What's worse than the itch? Burnout.

Recently, I spoke with two mothers who were dealing with head lice in their families (and dealing with it very well, I might add.)  In our conversations, it became very clear to me that these women were now experts on head lice.  They knew what they were looking for and were willing to put in the time and the right kind of effort to deal with this problem. I truly appreciate this kind of vigilance when it comes to head lice.  As I have said before, we must not underestimate these little guys - even with all of our modern weapons, we have more cases of head lice than ever before.  Head lice need to be taken seriously.

However, we must resist hyper-vigilance.Y'know, the kind of vigilance that makes us crazy.  Where we lose sleep over head lice, assume every itch is a new bite, start over combing or over treating our hair, restrict our regular activities,  keep everyone up late and wake them up early to do nit-picking, and clean our homes for hours every day.  I know we seem to feel better when we DO something, but the only thing this hyper-vigilance will do is make us sick. ( I'm speaking mostly to the mothers - sorry Dads, I have yet to find a two-parent home where the father is the main person who takes control over the family head lice.)

As I have said before, when feelings of lice anxiety are leading you down this path, get control of your feelings and look at the facts:
  • Extra house cleaning has no proven effectiveness in the fight against head lice. Or, I should say it has evidence-based ineffectiveness.  Studies have shown that extra cleaning does nothing in this fight.
  • Keeping children out of school, daycare, or other activities is not necessarily helpful; no-nit policies have been proven to be ineffective in keeping head lice out of these places.
  • Head lice in most industrialized nations have developed a resistance to pesticidal treatments.
  • Most alternative treatments  have little or no proven effectiveness.
  • The over-washing, over-combing, and over-treating of hair can often be the cause of scalp irritation - it can be the cause of itching and/or skin reactions.
As I say again and again on this blog, the way you deal with head lice is to manually remove the bugs and eggs on the head.  To do this effectively, try to get the following things:

1. Time - Not the 10-hour marathon horror stories that I hear from some parents.  I mean, you need to know that you will be dealing with this for weeks and there is no getting around it, not even if you hire a lice professional.  We all can miss something, so some time should be put into combing/picking every 2 or 3 days until you have had 2 weeks with no sightings of bugs or eggs. The amount of time you need to spend in this endeavor will decrease as the weeks go on.
2. A good lice comb.  There have been effective nit-pickers throughout the years who never had the benefits of a good metal lice comb, but for the amount of time you save, I always recommend that you try to get one.  Not a necessity, but exceptionally helpful when used in wet combing.
3. Good light. Natural or artificial, light directed on the head really makes it easier to see what's going on.  For me, an inexpensive head lamp is a blessing.  It brings you directed light wherever you go and keeps your hands free for combing and picking.
3. Perspective. This is just head lice.  It is not the plague.  You are not unhygienic or unclean if you have it. Head lice are simply a reality in our world.  They have been around for ages and I expect we will still be dealing with them in the ages to come. They are a pain in the rear, but they don't have to be a tragedy if you don't let them. 

Trust that you have what it takes to deal with this problem.  Don't panic or start putting your family through a frenzy of frantic cleaning and unnecessary restrictions.  Never let head lice keep you from getting sleep, eating well, and engaging in enjoyable activities.  Never let head lice drain you financially or put your employment at risk.  Push through that initial feeling of panic.  Find a good friend to share your experience with.  Take a breath. Be gentle with yourself.  I know you can do this.

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