I always looked forward to girls camp. It was a week-long summer camp for the young women at my church. But I’ll never forget the summer I learned about lice.
It was in the middle of the afternoon. We must have had a bit of down time. A friend and I went to our cabins and found a girl from another ward (local congregation of our church) on her bed, stripping off her pillowcase, bawling.
We asked her what was wrong and she told us another girl in her cabin had lice.
I had heard of lice before. My school had done screenings from time to time, but the nurses always brushed me off real quick, barely taking a glance at my hair.
I suspected it was a large bug you could spot by peeking at the top of one’s head.
“I have five brothers and sisters!” She choked out between sobs. “I can’t get it!”
I got a sinking feeling in my stomach as I listened and watched her cry. I hated not understanding the fullness of the “disease,” so I asked my burning question.
“Can it kill you?”
The friend I walked in with held back a laugh “NO!”
“Oh,” I sighed, relieved. “Then why is she crying?”
My friends brought me up to speed on the severity–yet not-so-severity of the situation. How lice in a family of 8 is misery, and seemingly endless. But not lethal.
For years I avoided the bug with ease. One nurse went as far as to tell me I couldn’t get lice. So I grew up thinking that was the case. Because of my hair type–Or the extremely oily amount of hair product my mom used in our hair, I thought I was immune.
And call it luck, or otherwise, I still haven’t caught it. *knock on wood*. But many years later, thanks to the invention of the internet and Google, I realized I was just lucky.
Last year I interviewed a woman who professionally extracts lice from kids heads (so you don’t have to) and she told me she had worked on a little black girl before, (yet again disproving my assumptions) and sent me home with some lice prevention spray and shampoo. I was (and still am, if I’m quite honest) horrified at the idea of one of my kids getting lice. It’s one thing washing and fine-tooth-combing straight hair. But oh man, what a nightmare that would be with the heads of hair my kids have. I even read a story about a woman who shaved off all of her kids’ curly hair because it was bothering them so bad.
I think that may have been an extreme case, because there are over-the-counter lice products that are safe and effective when used correctly. But I can also understand the dread of nit-picking and combing.
Here are some tips I’ve learned in case you catch it:
- Look for lice-removal products with the active ingredients Permethrin or Piperonyl Butoxide and Pyrethrum Extract.
- Important note: the very first time kids get infested they sometimes don’t get irritated (so no itching) for a few weeks so when you figure it out there are lots of lice.
- If you’ve followed the directions and treated with OTC treatments 2 or more times and still have lice, two things need to happen: Work with the classroom on getting rid of lice and/or talk with your pediatrician.
- Although the OTC pediculicides help it’s important to do a really thorough daily COMB to keep pulling out nits, etc.
Is your head itching yet? Great! But look on the bright side… It can infect us, but at least it can’t kill us.
Has anyone in your family had lice before?
This story was sponsored by the CHPA’s educational foundation KnowYourOTCs program. As always, all opinions are my own.