Everybody Has Lice and Nobody’s Talking About It

What one mom learned after a fateful hair appointment…

It all started as a normal visit to a kids’ haircut salon. I’d landed simultaneous appointments for my two children so I could savor my cappuccino in peace. But halfway through the appointment, my daughter’s stylist stopped cutting and said, “Can you come over here?” 

She pointed to something that looked like a grain of brown rice on my daughter’s scalp. 

“That,” she said with an ominous tone, “is lice.” 

A Facebook post from two weeks prior flashed through my mind: There’d been a lice outbreak at school right before summer break. 

“We have to end the haircut now,” the stylist said as she squished the louse in a tissue before tying up my daughter’s wet hair in a ponytail. 

My daughter started to panic, itching her head compulsively. I took a breath.

“What, what do we do?” I stammered. 

The stylist pointed toward some lice kits on a shelf. For more money, she said, we could enlist a lice treatment service. I was mortified. We quickly paid and hustled out the door. 

A first time for everything

Believe it or not, this was the first time in nine years of motherhood that I had encountered lice.

Despite occasional lice warnings over the years in preschool and elementary classes, we’d managed to avoid these bugs completely. That gave me a false confidence that we were doing something effective (nope) and that we didn’t have conditions in which lice could prosper (nope again). 

While my daughter received her hair treatment — a 40-minute precision comb-through of hair soaked in a proprietary oil mixture while she watched a movie on my laptop — the lice technician told me what items needed to go in the wash vs. quarantine. I flung myself around the house, bagging stuffed animals, spreading sheets over couches and running the washing machine nonstop.

And wouldn’t you know it? I ended up having lice, too. 

Sharing the news

Since I document everything, I took pictures of my daughter and myself during our treatments. Her sad, sullen face says it all. Setting aside my own insecurities in an effort to embrace the moment, I shared the photos on Facebook as a way to show my kids that we needn’t be ashamed. 

What I didn’t expect were so many admissions of lice infestations from fellow parent friends — 15 to be exact! Good friends, close friends, had been through this same thing — some recently and others multiple times — and none had said anything.

When I mentioned this to our lice technician at the seven-day follow-up appointment, she wasn’t surprised. Lice, she explained, are a lot more common than you might think (the CDC estimates 6 to 12 MILLION “infestations” occur annually among U.S. kids 3 to 11 years old).

More importantly I realize lice aren’t an indicator of uncleanliness. Rather, they’re a natural part of life because kids share things even when you tell them not to, like hats, combs, clothing and personal space. 

Also good to know: Lice don’t carry diseases like ticks or mosquitos do and they can’t survive for more than 48 hours without a host. 

This experience cleared away some old assumptions and changed my perspective for the better. Now we know: Lice happens to a lot of people — all the time — and getting them isn't scandal-worthy.

We’re even heading back to the same kids’ haircut salon next week with heads held high — but no lice on them this time.