Friday, February 4, 2011

Attachment Parenting a Child with Lice - Part I

I'm sure most homeschoolers (of whichever sort) hope to avoid the lice infestations so common in elementary schools, but it can still happen. For us, Sasha was exposed at Girl Scouts or may have gotten it from her sister after she got it at Girl Scouts. Or, who knows, maybe Tyler got it somewhere else and she is the one that exposed others through Girl Scouts. It is impossible to know for sure.
My Pillow Pets Dog 18"
At least between my two girls, I suspect the culprit to be the big hit holiday gift: Pillow Pets. Tyler got a dog one for Giftmas. Sasha loved it. A lot. So they shared it a bit. Then Sasha (with a Gift Card from Giftmas) got her own Ladybug Pillow Pet, upon which they also both laid their heads.

I had been checking Sasha. I even saw specks in her hair (and should have known better), but no movement. Then one night I was holding her while cooking dinner after work when I saw it... a full grown adult louse. Initiate Freak Out. I did not throw my daughter down and keep her an arm's length away from me. I figured I had them, too. After all, we share a family bed. Lucky for Elmo, he has never had them. I have this suspicion that some people just don't get them. My ex-husband never got them, either, even when the entire house was infested. So that was Thursday evening and it was late. Elmo was already asleep in bed so he couldn't check my head and I couldn't change the sheets (we don't have backup sheets). I had been checked a couple of times the week before, but came up clean. Still, the instant I found that one louse my head itched uncontrollably. By morning, I had scratched myself until my scalp bled.

I posted to Natural Parents Network on Facebook asking for help, but I also searched the internet. I found The National Pediculosis Association®, Inc. There are some great articles there about what not to do. Other AP parents can surely appreciate one suggestion, don't "Ew!" and "Gross!" while combing out your child's hair. You do not want to shame them. Lice can happen to anyone. While Sasha is possibly too young to notice such exclamations, I probably did that with Tyler and I feel kind of bad for it in hind sight. Tyler had an infestation go on for a couple of years. I'm not sure she was ever completely clear of it and eventually we had to use an Ovicide. It was so toxic that we had to do it outside! It was the final thing that worked. The NPA says you shouldn't try different treatments one after another. They also request you report resistant lice. Wish I'd known that then. They also recommend combing out your child's hair and taking other precautions at the first report of exposure. They support combing-only as opposed to chemicals as an option. For Sasha, it was the only option since she is under 2 years of age. Also, I bagged up all of her "soft" toys and set them aside to sit for a couple of weeks. The lice will die with no human host.

Friday morning, Elmo checked my head. He saw nothing, just flakes and blood from all my scratching. We headed out for groceries and lice combs. I called in "sick" with lice to work, figuring he probably just wasn't seeing them. We got a great lice comb kit. It includes two different metal combs (NPA suggests metal over plastic), a "debris brush" for cleaning the comb, and a magnifier.

Toddler Lice Treatment - Day 1Toddler Lice Treatment - Day 1
I made the most progress Friday (Day 1) after waiting for Sasha to fall asleep nursing. Then I had Elmo bring me the kit and a coffee cup full of hot water and a few drops of dish soap in it. This mixture worked SO much better than just hot water. The lice actually sank instantly instead of just floating around in the water as I've had them do in HOT water before. While Sasha was napping, I showered (and washed and conditioned my hair). Then I anxiously grabbed the combs and combed out the common areas on my head. I found... nothing but dandruff. It took several tries and a few different areas before I was convinced. How in the world did I manage to not get lice when we sleep together?? I suspect it has something to do with keeping my hair up when I sleep. I clip it or put it in a pony tail.

Day 2: When Sasha went down for her nap, I got to work again. Overall I found about 4 adult lice. I hope this approach (combing while she sleeps) is going to work for us. I worry that the lice will go to the opposite side of her head, but that happens with any comb-out or inspection on any head... In the meantime, I think we're doing well with not avoiding Sasha or affection with her. Even though we're still lice-free, we still hug and love on her as usual. Hopefully we'll remain lice-free. I'm sure he will and considering we've been sleeping in the same bed anyway, it seems a pretty safe bet.

Day 3: Sasha doesn't like when I spray her hair with detangler. She'll sleep through a lice comb (so long as I use a larger comb first), but spraying her hair makes her stir.
Toddler Lice Treatment - Day 3Toddler Lice Treatment - Day 3
I tried spraying the big comb first on some of it, but it wasn't very efficient. So I sprayed further out from her scalp as I could. After a couple days in a row of lots of detangler, she really needed her hair washed! We had lots of fun in the shower together! She seemed more tolerant (for awake time) when I combed her hair afterward.

Day 4: I knew today would be tougher. Sasha usually naps while I'm at work. So I had to wait until she went to sleep... 11 o'clock. I got set up and combed her hair, sitting in the floor again. I've been really whining about the bites I continue to get on my upper arm (where she presses against me in our sleep), but had that put into perspective when I thought I saw a bug attached to her neck! I got the flashlight and tweezers because I couldn't get whatever it was. I took some macro shots and also put whatever it was in the soapy water... now I think it was a chunk of food. Still, I'm sure her head itches like crazy and she isn't as able to scratch.
louse photoLouse - Day 3
I'm having a hard time getting to the back of her head, which I know is a favored area for lice, generally. Still, I'm finding less and less (especially adult) lice each day. Tonight I also got a macro shot of a bug from the day before (after it sat in soapy water all night). Creepy! OMG I can't even edit them without getting phantom itches all over me!

