It wasn’t until my own head got horribly itchy that I realized it was lice. My three-year old daughter had been messing up her hair with constant scratching. I had checked before, but when my own head started getting horribly, pathologically itchy, I realized that there was only one way it could have spread. I checked her hair again and there they were — disgusting bugs eating my beautiful daughter’s poor head…
And also my own head… And also my roommate’s head. Basically three out of four people in our co-living household.
As I came to this realization I really wanted so badly to freak out. But I looked at my daughters little trusting eyes, and I realized that I didn’t have that luxury.
I was going to have to deal with lice while making my little one feel loved
I need to act as if this is not a big deal — even though I felt the immediate need to wash my hands, preferably with boiling water, and toxic bug-killing chemicals.
But still, lice are sooooo icky. I had to take a deep breath and not freak out and instead say brightly, “Oh, little one, it looks like there are some bugs on your head! Don’t worry, it’s normal. We’ll get rid of them, and then your head won’t be itchy anymore!”
…Now I had to figure out how to do that for all of us who lived in our place.
As far as I can tell (and I’m not an expert) there are basically three methods for how to kill lice:
- One involves chemicals on your head and combing.
- The other is just combing with some kind of non chemical goops. (What are people with curly hair that cannot be combed supposed to do? Websites and official recommendations are pretty silent on this question, and just recommend combing. As if that’s an option for all hair types when we know that it is not!)
- The third option is shaving your head.
I looked up natural options for killing lice
But honestly I just wanted them dead as soon as possible. So I went and bought some flower-based lice shampoo and combs. This was fine for us adults who are used to using conditioner and hair dye. But, of course, my three-year old daughter is at the age where she hates having her hair washed, let alone combed. So there was a lot of crying — I could hear her repeating my words “It comes from flowers” to comfort herself.
I thought they were gone. Then, when I was out for coffee with my daughter, I saw a giant bug. Much bigger than the ones I’d seen before. The treatment had failed. Apparently the bugs have been developing resistance. And, upon further investigation, I still had them too.
I still wanted to panic, but I had to keep calm for my daughter, again
I didn’t want her to feel like she was dirty or gross. I tried to tell myself that I was also not dirty or gross. I kept acting like it was normal and a minor problem. Which it is! It just doesn’t feel that way when they’re on you.
My roommate began to wash and clean everything in the house, just in case, while we tried to figure out options. We combed her hair twice a day (and each other’s hair). It was very stressful. But we kept calm around my kid and upbeat and like everything was going to be fine. And when we had to do the treatments, we made sure there were lots of snuggles and kisses to try and comfort her.
I started to feel like the nuclear option of hair shaving might be the only solution
But given that my daughter is a bit of a princess, and really invested in her long hair, I felt like that would be very upsetting and stigmatizing to her.
A pharmacist told me there were no other options for lice treatment other than the shampoo we’d used. But clearly our lice were resistant. I didn’t know what to do. But then her dad visited another pharmacy and they had another option…
So we tried this new, more expensive treatment. It claimed to require only one application, but it seemed like it was only killing the adult bugs and not the eggs. So it required two applications, plus lots of combing. But this did eventually work on all of us!
It was a month and a half long battle
But as long as we were treating it, the itchiness was not so bad, as the lice were not making it to adulthood. Most importantly, we protected the little one from being too upset about it and she basically took it in stride.
The important thing was to keep calm and remember that this is not really a medical problem. To remember that nurturing my kids self-confidence and happiness remains the most important thing — even when we have to deal with something gross like lice. And, of course, I learned to remember that I’m an adult person who loves her kid and can deal and model calm and resourcefulness… Or something vaguely resembling that.
How have you handled lice in your household? What worked? What didn’t? And how the fuck did you remain calm!?