December 15, 2008

With a fine-tooth comb

This morning, as I was combing the tangles out of With-a-Why's long hair, I noticed oblong translucent beads clinging to the fine, dark strands. Head lice!

He was thrilled to hear that he could stay home from school. Boy in Black volunteered, nobly, to play computer games with him to keep him sitting still while I treated his hair and combed out the nits. My husband, who gets squirmy at even the thought of head lice, immediately began stripping the beds in the house.

With-a-Why has fine, straight hair — and lots of it. The first louse who leaped to his head must have been thrilled to find such prime real estate.

It's relaxing, really, grooming my youngest child, while he and his oldest brother talk strategy for the computer game they're playing. I'm reminded of the nature show I used to watch when I was a kid: they'd show a bunch of primates — chimps, maybe, or some kind of monkeys — just sitting around picking nits out of each other's hair.

And now when my extras, long-haired teenage boys mostly and two little neighbor kids, come over, I'll be asking them sit down so I can inspect their scalps. I try to think of it as a new way to make them feel welcome.

35 comments:

Marni said...

Luckily, we haven't had to deal with that this year. (Knock on wood)

You are handling it MUCH better than I would.

kathy a. said...

this is the most beautiful piece i've ever seen on the subject of head lice.

but still -- yeeps!

jo(e) said...

Marni: I've got four kids, and this is only the second time I've had to deal with head lice, so I consider myself lucky.

Linda said...

Just thought I'd tell you this post made me automatically reach for my head to scratch it.

YourFireAnt said...

We used to get our heads checked once a year in the fall, by the school nurse. We went up to the third floor of our school, where they had darkened the auditorium, and we each went up on stage in turn, sat in a chair, under a special light, and the nurse went foraging in our hair with something that looked like knitting needles. A wonderful sensation. I used to look forward to this.


FA

BlackenedBoy said...

I don't know why I find this so funny but I do. Head lice are creepy!

Songbird said...

Chopsticks, that's what the school nurse here uses. You have my sympathies!

jo(e) said...

Chopsticks? I'll have to try that.

YourFireAnt said...

No. Try knitting needles. They'd be smoother.

FA

gabrielaa. said...

the grooming scene can be very nice, but it sort of gets to you... just remember not to resort to chemicals in desperation: they're useless. the only thing that really works is the fine-tooth comb.

Bridgett said...

No lice yet this year, but our household got hit with pinworms for the third time in five years. Kids just love to dig in the dirt.

Cathy said...

Are you putting any stuff on his hair to remove the lice and nits are just being a nit picker?

I had a child in my class one year who never got rid of them.

jo(e) said...

Cathy: Yeah, I slathered his head with about half a jar of mayonnaise and then wrapped his head in plastic wrap. (Not his face, of course.) That should kill the lice after a few hours.

We've got medicated shampoo, too, but I hate to use that.

Anonymous said...

Do you still have that crappy vacuum cleaner? Now may be the time to get a better one to remove anything that may be lurking on furniture and carpets.

Tie-Dye Brother-in-law said...

I think you'd use chopsticks if you were doing with the nits what other primates do with them...

Don't hold back on the medicated shampoo. In fact, why don't you fumigate the whole house, before we head up there next week. :-)

jo(e) said...

No, we got a new vacuum cleaner during the 2008 flea infestation.

Tie-dye Brother-in-law: The nits are pretty small. It would take a long time to fill up on them.

Madeleine said...

I overheard another parent at school getting the lecture on this. The advice was, comb the entire head in four different directions, because you are most likely to remove the nits on the comb side of each hair. Comb it all over to the left, then all over to the right, then back, then front.

That last part may require audio books instead of computer games.

Writer Chica said...

Oh, yikes! How calm you sound. I twitched just reading your story about lice.

"I try to think of it as a new way to make them feel welcome."

I love that!

jo(e) said...

Madeleine: Oh, that's a good hint. I'm going to try it.

My niece called to say that lice don't like the smell of lavender ... so now we all smell like lavender, which is quite nice.

Rev Dr Mom said...

Reading this post makes my head itch!

You are the only one I've ever heard describe nit-picking as relaxing!

Rev Dr Mom said...

And if this is only your second infestation ever, you are lucky. Maybe tomorrow I'll post about the horror that was December the Kid's kindergarten year.

Now my head is REALLY itching!!

Anonymous said...

Sorry Joe -

this is one post I just don't buy. Head lice is nothing less than totally menacing. I spent a week washing every stuffed animal, sheet, blanket, and piece of clothing we owned. not to mention what hair cleaning boot camp I put my son through! I was ready for a valium drip to be plugged into my veins. Unless country head lice are more civilized than city head lice...then I stand corrected.

east village idiot.

jo(e) said...

East Village Idiot: Well, this was just day one. Ask me how things are going later in the week.

Madeleine said...

I just remembered the other school tip: throw all winter jackets and hats in a hot dryer for 20 minutes. Assuming your kids and extras throw all their jackets in a heap (or pile them up on a few hooks) the little buggers could be jumping from coat to coat.

That can be part of the welcome ceremony. "Hi, how are you? Give me your coat and sit down in this chair."

And yes, my head is itching just thinking about it.

jo(e) said...

Madeleine: I'm wondering how long it will take temperatures below freezing to kill the lice. I'm thinking of just sticking stuff out in the garage for awhile ....

Rev Dr Mom said...

Remembering something from the horrid kindergarten year infestation...if there are things that can't be washed or thoroughly vacuumed, you can leave them in the garage or otherwise in the cold (below freezing) for a couple of weeks. We had to do that for a bunch of stuffed animals.

Really, you are so zen about this.

simplethymes said...

I didn't know that mayonnaise kills lice. Will keep in that in mind...

jo(e) said...

Simplethymes: I think if you leave the mayonnaise on for hours, it smothers them to death. But then you still have to comb all the nits out with a fine-tooth comb.

Rev Dr Mom: I'd be a lot less zen about this if it happened during the semester when I'm so busy. Timing is everything.

Rana said...

Yeah, the mayonaise is for smothering the nits. This site recommends olive oil, though - claims it's less stinky and easier to wash out.

jo(e) said...

Rana: Oh, maybe I'll switch to olive oil. It seems like it would smell a whole lot better than mayonnaise.

sherry said...

If you use olive oil, you may have to use Dawn Dishwashing liquid to wash his hair at least once. It really does cut grease.

liz said...

Didn't they use kerosene in the old days?

I'm impressed that this is only your second infestation.

I'm expecting MM to bring them home any day now, he's never had them yet (short hair and an aversion to sharing hats).

jo(e) said...

Sherry: Good hint about the dishwashing liquid.

Liz: Yeah, my Dad says he can remember having to have his head soaked in kerosene, which he could then smell all night.

Anonymous said...

Get your kid a Bug Bag. It's preventive which is really what you want. They use it in most of the schools in Europe. SImply mak sure your child puts his coat in it every day.
You can read about it on www.bugbagusa.com

jo(e) said...

Anon: The students at his school have individual lockers. The coats don't hang together. We put his coat in the drier for twenty minutes to kill any lice.