Monday, December 8, 2014

The L Word

Since moving from the Chicago suburbs to our little farm in rural Iowa, we have encountered many problems that are new location specific such as learning when the power is out, the water is out as well (that means no toilet flushing too)!  Andy and I have enjoyed sharing our unique adventures as we navigate our new environment but today's post is not rural specific but something every mom will be able to relate to:  Lice.  Yes, I said it.  I admitted it. We had it.  A month ago, I got the dreaded call from another parent- clearly hiding in a closet and whispering with embarrassment- that her daughter had lice and we were possible exposed, like a case of anthrax.  I laughed and said it was no big deal and went about my business.  Four days later, on a typical morning preparing E for preschool I noticed she was scratching her head.  I sat her down to do a check and quickly found a few live bugs.  Ew, but I knew it is an inevitability of life with children (especially with a little girl who insists on growing her hair out to have an Elsa braid) so I quickly called preschool to inform them that E would be staying home, left a message with the doctor's office to find out what I should treat with and called my mom to laugh over the way my morning was turning.  Growing up with three sisters during the sudden fad of costume shop parties, we had experienced our fair share of lice outbreaks in our house.  I remember having it once; my younger sister was not as fortunate and claims she had it six times.  I have a vivid memory of my mom crying in the dining room while she cut off my sister's waist-length hair in an attempt to contain the outbreak.  I knew my mom was very experienced, so I dutifully wrote down the instructions she gave on how to clean the house- basically put everything that is fabric or soft in a garbage bag and then wash everything.  Again, at this point I was kind of laughing the whole thing off and not getting too worked up about it.  My mom, on the other hand was experiencing some PTSD-style flashbacks about the whole thing.

As I was busy bagging up all of our belongings, the nurse on call from the doctor called me.  She clearly had been through the whole ordeal in her house and gave me further instructions- wash everything in HOT water with bleach, quarantine everything that can't be washed in garbage bags for two weeks, vacuum obsessively and wash the hair of the bug-infested child plus everyone else in the household with Nix.  Treat with Nix on day 1, don't wash on day 2, shampoo for the next 7 days then repeat.  Don't use conditioner.  Didn't sound too complicated to me, though I was a little tentative about using pesticides on my children as well as myself, being 7 months pregnant.  I was also not thrilled with the thought of having to shampoo my hair for 14 days.  I have curly hair and only use shampoo once a week and condition every day.  After confirming that the Nix would be ok for all, I ran to the store and dropped nearly $100 on the treatment, bleach, new pillows, more laundry detergent and other cleaning essentials.

Once we got home, I dutifully followed the package instructions and treated the kids'  hair while they chilled in the tub.  Andy and I each did our hair that night and had a good laugh thinking about a line in "Whip It" when Kristin Wigg is describing using the "special shampoo" on a micro critter issue in a another region and not feeling so special.  I felt much better knowing we had CONQUERED this inconvenience.  Oh, silly Megan.  I sat E down and used the useless comb that came with the Nix to try to pull out nibs- the lice eggs.  An hour and half later, I had found a couple live bugs.  Panicked, I checked the Nix instructions and read that it can take up to 12 hours for all the bugs to die so I wasn't too worried.  Again, final last words.

Flash forward 24 hour later, 4 1/2 combined hours of meticulous combing and I was still finding a couple live bugs in E's hair!  I called the doctor's office to find out what I should do next and was given no help- Nurse on duty:  "Humm... I don't know.  Call the Walmart pharmacy".  A call into Walmart netted me with a helpful employee who read me the instructions on the box.  She recommend doing another treatment.  I was less than thrilled to be pouring yet another round of chemicals on my 4 year old's hair but I wanted to bugs gone more.

