I had a lousy day yesterday.  Literally.  I got a phone call from the school nurse that they did a school head check and my son had lice so I needed to come pick him up.  How many of you will admit that you have gotten the same call?   My guess is not many.

Because I’ve found, both from being a teacher and a parent, is that there is a stigma associated with having lice that makes it embarrassing and taboo to talk about.  I get that lice are gross.  Just thinking about it makes you squirm and your head itch.  But the facts are that

1) it’s really common

2) they are highly contagious and

3) studies have shown that lice actually prefer clean hair (so it isn’t a statement about poor hygiene)

It can happen to anyone.

What a lot of people don’t understand is that by keeping quiet about it, we are increasing the number of cases of lice in our community.  Think about it: by the time your child starts to scratch, he has likely already had it for a few weeks.  You should immediately alert the school, day care and/or any parents of the children that your child has been in contact with, especially if it involved a sleepover, dress-up play, wrestling around or other close contact.   If everyone is working at the same time to get rid of the lice, the chances are better that your child won’t be re-infested.  If you keep quiet, the kid who your child gave lice to last week will give it right back to him the day after you finish treatment…. and so on.

So, my point is this… get over the embarrassment.  Suck up the fact that it happens to everyone (or could, probably has or most likely will) and when it happens to you, be courageous and make the calls.

By the way, I highly recommend a non-toxic treatment.  It is more work, but also more effective, less likely to recur, it’s cheap and… well, it’s not poison.  The one we use involves regular old Pantene conditioner, baking soda and a good nit comb to remove every last louse and nit.  And if you are in a more populated area and don’t want to do it yourself and willing to pay for someone else to do the work, there are plenty of people who will do it for you.

[read a related story in the New Yorker]