Tuesday, January 17, 2012

It's been a lousy week...

So, on the outside, life has been pretty quiet, publicly, around the Simpson Six homestead this past week. I can assure you, however, that as still and serene as it appears from the outside, inside we have been all a flurry with activity. Activities that I never in my life thought that I would be doing. Ever. Ever, ever!!

Last Wednesday morning, as I was brushing my daughter's hair I swore that I saw something move. Now, I'm not a morning person--by any means--so Jason assured me that I'm just paranoid and I figured that my eyes were simply not focused yet, as it was before 7am. So, off he and the girls go to school and I, still a bit skeeved by the thought that something was there, set off to vacuum the house and wash all of our bedding on hot. Surely clean sheets will make everything right in my world again...right?!?

Well, still not content with that, I decided to wash Ian's hair and then my hair with vinegar. It works to clean my windows, floors and bathrooms, so obviously it will give our hair a thorough cleaning. That should do it, right?!?

Well, I then bagged up all of the stuffies in the house and set them in the garage to await their turn in the laundry machines (the bedding was still running through their cycles). All was now right in my world, and I could breathe easier that my home was completely clean and whatever I saw this morning was gone--if it ever existed in the first place.

Meanwhile, Jason stopped over at the elementary school during his lunch break to take our daughters to the school nurse to get their heads checked, to report back to me that my paranoia was unfounded and everyone was just as clean and bug-free as always. Which is all well and good, except for the worst was discovered: head lice. My precious babies with flowing, golden hair had been chosen by some hitch-hiking parasites to be hosts to their own colonies of microscopic critters! When I got the call that they were coming home from school, my heart sank, and my life was put on hold until we eradicated these pests that were trying to take over our world.

Within the first 24 hours of Jason's phone call--which bore the silver lining of him telling me that I'm not paranoid, that there really was something moving on my sweet girl's head!--I washed, dried and put away 16 loads of laundry. I can't tell you how long it usually takes me to wash, dry and put away 16 loads of laundry--but I'd venture to say closer to 1 month than 1 day! Within 72 hours, that number was up to 27. Everything that cannot be washed and/or dried has been bagged up for 2 weeks or put on ice--literally! We have 2 freezers that we rarely use, so they are full of things like dress-up hats, sweaters and throw pillows. Ridiculous, but necessary to eliminate every last loose louse.

There's no food in this freezer for now!

Also, I have begun vacuuming every inch of my home no less than 3 times every day--including every stitch of upholstered furniture in our house. Bedding is still being washed daily--and will be for 2 weeks, and every head in our house has been checked, strand by strand, under a magnifying glass twice daily since last Wednesday.

And what about those sweet girls, with their golden tresses flowing down their backs?
Well, first they were subjected to the harshest of pesticides, shampooed onto their scalps, then I spent 2 hours combing through one girls' hair with a fine-tooth comb, and 1 hour combing through the other's hair in order to remove every last louse--live, dead or nit that was super-glued to their hair shaft. This was just the first night. In the first 72 hours, I spend upwards of 12 hours combing through their hair, inspecting it and removing anything remotely questionable until we were 100% certain that every last unhatched nit was plucked from their scalp.

Even though we have eradicated the louse population from our home and their heads, and have confirmed that everyone is clear, the girls still require one more pesticide treatment "for good measure" tomorrow afternoon--7 days after their first treatment. Fortunately, after much research and a recommendation from our school nurse, we have found a new medication for the elimination of head lice called Natroba. Its primary ingredient is an organic formula that is approved in organic farming. If I have to slather the heads of my sweet girls with a pesticide, I feel much more comfortable with this prescription than the over-the-counter chemicals from the drugstore that we used the first time. Additionally, being a new drug, its efficacy is much stronger than the treatments that are found over-the-counter that lice are becoming immune to.

As I have labored beyond exhaustion for the past week, I've thought over and over about how I can spare other families the agony and frustration. I have researched the subject of head lice ad nauseum, read a book, numerous scholarly journal articles as well as personal accounts of battles with head lice and the best practices that come up over and over again are that communication and education are the keys to minimizing outbreaks and quickly eradicating when they do arise.

Therefore, I give you five fast facts about head lice:
1. No one is immune. Period. Head lice don't care if you are clean or dirty (in fact, they have an easier time setting up residence in clean heads than on a dirty head), your race, gender or socio-economic class. Yes, it is possible to catch head lice, even if you live in the North Suburbs of Indy. ;) If you are human, you are a possible host to a head lice infestation.

