Did you just scratch your neck reading that blog post title. I did. Anytime anyone ever mentions these little buggers, I itch. And I scratch. And I itch some more.
They make my skin crawl.
A week ago, we received the obligatory letter from the school that a case of head lice had been reported. I scanned the note. I glossed over its suggestions and warnings. But didn’t pay much heed. I have boys. Boys don’t get head lice. (Not true.) Besides, when are we going to come into close contact with these little critters? With my daughter, I’d search her head from time to time during lice season. But even then, I wasn’t worried. And, as luck would have it, we were able to avoid their invasion her entire school career.
Will I be so lucky this season?
Only time will tell.
Because we came into contact Monday night. Close contact. And I failed miserably when put to the test, as a mom and a hostess.
The guests began arriving for our annual Pre-Halloween-Trick-Or-Treating-Protein-Packed-Chili-Dinner. This year I was truly the hostess with the mostest. I sent out invitations 3+ weeks prior. I began collecting all the dinnerware and paper products. I set out serving platters and dishes days in advance. I prepared the chili the day before and prepped all the veggies, dips and toppings. The day of, all I had to do was warm the food and set everything up. I was finally going to be able to enjoy my guests, unfrazzled and unfazed.
And then the bomb was dropped.
So-in-so’s* child had to be picked up from school today because of head lice.
*So-in-so’s name has been changed to So-in-so, to protect her……well….to protect HER. Yes. She, So-in-so, was doing the actual telling of the story. No one was gossiping. We were all just standing there. Listening. Slack jawed.
And no, she hadn’t treated her yet but it’s ok because head lice doesn’t jump from head to head. It has to crawl and it’s not like our kids are sharing hats or anything tonight – they’re all wearing their costumes. But don’t worry. So-in-so bought the special shampoo at the drug store and she’s going to treat her daughters (Yes, plural. As in 3 guests at the party) as soon as they got back from trick-or-treating. No worries.
(Cue newly frazzled and fazed hostess.)
The other moms and I stood there dumbfounded. I had no idea what to say. I was taught that as a hostess, my job is to make each and every guest feel welcome and comfortable. But when all I wanted to do was cancel the party, shuffle my guests out the door, send my kids off to the shower, disinfect every last inch of my home — I just stood there. And smiled. (Yes. I actually smiled through the whole disgusting telling of events. I am so ashamed.)
Needless to say, most of my guests left early to trick-or-treat.
My sister called and when I told her the story she reprimanded me.
“Why didn’t you say anything?” she demanded.
“What should I have said?”
“You should have said…..you could have….well, I would have said…….Well, I don’t know. But you should have said something!” she stammered.
My sister nailed it. Yes. I should have said something. My thoughts were a jumble of stuttering and stammering. In the moment? I had no idea what to say. I only knew what I wanted to do. Kick her and every other guest out and disinfect my kids, myself, my husband and my home from top to bottom, from inside and out.
We have no signs. Yet. But I scoured the internet and am happy to share with you some things I learned.
1. Tea Tree Oil is a wonder oil. You can mix it in your shampoo, in a spray mister for pillows and couches, you can even add it to your laundry detergent (12 drops per load). It is a natural lice repellent and believe you me, my family and my home are doused in it, swimming in it even.
2. Head lice don’t jump. They crawl from head to head, looking for a tasty host. After about 48 hours with no yummy blood to feed on they shrivel and die. Create an unappealing environment (tea tree smelling head, for instance) and they’re not likely to stick around. While cleaning linens and pillows are a good idea, covering your home with a tarp and spray bombing (don’t laugh, I actually thought of doing this) is not necessary.
3. Tea tree oil has been found so effective that some studies suggest that it is more effective than the insect repellent DEET.
4. I don’t care what So-in-so said at my party, head lice is highly contagious. HIGHLY.
5. Save your energy for thorough lice/nit removal. They live on human blood, not carpet fibers. While vacuuming is a good idea to remove fallen hairs with nits attached, spraying your home with pesticides (or Lysol – which is what I did as soon as So-in-so left my home) is not necessary. I did spray everything with the tea tree oil solution, however, which is non-toxic, because I thought, hey. It couldn’t hurt. And it makes me feel proactive.
Yes, lice season is upon us.
Hopefully, an ounce of prevention will be worth the cure.
I’ll let you know in a couple of weeks.
(I predict at least 87 heads were scratched during the reading of this blog post.)