I can happily say that no one in my family has ever had head lice, those parasitic insects that live on the human scalp. At least not until last week, when my hairstylist finally diagnosed the cause of my intensely itchy scalp. Now a whole new world of facts and treatments has opened up for me.
I’d been scratching my head for almost two weeks with no relief from the medications my doctors had prescribed. Because I don’t fit the demographics even my dermatologist misdiagnosed me as having dermatitis. The itching was excruciating — especially at night.
Then I learned that my granddaughter and daughter were also suffering from insatiable itching on their scalps. I started to connect the nits — I mean dots! My granddaughter had complained that her head was itchy when I brought her home from a recent visit to our house. A week later her mother had the same symptoms.
One week later when I returned from a trip to Washington, I started itching too. My doctor asked if I’d been hiking and when I confirmed I had, he guessed some pollen had fallen on my scalp and caused an allergic reaction. (Really?? How come the other people on the hike weren’t itching?!)
In hindsight, it seems so obvious that I had head lice but three doctors misdiagnosed it. I suspected my hairstylist would be able to make a positive identification and he did. So I immediately raced right over to the pharmacy for some over-the-counter shampoo that included a fine-tooth metal comb.
I felt creepy and embarrassed to tell anyone — especially my two friends I’d stayed with in Seattle. My personal trainer backed away from me when I told her I had lice. Apparently, the greatest injuries that head lice cause seem to be the social stigma and anxiety they harbor. Just writing this post makes my head itch even though my symptoms are now finally gone.
But the toughest task is the exhausting regime for getting rid of head lice! There are thousands of home remedies to get rid of the little critters. They like to live behind the ears, around the crown of the head, or near the neckline because those areas provide darker and warmer environments.
There are no products or treatment methods that can assure 100% destruction of the tiny white eggs and hatched lice after one single treatment. The most effective method is diligent and repetitive combing with a specialty metal lice comb along with shampoos that contain essential oils and enzymes.
In between washing all of our bed linens and clothes, I gave myself two shampoo treatments. Each time I combed through my wet hair with the metal comb, but I wasn’t sure I was getting all the nits from my scalp. I complained to my neighbor about how labor intensive the task was and she told me a friend of hers had started her own business — a lice advice and treatment salon. Now I’d heard everything! Who would have ever thought there’d be money to be made in de-lousing?
The next day I went to the salon for a treatment and sat in a sparkling clean treatment room while a young women methodically combed through my conditioned hair for over an hour. She reported finding 27 nits. Eeew!, I still had them! I’m going in for one more follow-up treatment next week and I’m hoping they don’t find any more.
I don’t think I’ll be letting my granddaughters snuggle in bed with me any more — at least not for awhile. When I told my mother, she said: “You had to live to be this old to get your first case of lice!”
Here are some facts about head lice:
- They’re not related to cleanliness of the person or her environment.
- They’re most common among preschool and elementary school children, their household members and caretakers.
- Head lice do not transmit disease.
- The most common way to spread head lice is head-to-head contact with an infected person.
- They’re commonly spread among children at school, home, playgrounds, camp, and slumber parties.
- They’re uncommonly transmitted by sharing clothing, combs, towels, or lying on a couch or pillow of an infested person.
- An estimated 6 million to 12 million infestations occur each year in the United States among children 3 to 12 years of age.