And the LORD said unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Stretch out thy rod, and smite the dust of the land, that it may become lice throughout all the land of Egypt.
Exodus 8:16 King James Bible
I know exactly how the Ancient Egyptians felt.
Maybe its because Passover is coming but I’m reminded of the plague of lice that descended upon my home two years ago when my children were in fourth grade.
The day before we discovered my daughter Princess Leia* had lice was an ordinary Friday. There was a Halloween party at school and I was helping out in her classroom. I watched as my daughter stood back-to-back (!) with another child as their classmates wrapped them in toilet paper as some kind of double-sided mummy. The children were laughing, enjoying their respite from schoolwork, blissfully unaware that lice had already invaded their classroom.
The next morning Princess Leia complained that her head was itchy. She had a haircut scheduled that afternoon so I made a note to ask the stylist about dandruff shampoo. Instead I left the salon with $60 worth of natural organic lice remover.
“What’s this all-natural stuff?” Mike Brady* said when we got home. “There are live bugs in her hair. Get the chemicals.”
He had a point. I spent another $60 on a chemical lice shampoo and then $10 on a lice comb on top of that. Monday morning I called the school nurse to let her know about the lice and to assure her I had taken care of the problem. We still have to check anyway, she told me.
“Go ahead. I dare you to find anything,” I replied confident in my lice-removing skills.
But then suddenly, a smidge of doubt. I raced to the school and arrived just as Princess Leia was being called to the nurse’s office. Within two seconds the nurse found a handful of nits that I had missed. I started tearing up immediately. She sent us both home with a pep talk to stay vigilant. That night with a magnifying glass, pin light, and lice comb, Mike and I spent hours pouring over Princess’ hair, strand by painstaking strand.
“If she doesn’t pass the nurse’s test tomorrow, maybe we should wash her hair with gasoline. My father did that when we had lice as kids,” Mike suggested.
The next morning Princess passed the nurse’s lice check and was allowed to stay in school. But I was not lulled into any false sense of security. I continued checking her hair and I continued to find nits and lice. Less of them, but still they were there. I became an expert on the lice lifecycle—how long eggs stay attached to hair before hatching (7 – 10 days), how long newly hatched lice take to mature before they can lay eggs of their own (10 days), how many eggs a single lice lays (8 eggs a day for up to 30 days). YOU DO THE MATH! Then my son got lice as well. Our house was under siege. I made Mike Brady check me every night, cursing his bad eyesight when he said he didn’t see anything. “Are you really looking closely? They’re there, I know it!”
In hindsight, I might have been suffering from Müchausen syndrome brought on by lice hysteria. But whatever. Mike, happy to have thinning hair for the first time in his life, wasn’t concerned about getting lice at all.
Neither the chemicals nor the organic lice treatments proved completely effective. I needed my own solution. I combed the Internet reading mommy blogs and chat rooms to find answers. Finally I came up with an inexpensive integrated approach taken from multiple sites that proved successful once and for all, which I’ve revealed below. Just my way of paying it forward. You're welcome.
Incidentally, during my ordeal, I shared my tale of lice-woe with some of the mothers in Princess Leia’s class. Two of them admitted that their children had lice as well but never notified the school because they were afraid their kids would become stigmatized. Nice. If the teacher knew about the lice, then he could’ve helped prevent the spread by telling students not to share winter hats and avoid back-to-back mummy wrapping games. I was never able to find out if the kid that Princess Leia was back-to-back with during the Halloween party got lice. The mothers here are loathe to admit anything.
My foolproof, all-natural, inexpensive method for lice removal:
1. Slather your hair completely in full fat mayonnaise for 8 hours. Cover with shower cap because the mayo starts to drip after awhile. This will suffocate the lice. You’ll smell like a deli and look like a cafeteria worker. Note: the mayo needs to be full fat to really smother them. This is the one time you don’t want to go low fat or nonfat. Also, I wouldn’t advise sleeping with it, as it can get messy on your pillow.
2. Rinse hair of mayo and towel dry. Then spritz hair thoroughly with white vinegar with 5% acid. Leave on hair for 20 minutes. The acid dissolves the glue that keeps the eggs attached to the hair shaft. You’ll still smell like a deli but more like the salad bar instead of the sandwich area. After 20 minutes, rinse in shower.
3. Comb out hair with a .99 cents flea comb from a pet store. You should learn from my mistakes and forget the $10 lice comb from CVS. By now the glue has dissolved so the eggs should fall out easily.
4. Once hair is dry, flat iron hair using high heat setting in small sections. Be certain to flat iron all the hair. The high heat of the flat iron will singe and kill any eggs that remain on the hair shaft. Those eggs will never hatch – a lice abortion if you will.
Final postscript: Before lice, I never let Princess Leia use product in her hair. After her lice experience, and learning that lice are attracted to clean natural hair, I encourage her every morning to gel, spray, and spike it like Kajagoogoo.
* Not their real names but ones they agreed I could use for this post.