11/11/2016

Head Lice 2016: Can't we all just get along?

 In the days after the polarizing American election, we are being reminded by politicians, activists, celebrities, and late-night hosts to hold on to hope.  We must continue to speak up for those who do not have a voice but we cannot stoop to the level of the haters.  We must sort through the madness and appeal to the good in each person.  It is so easy live in fear and point fingers but we must stop and let sanity prevail. This is good advice to remember for pretty much everything in life. 

Even head lice.

A lot of commenters who weigh in on this blog spend a considerable amount of energy on being upset with the people that they feel gave them the head lice.  They are either mad at their child's school for not adopting a no-nit policy, or they are mad at the parents of their child's friend who they don't feel is dealing with their child's head lice effectively, or they are mad at the roommate/family member who will not allow them to check their head for lice. They get furious because now they feel they have to ban their child from going to their friend's house, or they feel they now have to put their child's hair up whenever they go to school, or they have to avoid sitting on THAT couch.  It's bad enough that their own head lice is taking up their time and energy - now they feel they have to change their life because someone else isn't changing theirs in dealing with their head lice.


I get it.  Head lice sucks.  And resentment can easily build when you think that you are the only one taking the problem seriously.


But before you go and have a stern talk with that person that you think is not being responsible about their head lice problem, please consider a few things.

Regarding schools, no-nit policies do not reduce the number of cases of head lice. They just don't.  Because nobody goes looking for lice and nits until the itch starts.  And if a child has not had head lice before, they might not even see or feel anything until they've had lice for 3 months or so.  So, even when no one thinks head lice is in the class, it may already be there. I know that some of you wish that we had school nurses who checked everyone for head lice every week, but seriously, that would just be a huge waste of resources. Parents can check their own kids. We need schools to be spending money on education and health authorities to be spending more money on things that actually address real health problems (By the way, I'm all for vaccinations!)

And what about that friend/cousin/study buddy/soccer coach that you are certain gave your child head lice.  You may be enraged at them but unless you saw that person pull a live louse off of their head and drop it on your child's scalp saying "Mwahahaha!" with an evil grin, you cannot be sure that they gave your child head lice, or that they even have it (unless they tell you).   And if you know they have lice, do you think they wanted it?  They are not spreading it on purpose and they want to be rid of it as much as you do and just because you can't see them dealing with it, that doesn't mean that they aren't.  And if they swear that they don't have it, what are you gonna do?  Tackle them and give them a combing?  Will that make your own lice go away any faster?

When I was a child, I never got head lice.  But now almost everyone I know has their own head lice story.  People don't get head lice because they are dirty or spread it because they are neglectful.  Head lice happens where humans connect and regardless of who gave it to you, the only thing you can control is your own actions.

And I hope your actions are kind.  Let your child go to his friend's house.  Don't freak out if your roommate sits in your chair.  Don't cancel those soccer practices.  Head lice are a bother, for sure, but not a health issue and the melt down doesn't come from the bug - it comes from the energy we spend on frenzied cleaning and angry paranoia.  If you've changed your whole routine because of head lice, that's on you, not on the bug or your neighbour.  You don't have to comb for 6 hours straight because you are not going to get it out in one sitting anyway.  You don't have to clean from morning to night because that doesn't affect your head lice problem at all.  When faced with the challenge of head lice, practice mindfulness - control your emotions and give grace to yourself and others.  If you think your problem may have come from someone you know, gather up all the love, patience, and humour you have and start a accepting conversation.  If they aren't ready for it, don't be defensive - wish them well and let them know you're their for them should they change their minds.

Let love trump hate in every area, even when dealing with these bugs. Together, can we beat head lice?  Yes, we can! 

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

love your blog!

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Anonymous said...

Good post - thank you. I never had head lice as a child either and discovered your brilliant blog when I got them for the first time in my forties. I didn't waste too much time thinking about how on earth I'd got them until I finally got rid of them after six weeks of combing, blow drying and - yes, to begin with - trying treatments. I really don't want to go through all that again. It's a nightmare trying to get rid of lice on your own. So, I did begin thinking where I'd got them ... so I didn't have to go through that again. Most likely answer is a friend with kids who is always treating her children for head lice and seems to get them herself, though she doesn't openly admit this. It is really difficult not to feel really angry and not to want to avoid her. How to start that open, loving conversation? What if it's not her who gave them to me? What if she gets really angry and it goes badly? I've not got the answers but your post did remind me not to get too resentful and angry.

Anonymous said...

