One of the Grossest Childhood Illnesses
Children in Daycare or school have the opportunity to be with many, many other children. They grow with them and make many, many close friends. Friends they tumble with, hug, hold hands in line and while playing ring-around-the-roseies. They might trade cardigans or hats during recess. They also share their colds, the flu and many more other common, contagious illnesses. I can handle the colds, the latest strain of the flu and even the many viruses that stump even the Doctors. “It’s a virus. Something that is just going around.”
We had to deal with a brand new nemesis. November 12, 2007, I received the call from the school nurse I completely FREAKED OUT! I have one child who graduated from the public school system and one who will graduate this spring. We never had to deal with THIS problem. Never! I was not going to write about this childhood illness but I have discovered there are Mothers all over the US suffering through this along with me. I am not alone in this. Some of these Moms might be dealing with this for the first time, just like me.
Have you ever read about my fear of insects? It is HUGE! The call from the school nurse had me scared out of my mind. Oh My Gosh! She has head lice! My baby! I didn’t know what to do. The one thing I did know was I would be the one who had to take care of ridding her of those gross things. That creped me out more than the time I had to pull 3 yr old ManSon’s matchbox car out of the toilet.
I picked up Snow White at the school and listened to the directions from the school nurse. She was actually surprised that I had no idea what to do. The nurse told me to find a lice shampoo at a local pharmacy/grocery/Walmart store. I never noticed how many different products were available to rid your child of lice. Walmart had a full side of one isle in the pharmacy department! Shampoos galore, dozens and dozens of different combs, sprays, and kits.
The nurse said shampoo so I read all the boxes and selected Knix. I must have read the directions ten times before I started. I followed the directions to perfection. I stopped a few times just to double check the directions. After using the shampoo I sat Snow White down in my bathroom to combed out all the tangles. I gave her a book to read, then continued the decontamination process by combing out her hair with the little, bitty, fine toothed comb (came with the shampoo).
What was I thinking?! Snow White cannot read a book while I do anything to her hair. Her scalp is EXTREMELY sensitive. She screams bloody murder when I brush her hair while getting ready in the morning. Now here I was using this very fine toothed comb to scrap her scalp and her hair. Doing this one square inch at a time was so nerve racking! I would have much rather preferred to sit through 3 hours of fingernails scraping a chalk board or have all my teeth pulled without Novocain.
After scraping each square inch, I had to twist that section into a tiny bun then bobby pin the bun in place. With Snow White’s waist length hair this process took 3 hours. Three continuous hours of her screaming and crying. My back and feet hurt from standing bent over her all that time. The instructions for the lice shampoo said I had to repeat the same treatment in 14 days. Thank goodness we had two weeks to recuperate and try to forget the horrible treatment.
The hours of her torturous moaning and my back aching… I was near tears. We finally finished up at 1 AM! On a school night! I gave her a few minutes to calm down while I changed her bedding and put her clothes in a plastic bag. It all had to be done and it had to be taken care of that night. She cannot miss school and I could not take off work.
The next day she went to daycare and I pulled one of the lead staff members aside. I explained there was an outbreak of lice in Snow White’s school. Before we left home that morning I explained to Snow White that she must put her coat in her back pack. “Do not hang it up at daycare or at school. We don’t know who else has it and we don’t want to repeat all that painful work.” She immediately agreed. The daycare staff could not believe Snow White had managed to be contaminated especially since she wore tight braids nearly every single day. Our normal school night routine was to put her hair in braids after her nightly bath. This meant we could skip the screaming from hair brushing in the morning. I am all for a peaceful morning.
Friday, only three days later…the school nurse calls again. Three days! The shampoo said it would kill and repel lice and eggs for two weeks. It LIED! Ok, maybe it was my fault. I had never had to do this before. Maybe I missed a few during our grueling hours upon hours of “treatment”. There I was, at work and I had to leave early again to pick up my daughter from school. She was not allowed to stay in school due to the live lice. I was sure daycare would say the same thing so we went home at 2 PM and repeated the process.
