a crisis of lice

September 18, 2012 | 70 Comments

Getting rid of lice - girl pointing at crabs

I did another comb-through of mine and Em’s hair last night. Because I did one in the morning and found two nits on me and nothing on her, I was more going through the motions, confident we’d find nothing.

When the paper towel I used as a smear base revealed a few nits and five or six recently-hatched, teensy lice, I had my fourth mini-breakdown. I handed Steve the comb and climbed the stairs for a silent cry in the bedroom.

I composed myself and googled the shit out of lice combs. I’d read there were two good ones. I couldn’t find them anywhere locally, so I got on amazon and prepared an order that, weirdly, consisted mostly of kitchen gadgets: one part battle cry, six parts therapy. Steve and Emma went to bed somewhere between silicone spatulas and corn on the cob holders. I didn’t know if I should change our sheets again, and I was too tired to care, so I resigned to sleep on the couch and said goodnight.

Instead of sleeping, I abandoned my amazon order and Lady Macbethed my hair until 2am.

This morning I found Lice911, a local site a friend recommended. I called to ask if the Licemeister comb was sold nearby. The lice lady, Barb, was so warm and helpful, I—SURPRISE—cried. I told her we’ve been combing for TWO DAYS and are still finding live bugs.

“Oh sweetie, no one gets rid of lice in two days. No one. And don’t comb every day. Give yourself and your kid a break. Comb every three days for three weeks. This gives whatever’s in there enough time to get bigger and easier to catch with the comb, but not big enough to reproduce.”

Hiccup. “So, I don’t have to do it every day?”


Sniffle. “And the comb really works?”

“It’s great. You’re still going to have to pick through with your nails, but the comb gets most of it.”

Snotty nose blow. “But I should wash our sheets every night?”

“Oh god no! Once you’ve done that first wash and vacuum and have eliminated the full-grown adult lice, focus on head maintenance. The eggs and nymphs stick to the head. It’s those adult lice who cause the most trouble.”

Sigh. “So we will eventually get rid of them? I don’t have to move to outer space?”

“You will get rid of them. Keep at it for the three weeks and do weekly spot checks until you’re confident they’re gone.”

“Thanks, Barb.”

Barb grounded me. She mentally prepared me to find crawlies for the next little while, because it’s normal and part of the process. Okay then. Awesome. Resume coping. Finding the live lice tasted like big, fat failure. I told myself I’d done it wrong. I became Elaine Benes on the subway, losing my shit where there wasn’t space for it.

We’re going to have lice forever. But people deal with this all the time. IT DOESN’T MATTER: WE NEVER HAVE. I NEED THIS TO END. WHAT THEN? WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME, LICE GODS? WHAT WILL MAKE YOU LEAVE US ALONE? What if we have these for months? There are bugs crawling on our heads. I have bugs on my head. When will they go? WHEN. WILL. THEY. GO? GO! GO! GO!

Barb loaded me up with direction and knowledge. I HAVE THE LICE MAP. The subway is moving again.

Barb found a pharmacy that carries the comb near my school, so I’ll buy it tomorrow on my way home and I’m going to use it at least once a month until Emma graduates. And occasionally when we visit her college dorm. This afternoon I bought her some sweet-smelling repellant shampoo from Raspberry Kids.

I’m head of the Prevention Brigade now. Eventually everything in our house will be switched out for the lice-repelling equivalent. “That there is lice-repelling toilet paper. State of the art! And we walk up the stairs backwards, because lice HATE that.” We’ll implement a lice-screening process for all overnight guest, complete with urine and blood analysis.

We are going to be FUN to visit.

Come: be our guest.

There’s always room at the Fisher house.

Linking up with the Challenge Grid at Yeah Write this week.

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  • Sara

    This brings back vivid memories of my mother losing her mind when we all got lice. A lot of tears from us three kids and a lot tears from her. You’re not alone. After that, she insisted I wear my hair in a bun EVERY SINGLE DAY so my hair wouldn’t touch anyone elses, EVER. To this day, I still put my hat in my sleeve when I go places so my hat never touches anyone elses. My mother trained me well!

    • Shannon

      Ha! I put my hat in my sleeve so it doesn’t get lost. I don’t know how I managed to escape headlice as a kid. I’m sure glad for it though.

