When Life Gives You Lice


October 22, 2018

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Surely you’ve heard of the no-poo movement, popular especially in the mom world. I’m not referring to poo, as in child poo, though undoubtedly we can all agree that it would be amazing to be part of any movement that involves moving away from THAT.

No, I’m referring to the no-shampoo movement, encouraging humans to wash their hair less frequently and to use little to no shampoo. It sounds crazy, but in an effort to be part of a time-saving club I thought, “why not?”

In between shampoos, wise Google recommends a mixture of cornstarch and cocoa powder, applied with an old makeup brush, carefully dispersed throughout your hair, then blow-dried for a full body look.

It was day three of this new regimen, a big deal for a daily shampoo-er like myself, and I carefully applied my cornstarch cocoa concoction, blow-dried, and curled my chocolate locks with a flat iron.

I showed my husband my new “do” and explained that I had converted and was a proud, card-carrying member of the no-poo movement (they don’t really have cards, but they should).
The only issue, I explained to him, is that my scalp was just SO darn itchy! He laughed and lovingly joked, “you’re itchy because you haven’t showered in three days!”

“He has so much to learn,” I mused, knowing full well that no-poo does not mean no-showers! Regardless, I hopped on Google again, which assured me that this pesky itch was to be expected as my scalp transitioned to less chemicals and conditioners.

I dressed my kids for our day out, which included our first full day at a new homeschool partnership. I called my oldest daughter over so I could clip a bow in her hair on the way out the door.

As I clipped in the bow, my jaw dropped, I screamed out loud, and I think I almost threw up.

Her scalp was covered in nits, the tiny eggs of lice, and upon further inspection, her scalp was full of bite marks followed by her own scratch marks. “I am such a horrible mother,” I moaned, as I calmly maniacally yelled for her siblings to join us in the bathroom and quickly texted my husband, “I AM ITCHY BECAUSE WE HAVE LICE!”

“How long have these awful bugs been eating her alive?” I wondered. With four children under five, bath time is a quick wash and rinse during the week. For some reason the no-poo movement for kids hasn’t taken off, but that’s another topic for another time.

I nervously combed through the three scalps of the others, and of course, found nits & lice on every one. My first priority was to text my mom a panicked SOS message, asking for her wisdom. Then I announced to my concerned children that school was cancelled for the day and we were going to the store to buy donuts.

My helpful mom called local stores for me to find out who had the best nit combs in stock while I rushed to the store to buy them all.

When we arrived at the grocery store, I tragically failed to remind my kids that we don’t talk to strangers, and we ESPECIALLY don’t tell strangers that we have bugs in our hair.

We rolled through the aisles, attracting tons of attention as usual with our happy parade of toddlers who had been promised donuts at the end of our mission.

Have you ever gone to the store to buy a pregnancy test and thrown a candy bar or something random into your basket to make it look less conspicuous? There was no way to disguise my cart that day.

I felt like I was wearing a flashing billboard on my head that read, “We all have lice but we are nice!”

I tried to inconspicuously throw every bottle of anything that had the words, “kills lice” or “prevents nits!” into my cart, but everyone can imagine it’s hard enough to be subtle in the store with a toddler, let alone four.

I bought every version of nit combs available: the boxed set, the individually packaged ones, the ones with rubber grips, while four hours away my mom was purchasing one cleverly titled, “The Terminator” and had it shipped overnight by Amazon to my front door. I perused the shampoo aisle, throwing all brands and types (all natural, tea tree & rosemary infused as well as the full-chemical, pesticide infused) into our lice-themed cart. These lice were going DOWN.

We snagged the promised donuts from the bakery section, then as quickly as you can cross a store with a trail of toddlers, made it to the self check-out to spend our week’s grocery budget on nit combs and creams.

Donuts in hand, we made one final stop at a beauty supply store that had cloth shower caps and an additional nit comb version available (remember, my mom was calling around for me?).

We somehow made it back home without any strangers commenting on our obvious mission.
I washed each child’s hair with a variety of shampoos & creams, applied a cloth shower cap (mostly for fun and for a photo op, because really, we HAD to document this day), then sat them in front of Daniel Tiger as I began the long, exhausting process of literal nit picking.

I picked their scalps from 11am to 3pm, our donuts counting as lunch. In between picking nits and rinsing scalps I ran load after load of laundry. Bedding, stuffed animals, coats, blankets… to say it felt never-ending is a GROSS understatement!

Needless to say, my no-poo lifestyle was quickly changed to a multiple-times-a-day-poo lifestyle for the next several days, but we lived to tell the tale and we learned a LOT about nit removal products!

Hopefully you’ll never have to use my shared knowledge, but in the event that you find yourself facing a louse or twenty, here are my best tips:

  1. Don’t panic. Contrary to popular belief, lice cannot fly, they cannot jump, and they cannot survive for longer than 24 hours off of a human scalp. So, while it may be tempting to burn your furniture and order a whole new wardrobe, endless amounts of drying laundry on the highest-heat setting will suffice. If treated properly, lice should be gone from your home within a few days. Make sure to check your children’s scalps often in case any eggs made it past the “Terminator”!
  2. Don’t panic. Lice don’t carry diseases and their presence is not a reflection on personal hygiene. My new transition to a no-poo lifestyle when lice hit our family was merely a humorous coincidence. I will keep repeating this to myself. If you’re comfortable with using a chemical-based shampoo, use it sparingly on toddlers and don’t get it in their eyes — I used “Rosemary Repel” by Fairy Tales as our follow-up shampoo of choice. Who knows if it works, but I felt better knowing I wasn’t using chemicals on a daily basis (but was still using a product with the word “repel” in it).
  3. Don’t panic. And don’t buy every nit comb in the store. You only need one, and it’s produced by the most popular lice-removal company (go figure), called Nix. Here’s a link on Amazon and it should also be available at all your local grocery stores & pharmacies.
  4. Don’t panic. And buy extra donuts! You’re a great mom and your kids will probably (hopefully) remember these moments as fun days filled with television and donuts.

While you may will experience nightmares of gigantic lice crawling on your pillow, experience phantom itching for weeks following, and panic every time your children so much as mention the word “itch,” these side effects are fleeting and will subside within a few weeks.

You’re going to be fine, mama, and if you ever need a lice comb, you know who to call.

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