We have had house guests. Of the six legged kind.
It’s inevitable, when you are the parent of a girl with long hair, that head lice will be a feature of your parenting life. And yet, it took me a long time to realise that they were here. Finally, when E told me her head was hurting after a scratching bout I took a closer look and saw lots of black spots. Eewww.
Memories of nits when I was a lass involved my mum wearing rubber gloves, sitting us in the dining room and scrubbing at our heads with some noxious smelling liquid – the rubber gloves pulled at our hair and made the whole thing horrible. Dad refused to have his head done. Treatments have moved on, thank goodness, but it’s still not much fun.
The NHS website says many head lice have adjusted to chemical treatments and the other options are oil-based which suffocate the lice. There are a number on sale, all between £10 and £15, and many say they work within 5-10 minutes. This is fine – as far as it goes.
The good news about the oil-based treatments is that they’ve sorted out E’s persistent cradle cap a treat. The bad news is that if you follow their instructions you will still have head lice. So here’s what to do. Put your treatment on dry hair of your toddler and yourself. At this point you may feel as “if millions of voices cried out in terror and then were suddenly silenced.” Don’t feel guilty. You will wish for a Death Star of your own by the end of this.
We have used Full Marks (“works in 5 minutes!”) which is very oily but takes a LONG time to wash out – ie, at least three lots of shampoo and another on a separate day before you get all the oil out and your child no longer looks like a greaser. We have also used Lyclear shampoo which is less oily but takes a VERY long time to rinse out – it took me nearly five minutes to rinse out of my own hair and in the end I had to use the shower on E’s hair which she hates.
You then have to comb through the hair with the nit comb for as long as possible, ideally, if you can, about half an hour. This is the bit that isn’t on the box. I’m not kidding about the half an hour. If this sounds difficult with a toddler, it is. E lets us do it for a while and then starts to cry and shouts “no more,” at which point she also gets wriggly and it becomes impossible. The best time was when I explained there were creatures in her hair and we had to comb them away and we had a charming conversation about what they were – giraffes, crocodiles, monsters and so on. This coincided with the time I used the shower on her and she was so upset she needed cuddling for a while so sat docile while I combed and combed. She has fine hair which doesn’t help. Essentially you need to comb until you have dislodged as many dead bodies, eggs and whatever debris they’ve left in the hair as possible. And then a week later you have to do it again. And probably then do it again. Keep combing. Condition the hair well. Comb again. And again.
The first comb through is the worst. I shrieked “oh my God!” at the top of my voice at the sight of these little bodies living in my daughter’s hair and sucking her blood. I was about to wipe them away on a tissue when S bounded across the bathroom saying “let me look!” Here was a man who was actually upset that he only had one in his own very short hair. *rolls eyes* After a while though, you look at it differently. One weekend I started to lose it – we’d been living with them for a while and I was persevering only to see them on the comb, practically waving in triumph. Little fuckers. It got biblical. That was the longest the mixture was left in, the longest comb through, the moment I boil washed towels, bedclothes and scoured the bathroom while S hovered downstairs. I will not be defeated.
And my perseverance has paid off! For now, we’re free of them. But I’m now regularly checking E’s head. And panicking over the slightest itch, even the ones that aren’t on our heads…