My Battle With Head Lice

It was late at night, the tail end of Thanksgiving break. As a teacher, every child’s holiday is my own. I anticipate spring break and summer vacation. I pray for snow days on cold winter evenings. When days of rest come I sink into them gratefully.

I stared into the bathroom mirror, slowly brushing my hair. From the other room I could hear my husband snoring. I looked down at the sink and against the white background saw something dark move. Or did I? Was it a piece of an earlier woodland walk falling from my locks? I got in closer and moved the thing around with my finger, still unsure. I went back to brushing my hair, looking more suspiciously at my head. I brushed toward the sink. Then something else fell onto the white backdrop, a tiny, moving little creature.

Ugh. I looked up at myself in the mirror. The horror! Lice! No mistaking it, a full on louse with small trembling legs. I began to brush my hair more vigorously but couldn’t dislodge anything else. Frantically I dug under the sink, rifling through the old arsenal, the leftover instruments of a previous war. No good, just a bottle of lice spray. I needed a comb. I twisted my hair up into a bun.

I went downstairs and looked through the junk drawers. Nothing. I looked through the kitchen window out onto the back porch. “The cats’ flea comb,” I thought.  I retrieved the blue comb and stood looking at it for a full minute. I tried to remember the last time it had been used on one of our two feline friends. My head began to itch. I decided it didn’t matter. This was no time for pride. I boiled the comb in some water, waited for it to cool, then stood at the kitchen table with some white paper towel and did a search. The search turned up more lice and some nits. 

There is something about trying to pull lice off a head that is reminiscent of moments from my country childhood; a childhood full of stickers, ticks, and fleas. My eyes squint with determination and I get that stubborn feeling. It’s me versus the wild. I want to annihilate the enemy. I don’t care what it takes. I am disgusted by the fact of the parasites’ existence, aware that they are trying to live off me by sucking my blood. Birthing and biting and walking the shafts of my hair like little spiders. The grossness can’t overpower my singular intensity.

That night I did the best I could to rid my head of the beasties but I knew they’d won that battle. They were still there, breeding. In the morning I found my daughter’s head teaming, ground zero. My three boys and husband had gotten off scott free. No fair! 

The last time lice hit our family the boys had brought it in from a sleep over. We all had a round of toxic shampoo to eliminate the bugs. While I was tempted to start down that path as soon as the sun came up, I hesitated. I thought about my daughter’s tender skin, prone to contact dermatitis. I thought about my diligent efforts to buy organic food for my children. I thought about my growing realization that big business is not looking out for my family’s best interest or long term health. 

A quick internet search produced a wealth of disturbing information about lice removal insecticides.  Cases ranged from headaches to death. No thank you. And sometimes these products don’t even work. 

I looked for home remedies.  There were lots of suffering victims offering advice. There was the mayonnaise solution, very popular: mayo and an overnight cap. There were the usual hippie gold standards like tea tree oil and aloe. Of course there were more exotic suggestions like Vaseline and Listerine. Everyone was in universal agreement that you had to have a good comb and you had to comb, comb, comb. And here’s where I came up against another problem. I knew I could comb, comb, comb my daughter’s hair. And I knew that we could experiment with a vast array of kitchen products on hand but who was going to comb, comb, comb my hair?

My husband is the kind who cleans the toilet when it’s dirty and mops the kitchen floor. He doesn’t shy from work. But he can’t paint trim and he won’t clean the brush when he’s done. He has no patience for repetitive nit picking tasks. I didn’t trust him to delouse me. Not by a long shot. My girlfriends were gone for the holidays.

I went back to the internet and was pleased to find several companies that would provide a lice removal service, including one that would come to your home. When I found the perfect company that would come to my home I made an appointment right away. All of their products are natural, non toxic, and free of sulfates and pesticides. They even provide a guarantee with the condition that everyone in the family has a head check with them.

By Monday I had washed everything in my house and had my hair in a straightjacket. The lice technicians arrived and started right away with a head check for each one of us. They were able to decisively tell us not only that we had lice but for how long we’d had them. They checked my son’s hair. He was along for the ride. He came out clean.

Our hair received a phase 1 treatment (all natural) that helped to loosen up the nits. We sat for half an hour and then returned to have our hair combed. The trick is to comb quickly because lice can move fast.  

When they were finished I felt completely happy to shell out the money. I knew they’d defeated the enemy and they didn’t even have to wipe out the city to do it. Now that I’ve seen it done, I’m pretty sure we could handle another round ourselves. Let’s hope we never have to. So far, so good.