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Last weekend, after a night of furious head-scratching, I
made the discovery every parent dreads: my daughter and I both had raging cases
of head lice.
This was, unfortunately, the second time in less than a year
that we'd had it.
Despite being lice veterans, the discovery sent me into a
tailspin of panic, adrenaline shooting through my veins. I bolted to the
drugstore to get a toxic lice-killing concoction for myself, then treated my
daughter with the natural treatment we already had on hand.
But the thing that makes lice so awful is that you can never
really be certain that you've eradicated them all. One tiny nit, hiding amongst
over 100,000 strands of hair, can linger and hatch days later, starting the
infestation all over again.
This time, I wasn't going to try and terminate the lice and
nits on my own. It was time to call in a professional.
This turned out to be a good decision, because despite
having doused my own scalp in the lice-slaying goo more than 24 hours earlier,
the professional delouser quickly spotted a few sneaky, very much alive bugs
attempting refuge on the crown of my head.
As she combed through our hair, I hurtled questions at her.
After all, how often would I have the chance to interview a professional lice
killer? Hopefully not often! In the hour and a half that she was in our home, I
learned several surprising facts about lice:
1. Lice don't tend to like men's scalps
is that they don't like testosterone. My husband has escaped both our bouts
with lice; apparently, he's just too manly for them.
2. It takes both a male and female louse to
This sounds obvious, but I found the idea of bug sex on my head
3. You don't need to clean ALL the things
your bedding, hats and shirts that have been worn recently makes sense. But
vacuuming like crazy and bagging up everything your child has ever touched is
unnecessary. Lice only live for about 24 hours off of a human scalp, and they
can't fly or jump. So unless you have a habit of repeatedly putting your head
on the same spot on the carpet, you probably don't even need to vacuum.
4. Head lice and pubic lice are two separate types
If you've got the lice, you cannot give yourself or anyone else pubic
lice. Head lice don't thrive on the coarse, wiry hairs of our nether regions. At least that's one bullet
dodged. (Oh, there's also body lice).
5. A case of lice doesn't mean no school
having lice is not an actual health hazard and just a panic-inducing nuisance,
most schools no longer enforce a no-lice or no-nits policy, meaning even kids
with active cases can stay in school.
That toxic gunk I smeared all over
my scalp that promised to kill lice? A day later, I still had live lice in my
hair. Much like some infections are becoming resistant to antibiotics, lice are
growing immune to the widely used over-the-counter insecticides. The most effective way to rid someone of
lice is to thoroughly remove all the bugs and nits.
7. Head lice have been around as long as we have
Though annoying and itchy, head lice have actually evolved alongside humans.
And with the changes in school policies regarding lice and the rise in treatment-resistant
bugs, they're not likely to disappear anytime soon.
8. Professional delousing is also on the rise
parents like me who quickly become overwhelmed by the amount of online information
about how to best treat lice, having a professional show up at your house can
be well worth the cost. Independent delousers, as well as franchises like Lice
Happens and The Lice Squad, can be found in many areas. A good delouser will not only treat your family's lice, but teach you how to continue properly combing to avoid a reinfestation.
While our second battle with lice has been incredibly louse-y, it's mostly just been a huge inconvenience. Now that we're armed with the facts (and a killer nitpicking comb), we know what to do if the nasty nits make a third appearance in our home.