February 7th, 2012 • Comments: 0 • by Wendy • ParentingResources

"You've Got Lice."


When I saw the name of my youngest daughter's preschool on the call display, that last thing I thought they would say when I picked-up the phone was, "Michaela has lice".

I panicked.

"You have to come and get her", Mrs Megan told me.

Of course I have heard the stories. My older sister's kids had lice, several times even, but they are all young adults now. That was years ago.

I went to the school and picked M up. Another parent pulled-up at the same time. She asked me, "What are you here for, lice?" I answered yes and wondered how she knew. Turns out she had treated her daugther for lice the day before and brought her back to school that morning.

Mrs Megan proceeded to show me a smudge of brown behind M's right ear that she scraped with the fingernail of her thumb. She said, "See? you have to scrape them with your fingernail to get them off". I looked and nodded.

We went to the drugstore to buy "the lice kit" and who did we run into again but the mom from the school. As I was walking away I heard her ask the pharmacist for "something stronger as that stuff you sold me yesterday didn't work".

I went home and called my sister. She proceeded to tell me about my nephew, who upon his return from camp (some ten years ago), was laden with lice. She used the insecticide lice treatment that most people think is the norm (including myself) and he vomited for two hours afterwards. "Don't put that on Michaela's head. It is an insesticide. It is poison", she pleaded. Later I found out that the chemicals will only kill the live lice therefore you still need to comb out the nits. As well, lice are becoming resistant to the chemicals found in these treatment kits so they are not nearly as effective as they once used to be years ago. I returned the lice treatment kit to the drugstore.

I spent the next hour or so doing research online. What do lice look like? What do nits look like? I inspected M's head in the "hot spot" behind the ears and at the nape of the neck and couldn't see anything, not even the brown smudge Mrs Megan had shown me. I had Robyn take a look (who also has grown children that had lice when they were younger) and she couldn't see anything either. When my husband came home he took a look too. Nothing.

I kept Michaela home from school the next day as they couldn't guarantee the other little girl wouldn't be at school again. When I spoke to Mrs Megan, I told her that M did not have lice. I was told to check her head every day for a week. So we did, twice a day to be extra dilligent, and we found nothing. Mrs Megan checked her head too.

And life went on. This happened at the beginning of December. Christmas came and went. On New Year's Day we had a bunch of family over for Michaela's birthday (she was born on January 2nd) and I'm not sure why, but I noticed her scratching her head. A lot.

The next morning she crawled into bed with me as she often does on non-school days and she was scratching her head again.

Barb from Lice911.com

We got up and I took a look at her hair and I saw nits. Lots of nits. And then I saw live lice.

By the time my husband got home from work, I had killed 12 lice. I didn't know what to do so I turned once again to the internet and decided to call Barb at Lice911.com. I had heard some of the moms at school talk about her business so decided to call her to get some advice. She talked to me for about 20 minutes. "It's all about breaking up their reproductive life cycle", she told me. Barb researched this business for an entire year before embarking on it nine years ago. She knows her stuff!

"LICE911 is a team of professionals dedicated to head lice awareness through prevention, screening, removal and training. We are Canada's first completely all natural and holistic approach to head lice removal. We work closely with families, schools and entire communities teaching how to safely screen, treat and help prevent head lice infestations."

We made an appointment with Barb, traveled 30 minutes to her office (she also offers in-home service) and she proceeded to do a complimentary assessment on all four of us. And all four of us had lice. Michaela had it the worst, followed by my husband, then myself and last but not least my eldest daughter Antonia.

I should mention that her office is *very* kid-friendly, outfitted with video games and Netflix to keep the little ones occupied.

At that point Barb told us that she can train us on the wet-combing method or she can comb any or all of us out. We decided that she should at least comb out M seeing that she had the most severe infestation. Then my husband jumped into the chair because he was totally grossed out by the whole thing. I jumped in next because, honestly, I didn't trust my husband to be diligent enough combing out my hair - he isn't adept at sectioning hair and combing it out piece by piece. After three of us were done, we decided that we might as well have Barb do Antonia too. I have to say that I was super proud of my girls for not freaking out about the bugs in their hair and for being so patient during the comb-outs. Barb and I had an interesting conversation about business as well. We were there for 4-1/2 hours.

Mike combing out Antonia

After we were done we knew we had made the right decision.  Although the wet-combing method isn't hard per se, you do need to do it correctly for it to be effective.