Last Thursday was our second case of lice, our first one was 2 years ago, honestly at first I was feeling so anxious, to a point were I cried myself to sleep asking the same question every parent asks themselves "why my child!!?" I have been combing for 3 days straight and I have found nothing. I think my girls had a light infestation, since they were not itchy at all and I caught it on our routine checks. Should I still be combing every day?, I'm scared my little one will get it again at school.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for writing this blog! Your advice has brought some sanity back into our house. My only regret is finding your blog AFTER we stayed up late for days vacuuming and washing All The Things ;)

Unknown said...

I love your blog. This is not my first rodeo with lice but I still look for quick fixes. Licemeister and conditioner are always the effective weapons but it is exhausting. Easy to give up hope but I know we have 1 more week of daily combings I think I can, I think I can.....

Lisa W said...

I love your blog. This is not my first rodeo with lice but I still look for quick fixes. Licemeister and conditioner are always the effective weapons but it is exhausting. Easy to give up hope but I know we have 1 more week of daily combings I think I can, I think I can.....

Anonymous said...

How many baby lice can I pull out a day and still be on top of this? Day 3 after treatment still finding 8-10 teeny critters a day. Is this normal/average?

Anonymous said...

Hi. Your blog is reassuring but I am fighting a losing battle and losing my mind in the process. Nothing is working - no OTC stuff, no prescription stuff, and I'm being very careful in how I use it. Combing regularly didn't help, nor hair drying, and even shaving to a #2 hasn't helped, I don't think. Tomorrow I might have to shave to a #1. I don't have a "buddy" to check/pick nits. I've even become suicidal over this - it's been going on for many months and I'm trying SO hard. It's terrible to be trying this hard and not be able to overcome it. I wish someone could help me but even nitpickers apparently don't guarantee their work and it's expensive. I'm hoping for a miracle soon.

Cathy, the Nice Lice Lady. said...

For the person who says they have been suicidal over head lice, I recommend two things. If you feel nothing has helped and you are at your breaking point, then I totally recommend that you shave your head. Hair can come back. But if you harm yourself, you cannot. And, whether you choose to shave your head or not, I recommend you talk to someone. Get some professional help now(and don't feel bad about it - I have my own counsellor appointment in about 35 minutes from now.) There are times in life when it is all too much - when lice comes, the rest of our world doesn't just stop to let us deal with it and we can get overwhelmed as with any unexpected problem.

Please, remember that head lice are a huge pain in the behind, an inconvenience, a nuisance, but they are not (a) a physical health issue (only in very rare cases where there are usually hundreds of head lice present does someone have a reaction to them), (b) a sign that you are dirty or bad (What made you get head lice? Simply being human.), or (c) something that you have to go through alone. Do not be ashamed to tell someone that you trust - a family member, a friend, a teacher, someone from your faith community, a co-worker, someone on the other end of a distress phone line - about what you are dealing with. If there is a nitpicker in your community, just call and talk to them - even if you don't hire them, even if they don't guarantee their work, they can definitely give you some support. Head lice are small but the panic we can create in our minds can be huge and can totally wear us down over time if we are unable to keep it in check or in perspective.

You must be completely exhausted. I totally get it - you've been working so hard and putting so much into this for so long and it feels like it is all for nothing. Please try to get some sleep. Make sure you are eating. And please, please talk to someone. Do not kill yourself - I just know that you will beat this problem. You deserve to get help. You are so worth it. So, so worth it.

Cathy, the Nice Lice Lady. said...

For the person that said, "How many baby lice a day...?", if you just did a permethrin/pyrethrin treatment, it may not kill everything. These treatments are proven to be not as affective as they used to be; the lice have adapted to them. How many lice will you pull out? As many as are there. If you have a head full, you will be combing out lice for a while. My advice, keep going. But don't settle for the combs that come in the "treatment" package. Get a good, rigid, long tooth, metal lice comb and do wet combing as recommended on this blog. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Hello, Wonderfully Nice Lice Lady Cathy: Seeing your post this morning made my day and made me feel incredibly encouraged. I wasn't expecting to hear from you, so thank you very much. You replied as if you understood completely! How did you know I'm not eating or sleeping very well? And indeed, I have been feeling suicidal - this experience has been devastating, a total nightmare.

I've felt like I'm on a treadmill, trying so hard to deal with this but it's not going away - I'm just not getting anywhere. Today I haven't felt activity "up there" so I've been relatively calm but overall the hypervigilance has been exhausting (as well as all the combing, treatments, etc.). I haven't yet shaved my head to a #1 but will do that if necessary. I can't put any more pesticides on my head - I still have ringing in my ears that I believe is from the Natroba (spinosad) and I hope it will eventually go away. I will instead blow-dry my hair every day and also comb it with conditioner. I haven't yet called a nitpicker but will do that soon.