2. There is no more reason to be embarrassed that you have head lice than you have reason to be embarrassed that you have a head cold. Both are highly contagious if not treated and caused by a microscopic organism that has set up shop on/in your body. Anyone that would make fun of someone or ostracize someone for having had head lice is of questionable character. You'd never treat someone with a head cold that way.

3. Head lice, while vile and disgusting creatures, do not carry any disease or cause harm to humans in any way. They are simply annoyances. The scratching of an itch from their tiny bites can cause a secondary infection which needs to be treated with antibiotics, in some cases, but the lice themselves do not carry any health risk.

4. To eliminate head lice, a full-fledged assault must be executed in a purposeful, diligent manner. If you slack off or miss so much as a single nit and allow it to hatch without killing the newly hatched head lice before it matures, you will be subjected to re-infestation. There's a reason that it consumed my life--there was too much at stake to slack off while we were still in the fight.

5. If you know that you have lice--COMMUNICATE IT!!! The worst thing that you can possibly do is to not inform others who may have been exposed. Our kids' school is fabulous--before our girls were even home from the nurse's office, they had sent an email to all families in both classes to inform parents that their child may have been exposed to head lice and to check their children carefully that evening. We immediately notified our church to share the same information with all families, since we don't know where the girls were exposed or for how long they were infested, we wanted all of the families of kids that they may have been with on Sunday to check their kids as a precaution. I also notified any of our friends with kids who had been around any of our kids within the week prior to the girls' treatment--not just the ones who were infested--so that they could check their kids. Finally, I notified anyone that our kids were around for each of the days following their treatment this first week, so that they could exercise good preventative measures even though our kids are clean and nit-free. Forget about any stigma attached to head lice and get over yourself, if that's not putting it too bluntly. Communicate and educate and hopefully the instances of outbreak in communities will diminish.

As I said earlier, we do not have any clue where our children picked up their head lice. Because the school nurse told me that it was an infestation of less than one week, based upon her observation and due to the limited places where our children had been during that time, we can only expect that they are still around the person or people who the wayward lice hitchhiked off of and onto their heads. Since we have not been informed of any additional outbreaks in these environments, our only way to proceed is to assume that the other host(s) are as unaware as we were.

Therefore, we have many preventative measures in place to minimize the risk of re-infestation of our children:
1. We will now regularly check heads on a weekly basis with a fine-tooth comb--now all too aware of what we are looking for!

2. We have added tea tree essential oil to their shampoo and conditioner as a natural lice repellent.

3. We have a new rule of no dress-up except for at home or friend's homes--since public dress-up clothes are a possible source.

4. We will continue to spray our children's heads with a homeopathic lice-repellent spray before school, church or play with children that we do not know are regularly checked for head lice.

5. Finally, and most drastically, our 3 older kids have had significant haircuts to deter lice from crawling onto their precious heads. The girls each had 8-10 inch ponytails to donate to the Pantene Beautiful Lengths program and were thrilled that their hair will someday be worn by another woman or child who needs a wig. Ian is now sporting a fresh buzz-cut--and for the time being his bedhead has been tamed!

Lydia's adorable new chin-length bob haircut highlights her wise eyes.

Caroline's sassy new stacked bob totally fits her spunky personality!

Ian looks much tougher and you can now see his furrowed brow with his new 'do.
Now that our household is finally, and officially, back to being just the Simpson Six, we hope to return to our regularly scheduled programming. More fun, less laundry. More natural, less caustic chemicals. I will, however, remove the terms "lousy", "nit-picking", and "fine-tooth comb" from my vernacular for quite some time. Now that I know the true meaning of these words, I may never be the same!

***UPDATE: I have been informed that the public school systems in Hamilton County, Indiana are not required to and not all choose to report incidences of head lice to parents of exposed children. Especially if you live in this county, please do not assume that if you don't receive a notice from your child's school that there have been no cases of head lice in your child's school. This may also be the policy elsewhere in the nation. Please consult your school system if you are unclear of their policy.

That being said--if your child attended Crosspoint Church on Sunday January 8, they were likely unknowingly exposed to head lice in one or more of the children's environments. Since we do not know when or where our children picked up lice, we are operating under the assumption that it was picked up and/or passed to others during the week prior to Wednesday January 11 when they were treated. If you have not checked your child's head for lice, please do so! We want no one else to endure this experience and the longer it is untreated, the worse the infestation becomes. Lice will not go away without treatment. It's not fun to talk about, but education and communication are the keys to eradication.

1 comment:

  1. Wowsa! That sounded exhausting, as I am sure that it has been. Glad you all got through it though and it is over now. Love the pics- Serious Ian is serious! Can't wait to see you all when group fires back up. :D