Day 5: This morning I took pictures of the increased bug bites on my right arm. Still, I snuggle with her in bed. I considered grabbing a neck pillow to put above her head on the bed so she wouldn't butt up against me, but we were already in bed and I'm not sure I want to do that anyway. Still, the bug bites are discouraging, not to mention the insane itch when I first get up in the morning! Sasha has been very sensitive in her sleep tonight, so it has been a real battle to mess with her hair. Have I mentioned that she twirls handfuls of her hair as she drifts off to sleep?? Ugh! I did manage to get more of the back of her head tonight. I only found 2 adult lice and not many little ones, either. I kept seeing specks and then discovering they were nits (empty eggs) or eggs. I got a few of those out of her hair, but it involved too much tugging for her to stay settled. With more bites on my this morning, I was really getting concerned, but I am seeing a real improvement in numbers today! Wonderful news! My head itches all the time, but I still don't think I have lice on me. I'll have Elmo check me again probably tomorrow and again this weekend.

Lice Bites on Arm - Day 5Lice Bites on Arm - Day 5

Day 6, Attempt #1: After all the trouble getting to the back of my sleeping baby's head, I finally attempted to comb while she was awake. I put Elmo Loves You on the tele and made a game out of spritzing her head with detangler. I combed her hair out with the larger teeth on a regular comb, then the finer teeth. She mostly ignored me, but tried to dodge a bit. Then I started working with the lice comb. She was not having it. I was able to make several swipes around the top and sides of her head, but when I went for the back... forget it. She was basically shooing my hands away, trying to clear the personal space around her head. We were also not in as well lit an area as usual. I hadn't seen any lice on her when I hunted, nor when I combed. However, I did spot two very small lice (or were they nits?) in the cup of hot soapy water. Still looking like a drastic improvement! I'll try again later when she is asleep... looking like another late night. Oh! Also, while my bites are still itchy as hell, I have no NEW bites! Yay!

Toddler Lice ArsenalToddler Lice Arsenal
Looks kinda wimpy, eh?

Day 6, Attempt #2: Didn't happen. As I write this it is nearly 1 o'clock in the morning and I've been physically wrestling with Sasha trying to get her to settle for sleep. She is finally nursing peacefully in my lap (on her own terms). Hopefully we will be in bed shortly.

Day 7: The timing is getting rougher with each passing day. Sasha is still sick. Now Daddy is very sick, too. I'm getting it, too, I can just feel it coming. I've already started back up on Vitamin C and so has Daddy (and he hates taking them!). Meanwhile, Sasha seems to stay up progressively later each night. She is teething, but hasn't seemed fussy so I haven't given her any teething tablets (much as I know that would help her get to sleep). It is coming up on 1 o'clock in the morning and she is still fighting sleep. I do not see a comb out happening tonight. I haven't found any lice in her hair while she has been nursing, though, so that is something. I'm hoping we'll get lots of combing time this weekend! Still no new bites on my arms that I've noticed.

Day 8: With Sasha increasingly sick and myself getting that way... Plus no live lice or eggs on her head, only empty nits (which I pick out occasionally while nursing), I did not try to stay up all night to comb her hair. We managed to get into bed at 12:30, though we got up at 3:30 with Daddy. She is running 100.5° temperature.

Day 9: I continue to check Sasha's head when she is playing, nursing and/or dozing in my lap. I was beginning to get excited that maybe we'd cleared them. I've just been picking nits. Then this evening I found a tiny tiny louse. It looked small as (if not smaller than) a nit, except it was moving. Ugh. Sasha is so sick as to be restless, so I can't comb her hair very well in her sleep. At least our itching has subsided. I'll have to get back to work on this as soon as she can breathe / rest better. It has gotten easier to be affectionate without hesitation because 1) we haven't seen any live lice lately and 2) how can you resist a sickly baby?

Toddler Lice Arsenalour sickly little lice infested (?) baby

Day 10: Still way too sick and I'm sick, too. We've lost enough days that I realize we're simply going to have to start the regimen all over again from the beginning.

As my work week came to a close, Elmo said he'd seen some large lice on Sasha's head. I got her down for a nap and started combing and searching... I wasn't finding anything. I was beginning to hope that somehow she hadn't actually got them anymore. Then I found one on the boppy. Here we go again...



2 comments:

  1. Your lice series is so interesting. I hope I never need this information (really, really hope), but I'm glad you have it here in case I do. We're currently battling fleas (huzzah), and I've found some easy, non-chemical ways to deal with them, too, that I was thinking about sharing. But it's one of those things where I'm worried people will think I'm a terrible person/housekeeper for having fleas. Do you have those fears regarding talking about lice? (Not suggesting you should, just curious!)

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  2. The social stigma behind lice is a BIG problem. People are afraid to tell their friends about it, but it is so important to do so.

    I don't know a lot about fleas, but I would certainly think that anyone could get fleas, regardless of how dirty or clean your house may be. Pets bring them in from outside.

    I think it would be GREAT if you posted about them because consider: Other moms probably have the same problem and may not know how to battle them safely. And may be afraid to ask or not know where to find the information.

    I guess I try to remember that most people (especially your "fans") probably won't judge you, they'll relate to you.

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