Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Real Head-Scratcher

If you keep up with me on Facebook, you know that this weekend, Anna June had a case of head lice. If you are related to me, you are mortified that I would blab such information to the whole world.

In my defense, I got GREAT advice from several moms who have been there, as well as a real live pharmacist with her very own informative handout on the subject.

Here are some facts about lice.
1. They do not discriminate based on income, race, gender, or age. But they do tend to transfer kid-to-kid.
2. Really, although I keep a pretty "dirty" house, it has nothing to do with cleanliness.
3. In fact, they seem to like clean hair better, as dirty hair has more oil and makes it more slippery for them to catch onto the hair strand.
4. They show up in private daycares and schools as well as expensive camps and yes, public kindergartens.
5. They're fast.

Here's how we treated it, in case anyone needs to know.

First, when I spotted what I suspected was a louse, we were about to eat lunch. We ate, and, since we were near Walgreens, I hopped out and got us some tea tree oil shampoo - I remembered from a scare before (when a classmate had it) that we needed to be vigilant, regardless of whether I thought I saw anything or not.

When we returned home, I sat AJ down in the brightest light in the house, and got our finest-toothed comb. It didn't take me long - I had seen them before, having experienced these myself as a youngster. My hair was much longer, but less curly than AJ's, at that point.

I immediately sent Ben back to a drugstore. Meanwhile, AJ was terrified. She was also pretty tired from swimming (side note: it really stinks that the lice can live through UAB's way over-chlorinated pool for 45 minutes, then a shower. Those guys know how to hold their breath!) She cried and cried. "I can't miss school! I'm the best kid in the class!" she cried. I tried to take her mind off it. I called my parents to let them know the news, and Dad, who had been painting, texted us pictures of his hair with blue paint in it to take AJ's mind off it.

It didn't work.

During one of her crying jags, I may have mentioned that it might be too cold for lice to live in Wisconsin. She wants to move immediately.

Ben came back with Rite-Aid's version of Rid, a recommended brand. It had a three-part kit: shampoo, comb, and spray. We tried following the directions to the letter. AJ sat for 10 minutes while the solution soaked in to her head. I am sure there are parents who aren't excited about putting insecticide on their child, but I was much less excited about trying natural remedies that may or may not work. We washed it out accordingly, and then, with AJ in her fuzzy pink robe, we sat back down in the kitchen to do the comb out.

An hour and a half later, AJ had watched three TV episodes of kid shows on her Kindle, and I had removed more nits and eggs than I care to remember. I sectioned off her hair in bobby pins as I went. She looked pretty cute afterwards.

Later that night, after the itching was gone and there were no little scary things in sight, we ventured over to Mom and Dad's to watch the UAB game on TV. We warned them we were coming, and they still wanted us to come. They're not scared of lice - they were scared they'd be eating leftovers all week. They had cooked a ton of food, which was all delicious, by the way.

As a fun activity, and because we'd read that the heat may kill the eggs, we excused ourselves and went to use my flat iron, which I'd brought along for the occasion.

If you're ever wondering how AJ would look with straighter hair, wonder no longer.

Also, wonder no longer if you've always wanted to see Grandpa Gary as a little girl. I don't think she could look more like him (and Ben, of course) in these pictures if she tried.

She thought the hair straightening was fun, but, naturally, it didn't last.

On Sunday, I tried to look through her hair and found (what I thought was) just fuzz, so we were ok, but stayed home for good measure. All Saturday and Sunday I was experiencing shooting pains in my abdomen, so I wanted to stay home anyway. I forgot moms don't get days off. I washed more bedding and towels, and Ben vacuumed the new rugs and the upholstered furniture. I put stuffed animals in the dryer in case they were infested, too. I didn't see any other bugs except that first one or two initially, but we carried on with the cleaning.

On Monday morning, we got ready to leave, and I went through AJ's hair once more for good measure. I was HORRIFIED to see that there were still some eggs and a nit or two. I was on the verge of a breakdown. I still didn't feel well (but I was much better), Ben had to go to work, I had meetings and deadlines, and then, there were the dang bugs. It is possible that no one would have gotten close enough to AJ to detect them, but I could not send her to school with them in her hair. I just couldn't, even if it meant ruining her perfect attendance.

I was concerned that the bugs were back, but Ben researched and suggested that they were just dead hulls that still clung on to the hair that I had missed in the epic combing. I was worried I had missed laundering her pillow, so I started a whole new round of bedding washing. Our pillows have never been so clean.

I called the pediatrician's office, in case AJ needed a prescription. As it turns out, they thought the same thing, and recommended that if we weren't seeing live bugs, to wait to treat her again until Saturday, as recommended on the box. Stick to the plan, they said, unless things get worse. Also, they said, if she was free of nits then she could return to school the next day. There wasn't a standard waiting period or anything.

My mom graciously agreed to come by the house (again, not scared she'd catch it) to watch AJ while I went to the store. In the middle of the grocery store, I got a phone call about a problem at work. It was hard to explain to someone in California that when I went to the back of the store by the shampoo, she couldn't hear me, but if I moved up to the toothpaste area, it was fine. I went back to the house and got back on the computer. AJ was having fun playing, making crafts, working in her workbook, and watching TV.

We've been asked where she got the lice. Honestly, we don't know, but we expect that they came from school, since that's the only time she's really been around other children. The kindergarteners play, and give each other hugs, and probably have more contact than you'd think at that age. We're not going to peg it on one person, but we did alert the school so they could tell the teacher that a) AJ would be absent and b) AJ had lice, so be on the lookout. Rarely are cases isolated. Even if we could find one kid who gave it to her, that child of course is not to blame. It's just one of those things that happens to kids. It can, of course, be an opportunity to remind kids we don't share hats and hair brushes, but on the whole, all you can do is treat it and move on.

This morning I was literally holding my breath as I combed through AJ's hair. I found nothing. I combed it again, and again found nothing. Here, I was grateful that her hair has gotten less curly, and less blond, as both of those things make it more difficult to find the little guys. I am also glad we keep her hair short, even if occasionally someone mistakes her for a boy. I contemplated just shaving her head, but decided against it. It wasn't a terrible infestation, just terribly annoying.

What we learned: many of our friends have gone through the same thing, and offered their wisdom, tips, and support. I will also not use the term "nit-picking" lightly anymore - it really is more tedious than most things I've ever done.


Anonymous said...

oH. lORD.\ OH. LORDY.! iMISSED THIS experience w/ my kids. And they DO live in Wisconsin! PS: DON'T THINK SHE LOOKS LIKE gARY.

Leigh McKibben said...

I had head lice once as a kid, and it took us about six months to get rid of it. Of course, I had enough hair for ten kids on my head, and those little buggers just made themselves right at home and did not want to leave. It was the only time in my childhood that my mother considered cutting all my hair off into a bob. Loved the "nit picking" observation...it does make it mean more now, doesn't it? :)

Laura Gallitz said...

They came back on Friday, and I got the Rx. I am still pretty frustrated. I suspect I'll be combing her hair very carefully for a long time!