  • Marieasy

    There is a lady in Queensburough who specializes in nit combs because she couldn’t find them anywhere locally. Want me to get her contact for you?

    • Marieasy

      Next time I will read through the entire post before commenting. I think Barb is the person who I am talking about but she no longer lives in my work ‘hood. If not, she does the same job the Queensburough lady does.
      Go easy on yourself! And weèll go for a pedi once you’Ve kicked these varmints to the curb.

      • Marieasy

        Em included.

        P.S. Your website just told me “You’re posting comments too quickly. Slow down.”
        Story of my life. Slow down. Heh heh

        • Shannon

          HA! That’s a funny thing for my site to say. Kick it in the nuts next time.

      • Shannon

        Thanks, friend. :)

    • Shannon

      YES, PLEASE!

  • http://finallymom.blogspot.com christina


    • Shannon

      NO. SYMPATHY. Nuh uh. :)

  • http://samanthabmerel.blogspot.com Samantha Brinn amerel

    Your post brings back such crazy memories of my own bout with lice. I am pretty sure that my mom still has post traumatic stress from the whole thing. But never fear, they will go away!

    • Shannon

      I think there should be a recovery group. Maybe there is one. PTSD isn’t far off!

  • http://justbeginfromhere.com Melisa @ just begin from here

    Lice are my #1 WORST NIGHTMARE now that our daughter has started kindergarten! Your story is HILARIOUS and also heartwarming. In the Seattle area, there’s a company called “Lice Knowing You” and you’d better believe I’ve got them on speed dial.

    • Shannon

      Well good for you. I was stupid enough to think it would never happen to me. Dumbass.

  • http://www.snapsandbits.com Stacie @ Snaps and Bits

    I hadn’t thought about lice since my sister had them when we were kids – until this summer when they were flying around the camp. We got off easy – my son only had 7 nits and nothing alive. Still, we went to “Lice Be Gone,” to be sure. You use some awesome phrases in this story: “one part battle cry, six parts therapy” was my favorite!

    • Shannon

      Wow! I can’t believe you have had lice in your life and it was THAT easy. I am uber jealous. Thanks for your kinds words. :)

  • http://www.raspberrykids.com Sue Sinclair, Chief Executive Mom at Raspberry Kids

    Hi Shannon,
    Thanks for the shout out to Raspberry Kids about the eco.kid products. We use them for lice prevention in our house too, particularly after we had the worst case of the super nits last year in Australia.

    I was MORTIFIED to say the least and spent hours upon hours combing and treating the kids in Oz. When we got home, I immediately treated them with eco.kid’s lice bomb which was by far the most effective treatment we used.


    Good luck with those pesky nits and thank you so much again for your order and for supporting my business. Excited to meet you, shame we have to fly to Toronto to do that!

    Kind regards,

    • Shannon

      Yeah, I almost ordered more stuff… but you saw how much I spent. Your products are great. It will be fun to meet up in Toronto. I saw your profile, so maybe you could just hold a phone to your ear and I’ll recognize you right off the hop!

  • http://doesanyonecarewhatiwrite.blogspot.com Gina

    The lice years! Grade school and middle school. They were everyone’s worse nightmare but almost everyone experienced it (my kids never got them and I’m so surprised as they went through entire carpools and baseball teams!). I hope this comment finds them gone or at least at bay. So sorry! You will have the best house in Toronto to visit after all this. Are you taking bookings?

    • Shannon

      If by Toronto, you mean Burnaby, yes. :)

      The lice are under control. They have a 3-week life-cycle, so they’ll be around for a bit. We’re working on it!

  • http://www.michellelongo.blogspot.com Michelle Longo

    {Knocks on wood} I’ve never had lice. But I was always so worried. I hope things clear up for you and you all are lice free, even in the dorm room. Amusing post, less than funny subject! I really enjoyed!

    • Shannon

      37 years was a good lice-free run. It had to end some time.

      But really–did it?

  • http://www.mayorgia.blogspot.com Mayor Gia

    Barb is a HERO!!

    • Shannon

      SHE ABSOLUTELY IS. I owe her all the medals.

