Is Lice a Dirty Word?

Lice... yuck!

Headlice … Eeeewww!

Just mention the word and we involuntarily make a face and start to itch. And we all know deep down that the kid who brought it into the kindergarten class must have been … well … not so clean, right?

Wrong. Lice are human parasites. You get them from someone who has them, just like the common cold. Doesn’t matter how many times a day you shower, or which brand new anti-bacterial soap you use. Doesn’t matter if you wash your bedding and clothes on the hottest cycle and change them daily. Lice don’t care. If you’re close to someone who has them, you’ll probably get them too.

I know what you’re thinking … then why do kids get lice more often than adults? Because kids are all over each other more than adults. In each others’ hair, so to speak. Kids have no hang ups about personal space.

The most common symptom of lice is itching, and the most common treatment is an over-the-counter cream or shampoo.  But that’s just the beginning, as those of us who’ve had the misfortune know.  Sometimes the treatment doesn’t quite do the job and needs to be repeated, and sometimes the variety of lice may be super-resistant and need stronger stuff that’s by prescription only.  In ALL cases, clothing, bedding, carpets, and even car seats must be treated, and every last nit (lice egg) eradicated.  Bottom line — a great big, huge pain in the butt!

That’s where the good ol’ American profit motive comes in.  There are now companies you can hire to come into your home and get rid of the pests.  Guaranteed.  With pesticides or 100% organic ingredients (more expensive, of course).  Great!  Sign me up.

So next time you get that dreaded note home — the one that sends you screaming to the nearest pharmacy — don’t flash on little Leroy, the one with messy hair and the eternal smear of jam across his cheek. Lice are our equal opportunity buddies. They love us because we’re human.

For more specifics about the ins and outs of lice, take a look at this thorough article from Web MD.

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Ellen and Rachel are two old friends and “expert” mamas—one a pediatrician and one a family therapist—with fifty years of parenting experience between them.


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