Flash forward 2 days.  E had now missed her whole three day week of preschool, our washer and dryer had been running non stop for 4 days and I was starting to get twitchy when I would watch a show and see two cast members hugging wondering if they were passing lice.  It was a low point.  I had spent around 4 hours daily combing E's hair in the morning, afternoon and evening pulling nibs and looking for live bugs.  After two treatments of Nix, I still found two bugs every time I did her hair!  At this point, I have done so many internet searches on lice treatments and house cleaning techniques that I am officially a crazy person.  About half the websites say there is really no reason to clean obsessively, just throw bedding in a hot dryer; the other half of the websites say to move house and leave all your belongings (including lice-infested child).  Poor E was really good about the whole thing- sitting still for hour and half chunks as I combed her hair (with the little blue lice comb that I had come to hate) and tolerating the shower cap I made her wear in an attempt to not spread live bugs.

So how did I finally get rid of it?  The Nuvo method.  On one of my internet searches on Nix alternatives, I stumbled across the Nuvo method which was created by a Californian doctor and published in a research study in 2004.  Go to his website here for step by step instructions.  Basically, the method is to suffocate the beasts using Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser.  You coat the hair with Cetaphil, blow dry the hair and then leave on for 8 hours.  After washing out, all previously live bugs will have suffocated.  Repeat in a week and then again in a week to suffocate any newly hatched bugs and end the cycle.  According to his website, it is unnecessary to bomb your home- just clean the infected party's bedding at the same time as treatment or just put in a hot dryer.

I purchased the super-size bottles of Cetaphil on Amazon, a nit comb guaranteed to snag the impossibly small eggs that were making my Lasik-perfect eyes go blind, plus some plastic squeeze bottles.  After reading the directions yet again, I set off to make bug killing history.  I will say- this is not for the faint of heart.  It is MESSY and time consuming.  Think home hair dye done by the most neurotic person on the planet.  Basically, you squeeze the cleanser back and forth at the root, making sure you are always touching the scalp until you have gone through 1-2 full plastic squeeze bottles of the stuff and have gone back and forth over the hair up and down, side to side 4 times. It was literally dripping from E's hair by the time we were done.  After this, you then comb and comb and comb until you have combed out all the excess.  They don't tell you on the website that this is actually more messy than step one because each time you run the comb through the hair you have a comb dripping with cleanser that you then have to wash off or wipe into a towel.  After using 3 combs (starting with a large tooth one, stepping down to small tooth and ending with the nit brush that was as magical as Amazon claimed) I had saturated 2 full size towels with what looked like a teenage boy's idea of a good night in.

Step three was blowdrying.  Since at this point my hands were now useless, Andy stepped in to blow-dry E's hair.  Her hair looked pretty normal- just a little more stiff than normal.  She slept with the stuff on and the next morning we washed it out.

Though the Nuvo method claims you don't have to pull out nits- that's why you repeat the treatment twice- I still combed out E's hair once a day to make sure we were making progress.  The new nit comb I bought worked so much better than the blue combs that come with Nix and made the brushing process go much faster.  The blue combs don't actually pull out anything but just help you separate the hair; the new comb I got will actually pull out the nibs if you work in small enough sections.

Bottom line, after two more treatments of Cetaphil I can confidently say that we are past this infestation.  I am not dumb enough to think that one of our kids will never bring it home again but I now feel a lot better knowing a non-toxic treatment that actually works.  Don't waste your money and time on Nix people.  It doesn't work (after one of my research stints I found out that the damn bugs are becoming pesticide resistant) and it ruins your hair and scalp. I have also learned that it isn't necessary to wash every piece of fabric in your home in bleach on hot water- a spin in a hot dryer does the trick just fine.  (I constantly threw winter hats and coats straight in the dryer after we would come inside just to be safe).  Finally, I have learned that men are useless when it comes to this sort of thing and have no idea how to finely check a person's hair for lice or nibs.  Sorry Andy, it's the truth.

So mothers out there- no matter what landscape you live in- when one of your children inevitably brings lice into your home relax, buy gallons of Cetaphil and a new movie to watch during treatments and pour yourself a large glass of wine.  We will get through this together.

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