Oh, dear heavens, our seven-year-old got lice.
I really don’t need to say much more than that, for most of us had those insidious creatures as children or have parented small people growing those insidious creatures.
But holy guacamole it’s a lot of work. Our resolve to treat most illness and body issues naturally is seriously testing my rejection of all things insecticidal and toxic.
[UPDATE: See link at the end of the post for a three-week combing plan that requires no spraying, washing, nighttime masks, etc. I didn’t use it in the beginning, but have adopted it now.]
I knew as soon as I saw him scratching that I wouldn’t use neurotoxic insecticides that are illegal for use on farm animals and pets but legal for use on children. (Seriously, FDA? What is this, the billionth time you’ve made the wrong choice at the hands of major chemical companies?)
I also knew that choosing to eradicate bugs without toxic chemicals was going to make life way more challenging. But I had no idea just how challenging. I searched the Internet for nontoxic lice treatments to kill lice without poisons and came up with a regimen of head- and house-delousing that has, incidentally, almost killed me.
- Shampoo and condition infected child with our regular, non-toxic products plus tea tree oil. Rinse with apple cider vinegar. Wash towel on hot. Estimated time: fifteen minutes.
- Strip all bedding from all beds, all clothes from drawers, all hats from rack, all costumes from basket. Put rugs outside. Sequester all washables in garage. Bag and seal all unwashable items (helmets, stuffed animals, etc.) Begin endless hot-water-and-tea-tree washing and drying on high. Estimated time: forty minutes.
- Take long-haired louse-festival and his brother to three stores to get supplies for two weeks of anti-lice tirades. Estimate time: one hour
- Spray both children with diluted tea tree oil. Comb each kid with his own with stainless steel nit comb. Boil nit combs. Time: two hours.
- Iron bunk bed mattresses. (Yes, with a clothes iron.) Put clean sheets on bunk beds. Estimated time: twenty-five minutes.
- Spray car seats with tea tree oil. Estimated time: five minutes
- Coat everyone’s heads with coconut oil (mixed with a dash of tea tree oil). Add shower caps. Estimated time: five minutes.
- Have Spouse nit comb my hair. Estimated time: forever.
- Continue laundry barrage. Estimated time: eternity.
- Sleep in coconut oil and shower cap. Estimated time: not long enough.
- Wake and comb coconut treatment out of both kids with nit comb. Ninety minutes
- Strip beds, throw all pillows, sheets, comforters into dryer in thirty-minute phases. Fifteen minutes
- Bathe kids. Wash hair, rinse with vinegar. Let dry, spray with diluted tea tree oil. Thirty minutes
- Take them to beach. Time? Who cares? It was lovely.
- Remake beds. Fifteen minutes.
- Give baths. Thirty minutes.
- Comb with nit comb. One hour. (Look at me, getting faster. Or careless.)
- Make beds. Fifteen minutes.
- Strip car seats, wash and dry covers. Twenty minutes.
- Regret bunk beds, hair, resistance to chemicals. All day.
- Apply coconut and shower caps. Five minutes.
- Reassemble and attach car seats. Thirty minutes.
- Have Spouse nit comb my hair: One hour.
Wash, dry. Strip beds. Wash, dry laundry. Comb kids. Wash, condition, rinse, dry kids. Make beds.
I’m going insane.
And I itch all over. I’m convinced I have lice, ticks, fleas, mosquitoes, and chiggers. All right now on my head.
Despite evidence that I don’t.
Day one eldest was crawling with bugs. Combed out maybe 50 disgusting little buggers. Youngest had none. I had none. Morning after coconut treatment eldest had at least a dozen dead bugs. Youngest had one tiny dead bug. Me, too. Morning after second coconut treatment eldest had no live bugs, two tiny dead bugs. Youngest had no live bugs, no dead bugs.
Tonight, after 48 hours and complete freaking adrenaline overload. I can’t find any eggs or lice on either kid. But eggs are microscopic and we have two more weeks, at least, of combing before we can be sure whatever hatches doesn’t grow big enough to lay its own eggs and start the whole insane cycle again.
So I’m psychosomatically itchy. And tired. And firmly resolved to keep up this incessant pace of laundry, combing, and coconutting.
The pediatrician says all we really need is the combing. And patience. Three weeks.
A friend says we could help ourselves by having the kids sleep in sleeping bags on the floor for ease of morning laundry.
The Internet says we have to keep doing all this for three weeks. Unfortunately, the Internet also says to buy lots of products, toxic and non-toxic. But nothing kills the eggs, and hatched critters can’t lay eggs if they’re combed out.
What’s a little twelve-step day that takes six hours total? I have a spare six hours every day, right?
But. There are upsides.
- My kids are now sitting still (in front of the television, but I think anyone on the planet with excuse me that one) for an hour each day.
- We’re cleaning out the freezer of all the emergency, just-in-case frozen meals. Because there’s no way I’m cooking, too.
- The bugs seem to be gone for now. Or at least they’re on their way out. I have bested them with my will. And will continue to do so.
- I’ve finally needed the numbered-list formatting on my five-year-old blog.
So I guess there are silver linings to every creepy, crawly, disgusting parasite.