Sunday night, Snow White started itching again. Advice - check every single morning, afternoon and evening. Do not wait for itching. Itching means live lice. I give up on the Knix and buy Rid. For this application I use half the bottle instead of the recommended portion. We repeat the process and we are up until 10 PM. Not as late as before but the process still took three hours. Still changing her bed clothes each night and placing her clothes in plastic bags.
Monday morning - daycare checked her and said as long as she doesn’t have nits she can attend. This is when I found out the lice eggs are called nits. She clears this hurtle. Ring. Ring. Ring. “Ms. Momma’s World, this is the school nurse. You need to pick up your daughter. We found lice in her hair.” They have just gotta be kidding me!
I pick up Snow White from School and the nurse suggested that we put all of her stuffed animals, the clothes she has worn and her bed clothes in plastic garbage bags. My Mother laughs at me for buying up bed sets when I see them on sale “No one will ever need that many bed sets!” I guess I was thinking some day I might need that many. Ok, so all the stuffed animals go in to garbage bags. Unbeknownst to Snow White some of those stuffed animals actually went into the garbage. What kid needs THAT many stuffed animals. I did not toss out any animals with remote sentimental attachment or the Boyd’s Bears collection. However, every stuffed animal was put into garbage bags.
Lather, rinse, repeat treatment…1AM and we are done. This time I took some of the length off. She had waist length hair but now it comes up to her shoulder blades. I thought this might lessen the time it takes to twist her hair in to those tiny buns. Sure, Snow White and I were extremely sleep depraved the next morning but we were both on our way to our required destinations, school and work.
Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, Ring, Ring, Ring! “Ms. Momma’s World” said a different school nurse in a hoity toity attitude. “Your daughter must be picked up right away. She has lice. We do not allow that kind of thing here at our school.” I rush over to pick her up only to be lectured to by this other school nurse about how important it is to take care of “your child.” I did what I normally do when I am abruptly confronted without foundation. I took a deep breath and said nothing. If I had said anything I am sure Snow White would have been expelled…no school in the state would have allowed her to attend their facility…not even the private schools. I would get back to her via a phone call after the Thanksgiving break. When I cooled down a bit.
What did I want to say to that sassy nurse? I wanted to yell at her and explain all that Snow White and myself had already endured trying to rid her of these horrible things. I might have even waved my hands, arms and all body parts in her direction putting to shame any myths of Italian body language. I envisioned this would have accidentally caused some sort of physical impact on the sassy nurse along with real profanity, not the same sort of Mommy cursing of “Oh poop” or “You Giant Frosted Cupcake!.”
On with the story…Later, Rinse, Repeat lice removal torture for hours. Thanksgiving happened. No more lice! Ding Dong doing the Lice is Gone dance!...
Two weeks before Christmas the Nightmare returns! What?! No way! Snow White has been wearing tight braids every day to school! Her coat is never hung up at daycare or school! She puts it in her back pack. How?! How, could this evil thing happen AGAIN?! I know we live in the country now but Come On!
What did I do?....
Doctor Visit - prescription shampoo
Vet visit to dip the animals (cats hid from us for three days after)
Clothes and bed clothes in plastic bags (stuffed animals still in bags)
Purchase new mattress set
Had all of the upholstery cleaned
Purchase new coat, gloves and hat
Purchase lice and egg killing spray (available next to lice shampoo)
Purchase lice Zapping electric comb
Purchase hair flattening iron & 2 bottles of Windex
Purchase new bottle of olive oil (suppose to keep the nits from getting in hair)
Purchase 2 new sets of bed clothes
After using the prescription shampoo it was only two days until the next outbreak. I was determined to get rid of these awful things so the new mattress set, bed clothes, coat was all for the better right? I also used the spray on every fabric surface in the house including her new mattress set, the car and even on her coat (not suppose to use the spray on clothing). After treating/torturing her hair again…they came back!
