When others have head lice.

So your cousin has head lice. Should you let her come for a visit? You find out that 3 kids in your child's classroom are totally infested. Should you keep your child home or should you raise a stink with the principal? The mother of your son's best friend just called - her kid has head lice. Do you keep the boys apart?

When someone with lice is coming for a visit, don't isolate yourself - just take some simple precautions. If you or your children have long hair, pull the hair up in a ponytail. If the visitor has long hair, ask him/her to pull it up (this is easier to do when your guests are children). Address the issue with your guest at the start of the visit. If your guest is staying over, give him/her fresh bedding and wash and dry the bedding in high heat each day. Put towels over the tops or arms of the couches - anywhere where someone might lay their head. Put your brushes and combs away. Make sure no one shares hats or hair accessories. Set some ground rules about contact - no hugging when possible (But hey, if my friend was really upset, she might need a hug, and I'd give her one, head lice or no head lice.) And then do regular head lice checks on yourself and members of your household.

With regards to the lice in your child's classroom, talk to the other parents, or talk to the teacher to make sure that everyone is aware of the problem. Offer information and support. And by all means, give them my number!

Have a nice lice frame of mind without going buggy.

When you discover that you or someone you care about has head lice, you know that you are in for some work. You are discouraged because this little "surprise" upsets your family, your schedule, and maybe even your budget (it doesn't have to - don't buy the shampoos!).

However, there is something that is much more exhausting than dealing with head lice: it is the paranoia that some people create around the head lice. Hours of reading about head lice on the Internet. Days and days of cleaning, shampooing, and washing. Constantly monitoring the comings and goings of everyone in the household. Thinking every little itch must be a bug bite. This flurry of agitated activity is absolutely exhausting, not to mention absolutely unnecessary. THIS IS JUST HEAD LICE! Calm down. You will need to do some work to get rid of it - conserve your energies for more productive behaviours.
While paranoia is not productive, the same can be said of an attitude that is too relaxed. I hear people say, "Oh, head lice is just a part of life and you can never really get rid of it.", or, "What's the point of wasting time picking out the lice when my son is just going to come home from school with another case of it next week?" It is attitudes like these which have led to the head lice epidemic that we have in our schools. Having head lice is not in and of itself a health issue, but it is a very real social problem and can leave you or your child feeling like a outcast. And then there's the maddening itching, which leads to scratching, and the scratching can lead to wounds. (If these get infected, then you ARE dealing with a health problem). Choosing to do nothing, or choosing to do very little (i.e. using "shampoos" that don't really work) passes your problem on to others as well.

Stop the paranoia, but don't be ignorant. Don't freak out about head lice, but be prepared to really deal with it. Be diligent, and patient. Lighten up, but don't tune out. Have a nice lice frame of mind.


No need to get dirty with your lice.

There is a phrase that people tell me all the time:
"I know that head lice prefer clean hair to dirty hair."

When someone has head lice, she often feels dirty and finds comfort in this misleading statement. We need to reassure ourselves that we are clean people. And part of the sentiment of the statement is true - head lice is not a hygiene issue. People with clean hair (and clean clothes, and clean homes) are as likely to get head lice as anyone else.

The circulation of this belief also stems from the fact that globs of goop do make things a bit more difficult for the louse. It is harder to maneuver around slimy, oily, goopy hair. So, people mistakenly think that head lice will not thrive in dirty hair. But do you know anyone who lets their hair get that dirty? Where globs of grease are dripping down their neck? No, you probably don't. Even if you didn't wash your hair for two weeks, it would never get that dirty. And even if it did, just because the restaurant takes longer to get to, that doesn't mean the lice are not going to eat. In hair clean or dirty, those bugs are going to get to your scalp and they will do just fine for themselves, thank you.

So for all of you folks who think that postponing your shampooing will assist you with your lice problem, you are sadly mistaken. Dirty hair will not prevent you from getting head lice, nor will it slow them down if you already have them. Please keep your scalp clean. Especially if I'm the one who is going to be looking through it. Much appreciated.

Jeopardy Question: These parasitic insects live only on the human scalp.

Answer: What are head lice? (Pediculosis Capitis)
For more general info about lice and nits - what they are like and what to do with them when you find them -
check out the my blog posts from November 2008.

Another note: See this picture. See the little red baby louse? (It is red because it just ate.) On your head, that nymph is about the size of a speck of pepper and you usually can't see the outline of its legs with the naked eye unless it is in front of a completely white background. (Because of the age and the size of these little red guys, my daughter calls them "Baby Spice".) So, if you are doing your own lice removal, and you see a tiny speck on the head, don't waste your time wondering if it is lice. Just remove it. When in doubt, take it out.