  • http://jbryantcampbell.blogspot.com Jacqueline Bryant Campbell

    My daughter has more hair than any three people you can name and this was my biggest fear. I would have been at least as much fun as you.

    • Shannon

      Yeah, at least Emma and I both have fine hair, so there’s that.

  • http://www.outlawmama.com Christie Tate

    I am going to die when this happens to me. DIE. I am bookmarking this post and emailing you when it does. Great subject.

    • Shannon

      You won’t die. I promise. I’ve died already in your place. I’M LIKE JESUS.

  • http://www.icescreammama.com icescreammama

    I feel your pain!! Been there. Done that. Miserable!!!! Horrible!!! I was a lunatic!! and i wrote about it… (you may not want to relive it though..)


    • Shannon

      Oooh–you didn’t even GET it and you wrote about it FAR better than I did. That was super fun to read! You ARE (were, sorry) a lunatic. :)

  • http://www.simplyshegoes.blogspot.com Kianwi

    Oh, I would have been crying, too. Especially when you felt like everything you were doing wasn’t helping and she calmy gives you the right direction. You gave great detail…my head is itiching! :)

    • Shannon

      Barb was so, so lovely. I just wish I had called her sooner. I’m so much more calm now.

  • http://bellejarblog.wordpress.com Annabelle

    One time my sisters had lice for, like, a whole summer. I guess they kept passing it back and forth? My mother went bananas cleaning everything over and over and over again. And combing SO MANY MILES OF HAIR. That poor woman.

    • Shannon

      I will probably lose my mind again if this goes on more than three weeks. Or ever again. POOR WOMAN YES.

  • http://www.saalonmuyo.com/ Eric Sipple (@saalon)

    Horrifying! I had this image in my head that when you got lice you just used some kind of special shampoo and it killed them and then BAM no more lice. There are combs and washing all the bed-stuffs and then watching to make sure not more horrible lice come back into your hair? Gack!

    • Shannon

      And that’s just IT, Eric. There is so much well-intended misinformation out there. The shampoo kills only the live ones, and it’s the live ones that are easiest to comb out. So why POISON your head for that when you have to still get rid of the eggs?! Makes no sense. I mean, it makes TOTAL sense if you don’t have the right information and you’re in the eye of a breakdown…

      Dude, it’s WAY worse than you imagined. But, I’d rather have lice than bedbugs. Now THAT’S a nightmare. Not one I’ve experience, but I have friends…

  • http://www.changethetopic.com Birdman

    Mrs. Birdman is the lice lady at our school. I mess with her when she comes home. It’s fun, and I think it helps her. I just nonchalantly scratch my head every minute while I’m near her. So funny to watch her.

    • Shannon

      Oh you’re mean!

  • http://emptythewell.com Lisa

    This is the reason I left school counseling behind. Kids = lice. There’s nothing you can do about that. Shiver.

    • Shannon

      For real!? Lice drove you out of your career! Wow. I’d never given it two thinks before Sunday. My life is forever changed.

  • http://www.iasoupmama.com IASoupMama

    Oh, man, oh, man, oh, man… I’m putting my head in the sand and trying to pretend that lice don’t exist. And that my kids have amazingly repellent hair…

    Good luck with maintenance — we’re all rooting for you!!!

    • Shannon

      Good luck with your repellant selves! :)

  • http://www.happinesscubed.net Dawn Beronilla

    Well, you know you did a great job when you have your readers feeling your pain! I can’t stop scratching my head. Yuck!
    I am glad you found your Barb, and I hope that everything is back to blinding awesomeness for you soon.

    • Shannon

      Ooh, sorry I made you feel the itch. I think we’re close to the all-clear. There’s been no sign of the buggers for a bit. And yes, yay for Barb!

  • Nicole

    I feel sort of weird for asking… but do you just trash the bugs? INCINERATE THEM? DROWN THEM? *shudder*

    We never had lice. Thank heavens. Gives me the creepy crawlies reading about your ordeals :(

    • Shannon

      Yeah, we just threw them out! They can only live up to 48 hours without a head. HA. That’s a funny thing to write. They are disgusting. I won’t freak out so much if this ever happens again though. They’re fairly manageable. BUT STILL GROSS. UG.

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