I thought I was prepared. I had been using a store-bought spray of essential oils that has been proven to deter lice. I didn't let the kiddo try on hats. I cautioned her about sharing hats and combs with other kids. However, once given the opportunity, those nasty vermin found the lure of the kiddo's crazy curls too hard to resist.
It started out as seemingly random itching. The kiddo had been experiencing a red, itchy, crusty eye--diagnosed as dermatitis--since our beach trip last year. A few months later, we discovered that she had caught molluscum contagiosum from a friend, resulting in red, raised bumps, right by the affected eye. When her scalp started itching and she developed a rash on the back of her neck, we thought it was a condition related to the other two problems.
Still, I worried about lice and kept checking her head, but didn't find anything. I bought dandruff shampoo and a topical scalp treatment. They would work for an hour or so, then the itching would start again. I had hubby check. Nothing. Then, Nana and Aunt C (a former elementary school teacher, no less!) looked. Nada. I even called the school nurse and had her look through the kiddo's hair. Not a thing.
I researched every possible skin condition online and finally, out of frustration, made an appointment with the pediatrician. Our pediatrician is one of the best in the area, and if he had been the one to examine the kiddo, the matter might have been resolved sooner and more efficiently. However, I took the first available appointment and we were seen by a doctor we had never met before.
Dr. X listened as I described the problem, examined the kiddo's eye, red bumps, and rash, and picked through her hair. She said that there was "no sign of any infestation" and assumed that the itch was related to the other problems. She wrote us a prescription for a powerful steroid cream, which I filled immediately.
Later that night, after the kiddo's shower, hubby put the cream on her neck. The rash was red and raw and the cream stung, and the kiddo started screaming. Hubby had had enough. He painstakingly looked through the kiddo's hair, trying to figure out the problem. It must have been the combination of determination and good lighting--it didn't take long. He let out a yelp and said that he just pulled a bug out of the kiddo's hair.
In that instant, it felt like a knife went through my stomach. I knew that if there was a bug in the kiddo's hair, it had to be a louse, and if there was one, there would likely be more. That was all the information I needed, but hubby needed to be certain. He took a picture of the (now dead) bug with the camera using the macro feature. Then he zoomed in so he could see it larger than life and compared it to pictures he found online. Finally, we were on the same page in the book of itchies. Lice. When hubby groaned over the idea of combing through the kiddo's tangled curls, I made a decision: "Cut it", I said, handing him my good shears. "I'm going to Walgreens."
En route to Walgreens, I called a friend of mine whose daughter had just had a play date with the kiddo. I would have felt like s*** if another child had caught lice from my kiddo. It was a humiliating confession, but it had to be done. If I'm ever in a bar fight, I want this woman to have my back! She is a nurse, and gave me great advice and much needed encouragement.
In Walgreens, I picked out a lice-treatment kit, a package of combs, anti-frizz serum, and a magnifying glass and went to check out. The cashier cheerfully asked me how I was doing, and I showed her the box of lice treatment and said "not so great". She suggested that I also buy some cheap hairspray to use on myself, so that I wouldn't get lice. According to her mom, who is also a nurse, lice won't get on hair that has hairspray on it. I had already put too much stock in so-called proven remedies, but I raced back to the hair products and grabbed a bottle. Hubby and I had started itching uncontrollably, but we had checked one another and hadn't found any evidence of lice on either of us. I put all of my faith in that bottle of hairspray to keep me lice-free.
I got home to find the kiddo sitting on a chair in the bathtub with loose hair around her. Hubby had cut off at least three inches of hair. The kiddo had a bob, but she was anything but cute. Shock and misery had set in and she was quiet and subdued.
It was time for the treatment. The shock and misery were setting in for me, too, and I let Hubby do the treatment on the kiddo while I started in on the laundry. After I collected all the bedding (ours, too, because I wasn't taking any chances), pajamas, laundry from the hamper, clothes from the kiddo's closet (she had been playing in there and presumably touching anything hanging), stuffed animals and coats and hats, I had five garbage bags full.
The leave-in treatment went well enough, but the combing was a nightmare. The kiddo objects to regular combs, and those nit-picking combs pulled her hair painfully. She screamed like she was in a horror movie. Thankfully, it was winter and the windows were shut tight.
It was 10:00 at night and Hubby was still finding live bugs, even after the treatment. He decided to do it again. (Yes, we realize that you aren't supposed to do that, but we were determined to vanquish the enemy.) The screaming continued, but then it was almost drowned out by another noise: the loud screech of my clothes dryer about to die. I was only one load in, and I needed some long cycles of intense heat to kill off any stragglers. That was the last straw...