Monday, August 23, 2010

We survived our first bout with lice

On Friday morning the scratching started. After seeing my 5 year old dig at her scalp for the fifth time in an hour, Josh and I took her to our sunlit front porch for an inspection. We didn't see anything that looked like lice, but there was a scattering of black "dirt."

"Well, that's not normal," I said. "Either that's lice poop or lice eggs or fleas, but it isn't okay." Josh gave her head another look and called me over. "Something's definitely moving in there," he said. Needless to say, Z started freaking out, somewhere between getting a shot and the first time she jumped into the deep end of the pool. "No!!!" she yelled. "I don't want to go to the Hair Fairies!!!"

"Call Sharon and see what we're supposed to do," I said. Sharon is our old neighbor, and a lice pro who not only dealt with her own kids recently, but had a friend whose entire family got infested (yes, mom and dad, too). I wanted to help, but I had to run over to Temple for a final run-though of my bat mitzvah service, which was that night. In fact, a lot of my extended family was already here, so I gave A, whose head was clear, to my mother and asked her to take her out of the house for a couple of hours while Josh scrambled and dealt with the lice.

Z spent most of the morning naked in the tub while Josh gave her a (likely toxic) Rid treatment and a preliminary culling of the critters. When I returned two hours later, I compared the bugs Josh had found to a Google image search (which, trust me, is not for the weak of stomach) and found that we indeed had a case of lice on our hands. But a fairly mild one, it appeared.

I sat Z in the sun on the back steps and pulled out lice eggs with my fingernails. It took a couple of hot, sweaty hours, but I wanted to be thorough. We bagged her stuffed animals and washed all her sheets, pillows, clothes and hats on our washing machine's hottest setting. We sprayed the couches and her bike helmet with the spritz from the Rid package and tied her hair back for good measure.

We did some more internet sleuthing and I armed myself for a second, even-more-thorough delousing Saturday morning, purchasing hair clips, Pantene conditioner and quality metal lice combs. The moment Z woke up, I sat her down in front of the TV, sectioned and clipped her hair and soaked each section with plenty of conditioner. I then ran the combs from root to end, wiping off the excess conditioner as I went. It took a little over an hour and I only found a few lice eggs--at least that I could see. I then washed out the conditioner.

To ensure the infestation was officially over, the rest of us got preventative tea tree oil shampoos and we've been washing and changing all of Z's bed linens each morning. No lice or eggs have been spotted since Saturday morning, and -- even more important -- no lice have been spotted on the remaining three of us - but I'll continue to check her head every morning and evening with a bright light (her IKEA bedside clip-on lamp) for at least the rest of this week.

Interestingly enough, just about every time we've mentioned our lice scare to friends we've been rewarded with their own recent lice stories, many of which put ours to shame. Repeat infestations this summer, sibling-to-sibling infestation, severe creepy-crawly scalp infestation caught too late, and a $600 house call from the aforementioned Hair Fairies.

The Hair Fairies, it should be noted, specialize in a thorough delousing using specialty natural products, and of course you pay for the effort. In fact, we've read that lice is increasingly resistant to the usual chemical pesticides, and natural may be the way to go, anyway. We even had a friend (and, to my surprise, Josh's pediatrician mom) suggest mayonnaise or Vaseline as non-toxic alternatives, but I doubt we'd ever go such a messy route. Regardless, Josh was at the drug store Sunday morning, stocking up on some natural Aussie Quit Nits. Just in case.