The Blame Game

"I'm sure we got it from that awful school - those teachers don't pay attention to anything."
"My niece gave it to me. My brother and sister-in-law don't care about hygiene."

"I must have gotten it from the chair at the movie theatre!"
"I think my son's best friend has it. I'm not letting him come over anymore."

When someone gets head lice, they want to know where they got it from. That's understandable. However, it is very likely you will never find out. You could get it from many places, and just because you think you know someone who has head lice, that doesn't mean that they were the source of your problem. Don't get mad at someone else because you think they gave it to you. They got it the same way you got it - from an unknown source. It wasn't because they didn't care about hygiene or grooming. It wasn't because they had a messy home or were neglectful. They just got it. If you start pointing fingers and getting mad, then you are the pot calling the kettle black. If you are going to confront someone who you think gave you head lice, it would better if you just approached them with understanding and information. Because now, you are all in it together.


You Know What Happens When You Assume...

Your head is itchy, but you've had your head checked and your buddy can't see anything. No bugs and no eggs. Do you have head lice? Maybe - I miss eggs sometimes and sometimes I've seen tons of eggs but no live lice when I know that bugs just have to be there.

However, lice is not like a viral infection that gets into your cells. They are insects. The lice and nits (eggs) are tiny but can be seen without a microscope once they are found. People usually don't even feel more itchy than usual when they have just a couple of bugs.

If someone has checked your head and sees nothing, but your head is itchy everywhere, don't just assume that you have head lice (though feel free to start taking precautions - keep long hair up, don't share brushes, etc). The cause could be from something else, like dry scalp, which gets even drier if you start to put lice treatments on it. Don't jump to conclusions - just keep an eye on your head until the itch settles down.

Slow And Steady Wins The Race

It takes a while to get in to the groove of head lice and nit picking. Be patient. Keep going until you find what works for you.

And I'm not talking about which "shampoo" works for you. I mean find the right place to sit. Find the right lighting. Get the right comb. Get the support of a friend. Make the lice check fit easily into your family's schedule.

The fight against head lice is not a sprint, it's a marathon, so don't waste your energy by panicking or taking extreme measures. The bugs can only lay 3-10 eggs per day, and those eggs will take about a week to hatch. Yes, it's a problem but it became a problem over weeks, and it may take you weeks to completely get rid of them. But you can do it, if you deal with it a bit every day. You can always pick and comb faster than they can lay the eggs. Don't panic - you can always outrun them. Just keep going.

Back In The Day...

Do you remember having head lice as a kid? I don't. I think I knew one kid who had head lice, and we just said he had "cooties" (kids can be cruel) and then the school sent him home. Most people I talk to never remember head lice being the epidemic that it is now. Why has the problem grown over the years?

My theory is this has happened because we've put our faith in pediculicides (pesticidal lice treatments). Back in the day, head lice was dealt with severely. Kids were sent home from school. Heads were shaved. Giving people the "leper treatment" probably increased our therapy bills (not good), but perhaps head lice was taken care of in fairly effective ways (with the exception of the turpentine and toxins that were poured on the children in residential schools, but that's another horrible blog post altogether.)

With the arrival of treatments that promised fast results as easy as shampooing your hair with no need to pick out the eggs, all that changed. But so did the lice. The more we shampooed, the more the bugs adapted. The less we picked, the more they spread. So many still believe these treatments are effective and the problem keeps growing.

So what do we do now? As I always say, we gotta pick it old school. Forget the treatments. Pick and comb (with a REAL lice comb, not those little green combs from the treatment packs).

The Buddy System

So you can't afford to have me over. Still, give me a call. Maybe I can give you a better idea of what to look for. One of the first things you need to look for is a buddy.

I have a buddy. You see, just as I check my kids' heads every time they scratch, I get my buddy to check my head when I scratch. My buddy is my husband. Now I haven't had head lice since before I got into this business, but because of this business, I ask my husband to check my head every day. Nothing says, "I love you" like a willingness to check for bugs and eggs. Seriously, men, if your lady has head lice and you are understanding and offer to do the picking, you will be in for some lovin'! Ok, maybe at a later time when you all feel less buggy.

If no one at home can pick your head, maybe you know someone who has also been through the frustrating ordeal of head lice. Another parent at your child's school, perhaps? Be bold - ask for help. Invite the friend for dinner or munchies, put on a good movie and make a night of it.

Sometimes the best time to find a nit-picking buddy is when you don't have head lice. If you hear of someone you know having it, offer to pick first. Then, you can ask them to return the favour at a later date if lice ever happens to you.


If You Invite Me Over...

If you choose to use my services, this is what I'll do.

I'll come to your home. I'll ask some questions. Why do you think you have head lice? What have you seen? How long have you had this? What treatments, if any, have you tried? Any other symptoms? And so on.

Once I am satisfied that you made the right call, I take a look. I do a quick check on everyone that you think is affected to confirm your evaluation. If I see lice, I set up my chair and my gear and start combing and picking. (I also set up my DVD player and a movie for the little ones - it makes it easier for them to sit still.) How long does it take to pick/comb the lice and their eggs? It depends. It can take an hour to pick out bugs and eggs from short hair. It can take up to 3 hours + if the hair is long and quite infested. I can pick the heads of everyone in the household, or I can just pick the lice off of mom and dad, and show them what to look for so that they can do the nit-picking for the rest of the family.

When I'm done, I'll leave you with some information, and probably some peace of mind too. Then, I'll see you again in a week or so for a free follow up visit to look for any new lice activity. So don't panic - we can get this problem under control. Simple, yes?

The Cure Should Never Make Things Worse.

My father gave me an old medical journal that talked about head lice. One of the recommendations? Turpentine. I know of someone who gave themselves 2nd degree burns using this "remedy". I've had people say that they left the "shampoos" on for days which can be very harmful. Or there's the others who have put their heads in scalding water. Or used RAID. Horrible, horrible stuff.

Toxins, corrosive materials, allergens, things that can burn, things that are carcinogenic - I know you want these bugs off of you, but don't put yourself at risk. It's not worth it because (a) unlike head lice (which is really just a yucky inconvenience), these "remedies" can really cause serious health problems, and (b) nothing will as work well as picking out every louse and egg. Nothing. So just pick - you will feel much better for it.


Imposters, Part 3 - Other Parasites

For all the press it gets, we often forget that pediculosis capitis (head lice) is pretty harmless. It's annoying. It's tiring. But, there are no real health risks directly related to this condition.

However, if you think you have head lice, answer some questions like these for yourself:

Do I have any itching/bites on ANY other parts of my body?

Do I feel ill or have any other symptoms (such as vomiting, diarrhea, muscle or joint aches, fatigue, flaky skin)?

If you are experiencing any other unusual symptoms besides the itchiness on your scalp, there may be something other than head lice going on. Especially if you haven't actually seen any bugs or eggs on your scalp. There are other illness, and other parasites, that can cause your scalp to be itchy. Some that can cause real health problems. If you call me, I will ask you questions. And while I can still come and check for head lice, I may recommend that you visit your family doctor.