I *do* have a counselor and also wonderful friends, most of whom I've told what's going on, particularly since I've hugged them in the past and think they deserve to know. It feels humiliating but I'd bet more people have experience with this than will admit. I'll also add that dealing with this issue over the last several months nonstop was the "last straw" - I had a lot of stress before this but now also with the state of affairs in the U.S., I've been feeling even more anxious - it's all these things combined. However, if I shave my head it will be one less thing, right? :) It would be such a relief to have this be over with, once and for all!

All that said, having your support - your blog and particularly your message today - gives me tremendous comfort and I am deeply grateful. I will do what you say and will shave my head if I have another bad day (i.e. if any lice continue to camp on my head). And I bought a bunch of hats today, so I'm all set! And similar to what you said, a dear friend of mine told me, "It's better to lose your hair than to lose your mind" (or life for that matter). True, hair can grow back, and really, it's *only hair*.

Your blog is an incredible service you're providing for people as this is such a terribly hard issue for many folks but you give us hope and encouragement with your knowledge, empathy, and support. For that, I give you a million thanks - you are a godsend and are helping so many people get through a very difficult time. Thank you again for your very kind reply, and wishing you many blessings and very happy holidays. <3<3<3

Christine said...

Hi Cathy. Thank you so much for the advice on dealing with your own head. I have a question. Is there any way to prevent this from happening in the future? I thought dabbing tea tree oil on would be a good preventative measure, but then read your comment that it's inefficient. Is there any hope to stop this from happening again?

Rebecca Milhoan said...

this blog is a life saver! i have been on everyday for the last 2 months! it's kept me sane during our own head lice saga! unfortunately we had a reinfestation, then i started actually applying the advice you've given and now I feel like everything (cross fingers for luck) is under control!

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for this info. Last fall was our first experience with lice and we used your methods to get rid of them. My youngest was itching a few weeks ago so I checked and sure enough she had about 8 adults, some nits, but no nymphs so I think we caught it early. I have been ding the combing every 2-3 days w the Licemeister comb as usual but skipped the chemical treatments this time. Three days ago I only found about 5 nits on my youngest. Today I found at least 10 adults, and lots of nits (close to 100?) I know every one gone is another one gone, so I should be glad I got them, but I am feeling like crying and like this will never end. How could it have come back so bad in just three days? :(

Do you have any thoughts on neem oil in addition to combing?

Unknown said...

I think I figured it out, last time I combed my youngest's hair I focused mostly on the scalp but not the end every time bc her hair snarls really bad and she was being impatient. Tonight we got rid of every snarl and combed scalp to tip every time. I think the other night I missed some in my hurry, lesson learned. It takes a lot of time but it seems there really is no other option but to keep going...and be super picky! :)

Last time this happened my fiancee broke off our engagement partially bc he just couldn't deal with the idea of lice, even though I explained it can happen to anyone etc. Obviously he was not the right person for me and/or my kids if he's not in thru thick and thin, but at the time it was very humiliating. I think maybe those feelings were coming back today. I know we aren't "dirty" or "gross" but today I kinda felt like a loser. Single mom, two kids, combing my own hair and theirs, takes several hours each time, it's a lot. And like someone said above, it's on top of all the other stuff already going on in the world! Thanks for this blog, such a help to be able to read my feelings are normal and that with combing, this bout will end!

Unknown said...

By the way, I am SUPER glad I did not marry the fiance, not just bc of how he reacted but also I found out later he had been married several times he didn't tell me about, was up to his eyeballs in debt, had other major issues. So in a weird way, lice revealed to me who he was, saved me from making a horrible mistake! Lol. May as well look on the bright side, yes? :) I am dating a very nice man now, a much better fit!

We can all do this!

Unknown said...

Follow up, we used the neem oil according to this:

http://www.livestrong.com/article/143541-neem-oil-head-lice/

Two days later, no adult lice and only a few nits to be found. We'll keep up the combing and report how things are going but I wanted to share neem oil + combing is working for us! Yay!

Jenn said...

Earlier today I was just watching TV and kinda picked at my scalp and felt something rubbery. I picked it off my scalp and noticed it was something translucent and it started moving. I tried squishing it with tissue but it kept moving. I quickly went to go shower and washed my hair and had my bf take a look to see if there were any nits or louse. He didn't find anything. Couple hours later, I asked him to do a comb through again and nothing. Was it lice?? I think I'm so paranoid that I keep scratching my head or thinking it'll come back when I sleep tonight.

Anonymous said...

