Sunday, February 6, 2011

Uninvited Guest Part 2

I am happy to report that Friday's head check revealed only one nit. Saturday I only found one thing and I am not even sure it was a nit. Today I had my first "no nit day!" Yippee. I want to celebrate, but I have learned that these things can be very hard to see and if even two tiny nits get missed, we will be back where we started in a few weeks. So, I said in my last post that taking care of the effected person is the first step. We have done that for a week and we will continue checking Lydia diligently over the next few weeks and then periodically as long as she is around other kids who could have gotten "it" (so pretty much the rest of her childhood).

In addition to taking care of Lydia through all this, we simultaneously have needed to check ourselves and deal with our home so that we don't pass this around. PJ and I both got our heads checked the night we discovered it on Lydia. We also covered our heads in olive oil. It's one of those old fashioned home remedies we heard about. (Mayo seemed to work under the same idea of suffocating the "its", but sounded way more disgusting and harder to remove.) Olive oil wasn't that bad. I doused my head, wrapped it in plastic and went on to cleaning the house. I have to say, my hair has been SUPER conditioned ever since. PJ and I made jokes about keeping the aliens from reading our minds, and generally laughed at how ridiculous it all seemed. (keep in mind I am usually in bed by 10 and at this point it was nearing 2am). Other than that one oil treatment, I have settled for a twice weekly head check for family members who are in contact with Lydia. Thankfully no one has found anything, but once you even hear the word lice, you can't help but feel itchy and start wondering. So we keep checking ourselves and treating our clothing and bedding as if we have been exposed.

While the olive oil was soaking into my scalp, we started stripping the beds and changing out the sheets. This is standard procedure in my house whenever anyone gets an illness. Lydia still spends some time in our bed and we still end up in hers, so everything went into the wash. I read that a hot water wash cycle and about 40 minutes in the dryer would kill any bugs, including bed bugs if you are concerned about that too. Lydia has been getting clean pillow cases every night and any article of clothing that has been worn recently has now been washed. We have instituted a single use only policy with towels and even clothing that has only been lightly worn and still is basically clean. (I can't wait to see this month's water and electric bill) Everything has been washed after any contact with any of us. We have smooth leather couches, and hardwood floors, so they are getting wiped down more frequently. Any upholstery or carpet should be vacuumed frequently as well. A live "it" supposedly only lives for 24 hours if it isn't on a person, but the eggs can live longer. Most of what I read says that "it" can't jump and they cling pretty tightly to the head. You have to work to get a nit loose, so the idea that they won't just fall off on clothing, carpeting, or upholstery is plausible. This line of thinking says kids only pass it through direct head to head contact and that even sharing hats and combs shouldn't pass "it". A comforting thought if you are worried about one family member spreading it to others, but I am not taking any chances! I will continue washing like a mad woman for a while now.

So that brings me to my last thought on fighting "it", should "it" happen to you (and let's face it, "it" happens!). I believe you HAVE to TELL people!!! It is NOT fun to alert the public to something that you are embarrassed about. However, if I had known that a kid who comes into regular contact with Lydia had been fighting "it" for more than a month I would have been watching for "it", I could have done some initial research into what to do if you get "it", I wouldn't have let Lydia sleep in our bed as much as she did this past month. I wouldn't have done anything different regarding the kid that was fighting "it" and I hope no one is treating Lydia any differently right now, but I could have been a little more watchful and a lot more prepared.

I started calling close friends the morning after I discovered it, anyone who Lydia had been in contact with over the past week or so got a call. I hope I didn't miss anyone and I know it is easier right now because she is too little to know what is going on or to be worried about her friends finding out or making fun. So if your kid is school-aged and fighting "it", things might be a little different. School friends are probably safe from head to head contact and your kid is old enough to understand what to do and not do to protect friends from getting "it" from them. I have been putting Lydia's hair up in ponytail holders to keep what is happening on her head contained and what might be happening on other kid's heads away. (I have heard that hair product can help create an extra barrier to keep "it" out.) I do, however, feel that any kid who comes into your home and any household that you send your kid to while dealing with "it" needs to be informed. In my book, this means you also tell the school.

Most schools have changed there policy from the "no nits" policy of my childhood. No nits means an effected student stays home until there are no nits. That's why schools used to do head checks periodically. I feel like we did everything we were supposed to do and it took us a week of constant picking to get to our first no nit day. The kid that Lydia got "it" from is still fighting nits over a month later. Most schools have decided that is just too long to keep kids out of school when they are healthy and getting treatment. (keep in mind that other than being gross and somewhat contagious, "it" does not harm a child in any way)

I understand why schools aren't sending kids home, but I strongly believe that they should notify parents when someone in the class is dealing with "it". They can keep it anonymous, they can just tell the parents what is going on, they can offer facts on what to watch for and information on treatment. Of course, before the school can notify parents, the parents must notify the school that their kid has "it". I know that is tough to think about when your kid is older and you are concerned someone will find out. Keep in mind that if your kid got it, they got it from someone around them, so a little extra public notice on the subject may help that kid finally get rid of "it". Also, if your kid has it, not only is there someone else who gave it to your kid, but there may be someone else (or several someone elses) who have also contracted "it". The more kids who have "it" in a group, the harder it is to get rid of. So we are sort of all in this together. If you read this blog, there is a good chance that your kid plays with my kid. So if I promise to do all that I can to get rid of "it, and to check to make sure "it" hasn't come back, to get rid of "it" from our home, to be sure no one else in our house gets "it", to tell you if we do have "it", can you promise to do the same? Thanks!

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