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If Your Kid Gets Lice, You're Not Alone

Mother combing daughters hair
Photograph by Getty Images

I discovered my youngest had lice on her sixth birthday, which also happened to be Christmas Eve. I was drying her hair after a bath and thought I saw something moving. "Nope," I thought to myself, I was just imagining things, right? Well, about 30 seconds later I saw something else, and this one stuck around long enough that I could see it was a freaking bug. I hollered at my husband to come look, and we debated briefly about what it was until I got the nerve up to Google Image search "lice."

It was lice.

Happy birthday, kid.

For some reason, I thought lice would be impossible to see, or more white, or less disgusting. I was wrong on all counts. There were full-grown, adult bugs crawling on my child's head, and they moved, they were kind of a light tan, and I was really sad about the whole thing.

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We had a Christmas Eve party to go to, but I obviously had to stay home and fight hair bugs, so I sent my husband and other kids on their way after I ran to the store and bought things to destroy head lice. Me and my poor girl spend the better part of that afternoon zapping live bugs and trying to tease out the eggs they left behind before I gave her a poison shampoo.

She was a trooper, I'll give her that. She was still and quiet while I worked, and was actually entertained every time I found a live bug. And while I was horrified to find the critters in the first place, I was more concerned about getting them out and preventing the rest of us from getting them.

It's estimated that six to twelve million kids between the ages of 3 and 11 a year are infested with lice.

Amazingly, none of the rest of us turned up with head bugs (even though every single one of us had itchy scalps and deeply intense paranoia), and after a couple weeks and two lice treatments, all signs of the battle we fought and won were gone.

But one thing I learned during this gross experience was that we were definitely not alone. I posted a status on Facebook about our trials, and so many people wrote that they or their kids have gone through the same thing. We're all in this together, you and me, in the lice-infested wasteland of raising (or being) a child.

I remember when I was growing up, I thought that only dirty people got lice, and that's simply not the case. Here are a few lice facts to keep in mind if your kid, her friends, or even you become home to a bunch of little scalp eaters.

Personal hygiene has nothing to do with it. Lice like scalps, period. Whether the hair is clean or dirty, they're all about the scalp.

Lice cannot hop. They crawl. No hopping, no flying, no anything except crawling.

Combs, hats, pillows and other objects are actually crap at transmitting lice. The CDC says that it's uncommon to spread lice that way. It can happen, though, so it's a good idea to not share these types of personal items.

Lice eggs adhere to the hair shaft like glue. No amount of lice shampoo will get rid of lice eggs. You have to comb them out with a very fine-toothed comb or individually with your fingernails.

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Lice mature quickly. Within 9-12 days of hatching, nymphs will develop into adult lice that can lay eggs. This is why it's recommended to treat lice twice (a week to 10 days apart)—once to get rid of existing adults and nymphs, and a second time to kill any newly-hatched lice (because you're probably going to miss some eggs in your search—they're good at hiding).

It's not just you. It's estimated that six to twelve million kids between the ages of 3 and 11 a year are infested with lice. It's definitely, definitely not just you.

Together, we will vanquish lice, one tiny head at a time.

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