The itching. The terrible itching.
And the shame. The terrible, illogical shame.
People are willing to discuss so much about the experience of raising children; illnesses, irrelevancies and idiocies are common topics of conversation for new families. If you have lunch with new parents, the consistency of their child’s bowel movements can dominate the afternoon (and ruin your pea soup). But mention head lice and the room hushes as if someone said Voldemort. It’s as if saying the word “lice” invites the little creatures into your home and makes your child wake up scratching.
Teachers often feel the same shame. As a teacher, informing parents of a lice outbreak was one of the hardest emails I have ever sent. I felt like a failure, like it was my fault for not catching it sooner, for not noticing a child with a stray itch.
Why do we do this? If a child gets a cold, we don’t immediately blame ourselves, blame our schools, blame our friends. Kids get colds and that’s okay.
So let’s all say it together and end the stigma: Kids get lice and that’s okay.
“Don’t burn your house down trying to get rid of lice. It’s a fixable problem and we’re going to get through it,” are the first words out of Madison Shiver’s mouth when someone mentions lice. Madison is the manager at Hair Fairies, a chic, local salon that specializes in all-natural lice removal. “They can’t spread disease, they can’t make you sick. They only live for 48 hours in the environment and can’t lay eggs in your pillow. Regardless, let’s get them out of your hair (pun intended) as soon as possible.”
The Center for Disease Control estimates that 12 to 15 million cases of head lice happen in America every year and that’s just the self-reported cases. (To put that in perspective, 2015-2016 saw approximately 11 million doctor’s visits due to the flu.) Lice cannot jump, cannot climb and cannot fly. It’s really hard to contract lice from an airplane or a blanket. Lice have nothing to do with personal hygiene. The only proven method of contracting lice is hair to hair contact. So a hug can pass the bug, but take a deep breath — they’re harder to catch than you’ve been told.
But what if your child does come home with a head full of bugs? “The best thing to do is get checked by a lice professional,” says Madison. “Those store-bought pesticides are only 60% effective because lice have been developing extra-thick exoskeletons in response. Our natural remedies are 100% effective and we guarantee it. The faster you get the problem taken care of, the faster you get on with your life.”
So the next time someone breaks eye contact and mentions an extra-itchy child, give a warm smile and repeat your new mantra: Kids get lice and that’s okay.