Someone In Your Child's Class Has Lice
Why lice is such a big problem and not such a big deal.
There's nothing like opening your child’s backpack and getting the letter that says, “someone in your child’s class has head lice.” I think all of us immediately begin to feel an itch. Head lice is something many of us have had to deal with at one time or another, so why do we get so stressed out about it? How are schools handling it?
I must admit that every time I hear that someone has lice in my daughter’s class, we go back into 'ponytail with a tight braid' mode. I guess it makes me feel better to keep her curly hair tight in the hopes that those nasty little things won’t be able to make it to her head. The reality is that we really have no idea how a particular child actually contracts it. Kids can get lice from a movie theater chair, sharing a bean-bag chair, hugging a friend, and sharing a baseball helmet, in addition to several other ways.
In years past, it was typical to keep a child out of school until every bug was gone. Now the rules are different. If the bugs are gone, the hair has been treated, and there are no live bugs then students can return to school, although they are checked several times. It is so contagious that it seems like it is always spreading and we are never really rid of it. How, then, can we prevent it from spreading through the classrooms? While I understand the concern to keep a child out of school for more than a week, when lice is a big problem, it seems that stopping the spread should be the top priority. I know that I would not feel comfortable sending my child back unless I knew every possible nit was gone.
There are some situations in school that make lice easy to transfer. For instance, many buildings do not have lockers so jackets and hats are on top or next to others all day where transmission is easy. During the winter months I always have my children keep their hats and gloves in their backpack with the zipper closed on the coat hook. Just a small thing that keeps their stuff away from the others. Although lice do not jump or fly, it is still possible for a bug to be on a hat and then crawl onto another one. It is policy in some buildings for students to use a set of headphones in kindergarten and to continue using the same pair kept in a zip-lock bag throughout their elementary years. A great start but, as I have discovered, that only works if they are kept sealed and teachers are diligent about how the children use them. Some classes do share them and the headphone part is near the ear, right where lice is often seen first. Although head-to-head contact is the most common transfer of lice, anything we can do to keep kids from sharing anything having to do with their head can't hurt.
There used to be a stigma around lice. People used to think that having lice meant your child was dirty, but we all know that is a myth. Anyone can get lice and it is actually attracted to clean hair as opposed to dirty. As more parents understand lice is just another thing kids get, and not something embarrassing, I think the situation can only improve. If a parent knows their child has it they have a responsibility to call any parents that the child has been with and let them know so they can look out for it. I remember when we had friends over and the mom called me that same night to say she found lice. I was worried but I cleaned everything like the kids already had it and treated the children with a non-toxic product and looked for nits for several days. Even if all of that did not do a thing, it made me feel like I was on top of the potential problem. Sometimes parents are embarrassed and don’t tell other parents and that is when spreading becomes a huge problem.
The important thing for us as parents is to be educated lice and to learn the proper way to rid the nits. Recently, Glen Ellyn moms, Sandi Cranny and Suzanne Comella, opened Shiny Strands Salon in Glen Ellyn. Shiny Strands is a head lice treatment salon. The salon uses an all-natural method and is certified in the Shepherd Method which is a strand-by-strand removal procedure that takes time but works. They also sell non-toxic hair products for lice such as specialty combs. Their website has a great deal of information on lice and also provides step-by-step procedures for what to do if you or your child has lice. It is quite common for parents to get lice when their kids have it. I know my daughter and I play 'hairdresser' quite often, so if she had it, I would too. That's why Shiny Strands is a great option because it caters to parents who can’t treat their own heads. I know that my husband would not be able to spend the hours needed to comb the strands correctly. Those who have tried with no success to comb out their child’s hair or just don’t feel comfortable handling it on their own, will find a great option at Shiny Strands. In addition to treating lice, they will also check your child for you and let you know if they actually have it. Check out their website for additional information at shinystrands.com.
Lice is not something to be stressed out over and although it is a difficult and unpleasant thing, it is something that will come and can go like a million other illnesses our kids get. Take some time to research what it is and more specifically what you need to do if your child has it. As long as parents talk to one another when their kids have it and we all talk to our children about ways to help prevent it, we will survive kids and lice.