Our family’s lice scare

Our family's lice scare {Heather's Handmade Life}

Scratch, scratch, scratch.

Is it all in my head? Am I just being paranoid or is my head really itchy? (Just try to read this column to the end without scratching your own head. Shudder.)

I may not have to worry about pregnancy scares anymore (thanks to an early hysterectomy), but nobody — especially a parent — is immune to the dreaded lice scare.

I’m knocking on all the wood while typing this, but we’re in our third year of life in elementary school — currently we have a Grade 2 and a Primary — and we have yet to get lice. Hold on, I want to go knock on some more wood.

That doesn’t mean that we haven’t had near-lice experiences, of course. Our classrooms regularly send home a standard photocopied note to the effect of: “Someone in your child’s class had/has lice. Please check your child.” I see the note, I shudder a little and then I check the kids’ heads.

I wrote an article on lice about a year and a half ago and it made me feel a little calmer because I’d know what to do if it struck our household. I immediately ordered the exact comb the expert in my interview recommended — a $15 stainless steel comb called The Nit-Free Terminator* (affiliate link) — and started following her advice.

Well, some of it.

I comb through the kids’ hair once a week with a steel lice comb to check for nits (eggs) and lice (moving bugs). I frequently remind them to NEVER share a hat or scarf with another kid. 

But there are two things I’m not great about doing, honestly. I TRY to style our daughter’s hair in a bun, ponytail, braids, etc. to limit the contact it has with another student’s hair. But I also really like pigtails and the “half-up, half-down” style, so I’m not as vigilant as I could be. 

The expert had also suggested doing the kids’ hair with something scented, like gel, mousse or hairspray, since lice hate strong scents. I often forget that part, or choose to skip it because I feel guilty about them violating the school’s scent-free policy. Which is worse, I often wonder? The kids catching lice because their hair isn’t “smelly” enough, or someone at school getting a headache because the Clarke kids smell like the inside of a hair salon?

Our kids are five and seven, and they understand all about “lice buggies,” as we call them in our house. They come home and tell me which kids have them — at least, according to their classroom rumors — and which kids were checked at school because they couldn’t stop scratching their head. 

I understand that lice is “common” and “no big deal,” and I know my children are probably going to get it at some point. They love hugging their friends and sitting close together and snuggling on the couch with them. 

(True story: I once watched our son wrestle playfully on the ground — heads touching and everything — with a child that had had lice just two days before! Noooooooooooo!)

But even though I know it’s probably inevitable, I think it’s a parent’s responsibility to try to keep their child from spreading lice to other children. And, frankly, not all parents do a good job of that.

  • I don’t send my child to school with the stomach flu, and I wouldn’t send them to school with lice. Please don’t send yours!
  • I don’t let my kids go on playdates when they’re sick, so please don’t send your kid to my house — or invite mine to your house — without disclosing that your child has lice. I like to make decisions based on all of the facts, not just the ones you decide to tell me.
  • If my child has been sick and is now getting over something, I’ll tell you and let YOU make the decision as to whether or not you want to be around someone who’s “probably fine now.”

We had quite the scare last week, but thankfully the itching feeling was all in my head — er, but not in my hair.

If and when the day comes that someone in our house does get lice, I will do my best to stay calm. (Can’t promise anything, though.)  I will rush to the drugstore and buy what the expert recommended — she loves Nyda, not the old-school Nix — and follow the instructions very, very carefully. I will do the million loads of laundry (bedding, towels, pillows, etc.) and probably scrub my head until my scalp bleeds.

When I make it through to the other side, I’ll probably turn into one of the cool, composed post-lice moms who insists it’s “no big deal.” 

Until then, however, I’ll be on Lice Alert … nervously waiting.

So what do you think?

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