hair kept quite short anyway, we would probably just buzz them extra-short. It’s now so easy with girls.

    It makes me wonder, though. I was in Catholic school for a year and the dress code included keeping your hair up (braided, or whatever) rather than hanging loose. Back when my parents were in school that was more the style, anyway. I wonder if that made it harder for lice to spread from one kid to another? I think if I had a daughter maybe I’d keep her hair “contained” somehow. But maybe that wouldn’t help. Just thinking “out loud”.

    Julie recently posted…Things I Cannot Explain…My Profile

  11. Alchemist says:

    I don’t really think it’s fair to make blanket statements about academics being overpaid. I kind of agree that this man is a little silly. But you left academia. You never got into the constant struggle for funding, getting your paper you worked hard really hard on being rejected by 3 different journals, getting the grant you spent months/ years working on rejected, again, the stress of conferences with crucial pieces of data still needed to fill out your presentation, the living in your lab for 10-12 hours a day 7 days a week cause you need more data, trying to get tenure ect. People write silly things in their papers sometimes. And then we stand up in group meetings/ class/ conferences and rip said papers to shreds. That’s just how it works.

    But I’m in hard sciences. We don’t really acknowledge people in anything softer than biology. That’s just our prejudice :)

  12. oh boy! I couldn’t even begin to imagine…
    back in my day, when kids had lice, they shaved off all their hair…
    I’m thankful for new options.
    Osayi recently posted…The Sexy LieMy Profile

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