Psst, moms of preschoolers. You know what's coming, right? LICE. Oh yeah. I heard it when my son was a preschooler and thought, "Not my kid!" Somehow I thought I could avoid the lice plague even though I live in Brooklyn. A more dense urban environment (in the US) you could not find.
I thought I'd outsmarted the lice. I heard that lice didn't like dirty hair, so instead of washing my son's hair every night, I washed it about once a week. I sent my son to a tiny school and assumed that the smaller classroom size would put the lice odds ever in our favor. But lice were waiting for us. There was no avoiding them. Guess what I spend this entire morning doing?
I spent most of my day dealing with a lice infestation. We made it through preschool, kindergarten, even the first couple years of elementary school. In second grade there was a false alarm -- the lice lady at school claims she found an egg in my son's hair, but we didn't find anything else. But yesterday my scalp was on fire for some reason. And this morning, as I washed my hair, I found them: Two little bugs that matched the Google images of lice. OMG. NO.
More from The Stir: A Mom's Guide to Treating Lice (Don't Panic!)
So here's what you need to know. Prepare yourselves accordingly. It's horrible and gross and insanely time-consuming. But it's not the end of the world. Here's what to do about the lice.
1. Before the lice jump to your head (which is how most of us find out), talk to your kid about itchy head. If they ever feel itchy, they need to tell you ASAP. My son was itchy but he never mentioned it to me, probably because he knew I'd make him bathe. Did I mention I have a boy?
2. Keep a lice kit in your home. We happened to have one in the hall closet, and was I ever glad! By the way, this is a good reason to stay on good terms with your ex-husband. If you can remain friends, he'll stop by and pick you up a couple more boxes. (Thanks!)
3. There are kinder, more "natural" remedies. I don't know anything about them. I'm Ms. Organic Foods Non-Toxic Everything, but when it comes to BUGS IN OUR FREAKIN' HAIR, I went full toxic.
4. The lice kits come with a toxic concoction you massage into your hair and scalp. You keep it in for 10 minutes, then rinse it out. It will kill the lice but not the eggs. Next comes the fun part.
5. You spend an hour or two coming your kid's hair out, section by section, using the steel comb in your lice kit (I think those plastic combs are less effective). This is on the list of reasons why I had only one kid, by the way. There are YouTube videos that can show you how to do this. If you have OCD tendencies, now is the time to unleash them. Go full-on obsessive. You'll comb out dead bugs (shudder), but it's especially important to comb out the eggs. All of them. If you're worried about doing this right, hire a "nit picker."
6. Because I'm obsessive, I followed this with a second dose of the lice poison just to make sure. Probably overkill, but when it comes to bugs in your hair, there is no such thing.
7. Blow-dry your kid's hair. Because of the more heat and the killing it brings. I've been told it destroys what few eggs might still linger.
8. Wash everything that has ever been near your head. Sheets, pillows, brushes, pajamas, stuffed animals, hats, all of it -- in hot water. Heat kills. Have I mentioned that? By the way, if you pour boiling water over your cheap plastic comb, it will warp. Just buy new combs.
9. Have a cocktail. Or, if like me you still need to write several blog posts for The Stir, anticipate a cocktail. Almost as good.
10. One of The Stir editors swears by tea tree oil shampoo for preventing outbreaks and I wish I'd listened. Apparently the little bugs hate it. I will be buying some today. After I finish working. And after that cocktail. Check after a few days to make sure all those little bugs are really gone.
Have you ever dealt with lice in your kids' hair?
Image via Eran Finkle/Flickr