Hi Cathy. I wrote you a few weeks ago, debating whether to shave my head because I was feeling that bad about not being able to get rid of the lice. I shaved my head to a #2 and have been hypervigilant, diligently trying to make sure it was gone, but tonight I found what definitely looks like a nymph (I bought a 60x magnifier to help me figure out what I'm seeing). I hate the thought of shaving my head but now that I've definitely seen *something*, I want to shave my hair and have this nightmare be over, since that is apparently the only way in my case. Would you be so kind as to tell me your thoughts regarding how short to go - should I shave my head completely or would a #1 (about 1/8th-inch) be short enough? If I still had a tiny amount of hair, I have a nice soft shoe brush that I think will rub off any nits if they are there. I really appreciate your time and am so grateful for your blog. Hope to hear from you soon if you can. Sincerely, Casey

Anonymous said...

Hi, I forgot one more question - nymphs can be either whitish or brownish, correct? Can you see them in the nit comb? Thank you so much. xo

Anonymous said...

Yes, I'll second it, that Neem oil and coconut oil together seem to work great to loosen things for combing. I'm using an oil from India, Mediker, that contains camphor and neem. I also recommend using a magnifier loupe to see what you're looking at (60x is very good, with an LED light on it). Nits are TINY but you can see them with this (a few dollars on eBay/Amazon). And Jenn, it definitely sounds like you have lice, sorry to say. Get a good lice comb and start combing, a LOT (every day). After combing I dip it into plain hot water and that way I can see exactly what's coming off my head. For combs, I like the yellow LiceMeister one better than the Terminator, but many people seem to prefer the latter one. Good luck...serious combing and blow drying do help a lot (and maybe someday I'll even be rid of this dang things).

Cathy, the Nice Lice Lady. said...

Can you see nymphs in the lice comb? Usually, yes. A lice comb with rigid teeth that are very close together will pull out nymphs as well and you should be able to see them. Nymphs are very small but when they are stuck in a comb with rigid teeth, they will usually stand out. However, I recommend that you wipe the comb between combings on some toilet paper so that you can see what the comb grabbed. If you see something stuck between the teeth of a comb and wiping won’t remove it, use dental floss to remove the item – never bend the rigid teeth of the comb to clean it.

In the past, I have seen what looked like small red specks on a head, picked them off with my fingernail, and looked at them under a microscope - and they were perfect little lice. When they first hatch, they are extremely small, will be hanging out right on the scalp, and may not be picked up by your lice comb. However, they will grow pretty quickly and you will be able to comb them out in before the week is out.

Cathy, the Nice Lice Lady. said...

Regarding shaving your head, lice can live on really short hair, especially if it is thick. If they have something to hold on to and your head is still the right temperature, they can still survive. If you want to get rid of them completely and almost instantly, you can shave your head bald. However, I don't really think this is needed. With very short hair, lice are much easier to manage. You may have found another nymph but that doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to beat this more quickly. When the hair is very short, you can get the lice comb through the hair so quickly. The fact that you found a nymph is actually proof that the combing works. As for rubbing off the nits, I don’t think you will have much luck with that. The glue that holds the nits to the hair is very strong – nits are only really scraped off the head with a proper lice comb or your finger nail and when they are removed, you can see on them that a piece of the hair has usually been removed along with it. My vote would be for you to keep the hair you have, keep on combing, add some blow drying, and I think you will be done with the lice sooner rather than later.

Cathy, the Nice Lice Lady. said...

Regarding finding a "squishy" bug on your head, there are other bugs that can get in your hair that are not head lice. They don’t want to be there, they don’t live on your scalp, but they can get stuck in there. So don’t just assume that just because you found something it was a louse. What I would do is keep on doing routine checks – I would recommend that you get an inexpensive lice comb as wet combing is proven to be much more effective in lice detection than visual inspections.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Cathy, for your reply. I actually think I found a lot of nymphs and a lot of nits over the last few days - more than ever - and it's freaked me out. I've been dealing with this for at least 5 months and it's been horrendous - a nightmare that I can't wake up from. I'm an optimist and have been trying SO hard but now I'm utterly exhausted and am giving up. Tonight I psyched myself up to shave my head bald and I'll do that very soon, for the peace of mind. I'm actually looking forward to it and will just have to wear hats for a while. It'll be OK, and I only wish I had done it sooner, to save myself from all this suffering. Thanks again for everything; your kindness is very much appreciated...

Иван Ратницкий said...

Anyone try to use or maybe know something about lice combo which all advertise, this way work's well?

Lisa said...

I'm a single mom with two kids also, dealing with lice on all three of us since the end of April. I really appreciate every comment I read on here. I truly understand your situation and perspective.

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