What did I do next? I used the electric lice comb. I took Snow White out into the Sunroom so their dead little caucuses would not lay on my floors. She screamed and screamed and cried and cried. I had only swept 4 inches of her hair and her face was dripping with tears. This is how the electric comb works…it send out a “small” voltage of continuous electricity until it finds one of those nasty bugs or it’s eggs. I was fed up. I couldn’t take another 3 - 4 hour session of her crying. I actually yelled at her “Don’t be such a cry baby!” Then I showed her how simple this was going to be. I placed that comb against my head and that is when I realized how MUCH voltage was going through my poor little baby’s head!!! How in the world can they approve such a horrendous product to be used on CHILDREN?! The box shows a little girl around 2 years old!! It was about half the stun you would think comes out of a police stun gun! Mentally flogging those who created that ultimate child torture device.
On to the next solution. Repeat 3 hour treatment with prescription shampoo and add the school nurse’s idea of the hot iron and Windex treatment. 2 AM and we are finally done. Again it was a school night and we were both crying and dead tired. Next morning Snow White wakes up with her usual lice treated afro hair do. Most mornings after I do not have the strength to deal with her hair so I just put it in a pony tail or bun. This morning I decided a tight bun of hair encased in olive oil. The next night I notice that Snow White’s raven black hair is now sort of a light brown. That darn Windex and flat iron!! Oh well, everyone says her hair will go back to her beautiful black color.
She was fine until December 20th, the Thursday before Christmas. The school nurse called to say …It was Back! I made an appointment with the Doctor right away. Surprise, they would actually be open Christmas Eve! Yeah! The doctor prescribed using the same prescription shampoo along with an antibiotic. I wish I could share the name of the antibiotic but it is not listed on the bottle since there is no room for the name due to all the safety warnings. Snow White said it was the best tasting medicine she has ever tasted. I am not sure if that is due to the results or the fact that it truly does taste as good as it smells. She was cured…again! The angels sang and I wept tears of joy.
We had a wonderful holiday vacation from work and school. Aside from a few medical mishaps on my part. The dishes were out to kill me but that is another small post of it’s own. Anyway, after 11 days of being away from work and school it was time for us to go back to our normal routine.
January 7th , school nurse calls to say “You need to pick up your child.” NO! NO! NO! I did everything possible there is no way on this earth she has it AGAIN! Apparently she did not have nits (eggs) but she had live lice in her hair! How could this happen! Someone with lice must have come in direct contact with her that day. If she had lice all weekend she would have had nits in her hair but after an AM hair check at daycare and being at school for half a day she suddenly had live lice.
I do have to say the school was stepping up with lice control. Everything in the room is plastic or has a hard surface. The teacher implemented a garbage bag coat room. All backpacks, coats, hats, gloves, etc, must be placed in a garbage bag and hung from the coat hooks in the back of the class room. Can you imagine most teachers worst childhood illness during the winter is the flu and these teachers are faced with the possibility of lice?!
Also the new classroom rules include anyone teasing, starting rumors or picking on anyone they suspect of having lice results in an automatic Red Strike! There are three levels of stricks…Green, Yellow and Red. Red means a note home and in some cases after school detention. This may not seem like a big deal but these are 3rd graders and it is a huge deal to them. Both the Nurse and the Teacher told Snow White in front of me that if any student or staff treated her ill or made a remark about lice to her, she was to report them immediately. It was then that Snow White mentioned the other children making fun of her Lice Afro (result of all that twisting and pinning of the hair) which she never mentioned before, not even to me. She also burst the bubble of the school nurse who continuously tried to convince me that Snow White was the ONLY child in that classroom with lice. Snow White took this opportunity to tattle on classmates who were teasing other classmates who had lice.