Here is the count:

Michaela: 600 nits, 100 live
Mike: 150 nits, 30 live
Me: 40 nits, 3 live
Antonia: 30 nits, 10 live

Our instructions were to do the wet-combing method every three days for three weeks or until we "combed-out clear" twice. Barb made us up a schedule for each person and at my request, split it up so that we were doing two people per day. So it was comb outs for two days, then one day off, then repeat. It felt *so* overwhelming to me as I knew I would be doing most of the comb outs. I think the first one took me three hours. The first time Mike combed me out, it took him four - my butt was pretty much numb by then. But we got faster over time.

And then I had to call the masses of people that were at our house over the holidays and tell them that they had potentially been exposed to lice. Funzies.

I am happy to say that as of a couple of weeks ago we have finished our comb outs and have packed up our Lice Screening Kit (that my husband insisted on buying and that I originally scoffed at).  I figure I spent between 40 and 50 hours combing. By week 2 I recruited my mom and my sister to help. My mom was also helping over at my sister's house (she does daycare for me) as her younger daughter was infected as well. She caught her eldest in time, only finding two live lice and no nits.

Barb was there for us along our journey as well. She offers unlimited support via phone or email to anyone that needs it, not just clients.

I now know, much to my chagrin, more about lice than I ever thought possible, nor would ever want to. I do however, feel much more prepared if (heaven help us) this ever happens again. What I *can* say is that there are a lot of MYTHS out there about head lice and a lot of misinformation on the internet.

I also think that every school district should hire an expert like Barb to present to parents at the beginning of EVERY school year. Knowledge and awareness are key.

FACTS About Head Lice

1. Lice don't jump or fly; you need five seconds of head-to-head contact to transfer from one host to another.

2. Lice don't care how clean or dirty your hair or your house is, how much money you make, where you work, how old you are or what ethnicity you are. Of course the negative stigmas still exist. Education is key.

3. Nymphs (baby lice) need to eat immediately upon hatching or else they will die. They cannot reproduce for 7-10 days.

4. Lice are creamy yellow to black in colour (and may even appear red if they just ate - I know... eww!). They move very quickly on your head, detecting movement and hiding from bright lights. Therefore the best way to confirm whether you have lice is by finding their eggs (nits). Nits vary in colour from clear to brownish-grey, are about half the size of a sesame seed, are all the same shape and size and can be found attached to one side of the hair shaft, at about a 45 degree angle, one to two inches from the scalp. You will find eight to ten nits in one area, cemented to the hair shaft and thus difficult to remove. They will be concentrated around the ears and at the nape of the neck.

5. You need only clean your house on the first day. Wash the clothes the infested person was wearing and their bedding using the hottest water possibe and dry in a hot dryer for 20 minutes; lice cannot burrow therefore you only need to clean surfaces. Vacuum any upholstered furniture and car seats. Items that can't be washed or dried can just be set aside (no need to bag) for 48 hours; lice with no host will die of deyhydration usually in the first 24 hours. Combs, brushes and hair accessories can be cleaned by washing them in hot tap water (65°F) for 10 minutes.

6. There is no need to use any chemicals, tea tree oil, mayonnaise or anything else you read on the internet to rid yourself of lice. The key is in the comb and the best one on the market is the LiceMeister, manufactured and sold by a non-profit organization. If you have school-age children, invest in one today. (And no, I'm not getting a kick-back for that endorsement.)

7. After the initial treatment, it is "life as usual". Kids can return to school and regular activities and you can return to work.

8. Average infestations take three weeks to clear. There is no "quick fix" and lice will NOT go away without treatment.

9. The best way for girls to prevent a lice infestation is to tie their hair back - "ballet buns" and braids offer the best protection.

10. Teach your child to avoid head-to-head contact with other children and not to share personal items such as hats, sleeping bags, combs and brushes. As well, teach them to tell you if their head is itchy or if they feel like there is something moving in their hair.

At the end of the day, aside from the hours and hours of combing, the worst part of this situation was not snuggling our kids for three weeks. As Barb said after she finished our initial assessment and found all four of us infested, "You are a close family".

I hope this helps at least one family rid themselves of lice or prevent an infestation from even happening.

Have you had lice in your house? How did you handle it?

{Photo credit: Lice911, Wendy Bell}

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