Friday, February 4, 2011

An Uninvited Guest

We have had an uninvited guest in our house this week. I live in the country, teach public school, and have a toddler (read germ magnet) so we get plenty of real and viral "bugs" in our home. But this week we have been dealing the bug whose name shall not be named! I hesitate to even write about it here, but I know I am not the only mom to go through this and hope that I can lend a little advice from our experiences that can help someone else.

Lydia contracted lice. There I have said it, and now I will go back to referring to it as "it"! She didn't invent "it" and neither did the kid who gave it to her. Apparently "it" has been found on mummies in Egypt and just keeps getting spread from person to person. It never really occurred to me that Lydia could get "it". I remember there being spot checks sometimes in elementary school, but haven't thought about "it" since then.

I never had it, that I know of, as a child. But as a teacher and through various jobs working with young children, you get warned what to look for enough that when Lydia started scratching her head last week, I checked and after a few seconds saw something move. YUCK!!

So I began searching the Internet about what to do. In my mind there are 3 major areas to take care of when you are dealing with any contagious situation. First you deal with the person immediately effected. For us that meant running to the pharmacy late at night to buy what ever shampoo they sold to get rid of "it". (We ended up with RID) The directions call for an immediate wash in the medicated shampoo, followed by a session of combing out what ever remains, followed by a re treatment with the shampoo in 7-10 days. As if that is ALL it takes!

Just the idea that people are so freaked out about getting "it" should tell you it is NOT that simple. First of all, the RID did not kill all the living "its" there were. I found five on my post wash combing. YUCK! There is a theory that "it", like many conditions in our over medicated world, may have drug resistant strains. FUN! Apparently if you continue to have recurrences your doctor can proscribe stronger medications with different pesticides.

That can be a big concern. It is pesticide that you are putting on your child's head! So many people resort to home remedies. I was told to try mayonnaise, olive oil, and Listerine to get rid of it. For now I am sticking with the RID, but with one exception. That business about combing the hair just that one time after the shampoo is ridiculous! What you are doing ins sectioning off the hair and going through it with a FINE toothed comb. According to the directions, the tiny metal comb that came with the medicated shampoo can be used to pull the nits, the eggs, off of the hair. (momma "its" glue eggs to individual hairs near the scalp) If your kid gets "it" you will recognize these as small dots about the size of a fleck of pepper (finely ground). The good news is it is just an egg and it is not going anywhere. If your child is cooperative, you can spend an hour or two going through their hair, one hair at a time and pulling out the nits. Keep in mind, the comb they tell you will do all the work for you, will go right over the nit and not do anything. I recommend ordering a better nit comb (available over the Internet, so not very likely to be available when "it" strikes your house) or using your finger nails to pull out the nit....or the hair what ever works!

So I do the initial nit pick for two hours, from 10pm to midnight. My child is mostly cooperative, but she is two. Thankfully at some point she fell asleep, so it got MUCH easier then. Even with a motionless patient, how likely is it that I got EVERY nit? With the chance of drug resistance, how likely is it that any remaining nits are dead? Considering that one adult female can lay 8-10 eggs a DAY, I am not about to take that chance. So I recommend comb and pick EVERY DAY. I have gotten it down to about a 30 minute process now, so it isn't terrible (except for the whole picking bug eggs off my kid's head part!). Up until 5 days into the process, I was still getting too many to count. 2 days ago I got 12, time to celebrate except that 2 were the size of a nit but they MOVED! They were too small to even see legs, but they MOVED! So I assume that some missed nits have hatched. The next day I only found 9, but most of them were the nits that move. I am now thankful for nits that stay glued in place!

Nits hatch about a week after being laid and I doubt they were all laid on the day I discovered the problem, so obviously we have more than I am finding and they were not all killed by the shampoo. I am not to use the shampoo again until a week after the first dose, so I am putting all of my hope in the daily pick and in my understanding of insect life cycles.

According to my research, the eggs hatch after 7 days. Every couple of days they get successively bigger until they are mature. Then they can mate and lay eggs and more eggs and more and that is where you get a new outbreak. I am hopeful that each day I am finding a few that I missed the previous day and that eventually we will have a no nit day. My plan is to check daily until I have 3 days in a row with no nits. Then I will move to every other day combing and eventually to a once a week check, that probably won't end until middle school. Maybe high school. Maybe college.

So this is what I have been doing with my time lately with regards to caring for the person who was immediately effected. In addition, you have to deal with anyone who has been exposed to "it" as well as dealing with any physical item those effected have come into contact with.

I am tired and needing to go check Lydia again before our evening plans begin. Wish me luck and hope for a nit number lower than NINE! More later on checking family members, notifying friends, and getting "it" out of clothing, furniture, car upholstery, etc.

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