The teacher and nursed both seemed to be taken aback that Snow White would reveal this information in front of me. I congratulated Snow White for sticking up for her fellow classmates, even those she was not friends with. Later, in the car I also said that it was very noble of her, she should not look at anyone differently but please, for the love of all that is sweet and tender in the world… “Don’t touch those children in any way shape or form! The whole lot of you might well be passing it back and forth between you!” She understood and agreed.
After picking up Snow White from school I called the Brownie troop leader to say Snow White would miss her first ever meeting/outing ever. I was out of ideas. Shampoos that claimed they would all kill and repel lice had all lied to me time and time again. Even with the added antibiotic! Each claimed to kill and repel for two weeks only to disappoint me after 2-3 days. The doctors tried to push it off as “There seems to be an extremely tolerant vain of lice” or “They are now immune to the over the counter products.” If product promises a two week limit I might be inclined to accept one week but for it to only last 2-3 days greatly falls short of it’s promise. Snow White sobbed to the doctor “I think I am just going to have to be bald. They wont leave me alone. I will always have lice if I have hair.” The doctor laughed and removed his hat…he was bald. Snow White didn’t laugh she only said “You are so lucky you are bald. You will never have lice.” On the way home Snow White verbally weighed out her options…scalp and hair scraping for the rest of her life or shaving her head and wearing a wig for the rest of her life. I felt so sorry for her but I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself about her thoughts of wearing a wig. “Maybe I wont have to go completely bald. I could just wear a fall. Do you know where my pageant fall is?” I almost fell out of the driver’s seat from laughing. “I think they are in one of the suit cases upstairs but really, you need hair to pin on a fall. You cannot be completely bald. Aside from that, Mrs. Madonna lives in Kentucky. We cannot have her travel all the way out here every morning to do your hair and make up.” The idea of a traveling of one of the top H/M persons and all costs had us both laughing. Thank goodness she was smiling again.
Well, here I was, out of ideas and nothing seemed to work. I took Snow White home, fed her, bathed her myself and washed her hair with Dog Shampoo! That’s right. I said dog shampoo. The dog shampoo worked the BEST! It made removing the nits easier. It killed the lice and even gave Snow White’s hair a smooth glossy finish. I would not recommend dog shampoo for any child. I exhausted every other avenue before attempting this. If you reach the end of your rope after repeated outbreaks after exhausting all other options make sure to read the label of the dog shampoo. Some are not to be applied to bare skin. The scalp of an adult can be sensitive and the scalp of a child even more so.
Snow White has been lice free since January 7th but I am not closing this chapter of the worst ever childhood contagious illness, not just yet. We are only on day 3 so I hope it is the last we see of lice but I am not going to count my chickens just yet.
A few tid bits of information given to me by the school nurse, daycare center and the doctor….
Anything that cannot be washed should be sprayed with lice killing spray and/or placed into garbage bags for 48 hours. Lice cannot live without a host more than 24 hours. I am sure nits (lice eggs) can live off of the hair they are glued to until they hatch which can be 2 days to two weeks. Snow White’s stuffed animals are still in the plastic garbage bags from the first outbreak in November. I don’t know if I will ever be brave enough to open them again.
Lice have crab like features. They cling to clean hair easier and can attach their eggs easier to clean hair. Olive Oil can help in making clean hair too oily for crawling or egg laying. This lead to Snow White going to school in the middle of winter with Olive Oiled hair slicked up into a bun. She still caught the lice so I am not sure how sound this advice was.
Windex and hair straightening iron - I do not recommend using this method. It did not make it any easier to remove the nits and it had ill effects on my daughter’s hair. A mixture of the heat and Windex made her hair lighter by stripping it.
All of this plus work and normal every day things made it difficult to post on my blog. I hope all of you understand. I didn’t leave my blog on purpose. I was just extra busy from the time I left work each night until 2 AM most of the time. The other time…well that was the dishes trying to kill me or God telling me never to touch another dish…or at least while I was on vacation from the office.
I hope all is well with you and that the plague of lice never visits your home.