Outbreak! My Close Brush With Creepy-Crawly Catastrophe


A couple of weeks ago, my nanny found a louse on Matilda’s head. Apparently it was just crawling around, not a care in the world. Liz bagged it in a Ziploc sandwich bag so I could see it for myself and then called to deliver the bad news.

“Where the heck could my daughter have gotten lice?” I wondered to myself. I could only conclude that she got it from Elby, my preschool aged kid, who, at that moment was probably playing in a wood chip pile at school blissfully unaware of the infestation happening on her scalp. Ignorance is bliss.

I completely panicked and speed dialed my pediatrician who was calm but had a boatload of instructions for me. After hearing and jotting down the list of products I’d need and the amount of level four cleaning I was in for, I literally had to sit down and catch my breath. This was more serious than I even thought. It involved vacuuming!

Twenty minutes and more than fifty dollars later I arrived home with a huge sack of  products. I had shampoos, lice combs, some sort of gel that makes it easier to comb through the hair to get the lice out, plus furniture spray, tea tree oil and a spray bottle. Also three Hershey’s Special Dark chocolate candy bars for mental health. I laid out my loot on the dining room table and then went to root through the twins’ hair. The lice eggs (or nits) should be fairly easy to spot, I’d been told. Since Liz had seen a live louse, there were most likely already eggs that had started to hatch. Oh yeah, let the good times roll.

I put on a pair of protective gloves as the box instructed (No I didn’t. Have you met me? I’m totally lazy) and sat down on the floor with Matilda between my legs in front of me to begin a job that is the dread of all parents. After searching for awhile, I hadn’t found anything. Not even a single flake of dandruff. I moved to Sadie’s hair. Nothing.

But at this point I was like a dog with a bone, determined to find something – those little louse bastards had to be in there right? I checked the evidence bag Liz had collected earlier and then compared it to images I researched on Google. I made a positive identification. That was definitely a louse in the baggie and where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

Meanwhile, I figured there wasn’t a huge rush to pick Elby up from school. I mean, if she gave Matilda head lice that meant she already had it and if she already had it then what difference would it make if she was at school a little longer?  The damage was already done.

Plus, someone there obviously gave it to her so the worst that could happen is she’d give it back! And screw these parents who clearly had no moral compass if they’d let their lice infected kids hang out at school with mine! I figured I’d whip off a missive to the school director demanding mandatory lice checks of all students on a regular basis but first I had to lie down for a few minutes. Jesus, there was probably lice on my pillow considering Elby had slept in our bed last night.

After I stripped all the beds in the house and sanitized every ounce of bedding, crib bumpers and blankies, I collected all stuffed animals, jamming them into giant trash bags and isolating them in the garage (well, technically they were on the way to the garage but they were temporarily stored under the console table next to the front door).

Then I picked Elby up at school. I didn’t want to worry her so as gently as possible I said, “I’m scared your head is full of bugs. Do you feel anything creepy crawling around in your hair?” No, not really, she told me. But she did cry when she accidentally saw a picture of a louse on my computer because the Google image was still up on my screen.

Elby’s hair had no sign of bugs or nits either. I combed through it a thousand times while she watched Yo Gabba Gabba – parenting involves sacrifice – but couldn’t find anything.

“You should take them to The Hair Whisperer” my friend Lara advised. She’d gone through this with her two kids about a month prior. “They will check all the girls’ hair and tell you definitively if they see anything. Then they can do treatments on everyone’s hair. It’ll cost a few hundred dollars though.”

“But, I didn’t find anything and I checked everyone’s hair over and over.”

“God, my head feels itchy just thinking about it,” Lara said “It’s so hard to get rid of. If you leave just one egg behind they can hatch and start all over laying hundreds more eggs.”

Why I’d chosen to call my most obsessive compulsive friend, I don’t know. Lara had always been a buzz kill about stuff like this. What I needed was a cheerleader for my situation and I found it in my husband.

“If you really don’t see anything then there probably isn’t anything there. Why don’t we just wait and see?” He had a point. Jon had always been more of a fan of my “ignore the problem” technique than Lara, which is yet another reason I was married to him.

Two weeks later – we are still a lice free household. And bonus, I never did any vacuuming. Fingers crossed.



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