The Lice of Our Lives

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It’s the tail end of back-to-school season, and that means it’s time for brand new books and pencils and backpacks…and the school year’s first autumnal infestation of head lice.

Lice can happen to anyone, but they are frequently found on the one kid in class whose well-intentioned but misguided parents will turn their backs on medically approved treatments and choose to handle  the outbreak holistically (“holistic” from the Latin, meaning does not work.) These clueless hippies will douse their poor child’s head with a host of loosey-goosey new age remedies that will do nothing to kill the parasites that have made a home in the kid’s hairdo. Why do I care? Because this unfortunate child will go back to school where he or she will inevitably sit next to my daughter, exposing her to a head full of vermin.

I have seen it happen time and again: the school nurse finds lice on a child’s head and sends her home to parents who distrust medicine and think that all pharmaceutical companies are as evil as their corporate cousin, Big Tobacco. These parents opt for nature-based home remedies to get rid of lice and nits – they try cat shampoo and Listerine, minced garlic and lavender extract. They wave burning sage around their kid’s head and rub her down with a mixture of coconut oil and ylang ylang – it is the Lillith Fair of parasite removal.

Tea tree oil is the best known holistic lice remedy and I’m here to tell you it doesn’t work. Tea tree oil does not kill lice – it doesn’t even distract lice. But holistic-minded parents will try it night after night, along with camphor oil, onion juice and apple slices. And each day their child will go back into school with an army of tiny insects still marching resolutely through her hair.

Lice are not the result of poor hygiene or parental negligence. There is no shame in having lice, only in refusing to treat them in an effective manner. The American Academy of Pediatrics (an organization not known for its callous disregard of children) recommends low-toxicity medicated shampoos for the treatment of lice. It very clearly does not advocate trying to vibe lice into submission with positive thoughts and a home remedy made of cloves and baby aspirin.

Olive oil is another natural remedy that parents turn to without much success. Unfortunately, olive oil – while an exceedingly good choice for salad dressing – is no match for an invasion of ectoparasites. White vinegar is another holistic treatment, and it too is an appropriate topping for a head of lettuce, not a head full of lice.

I understand that there are downsides to using strong chemicals so close to your child’s brain. But there is also a downside to being known as the girl who had lice for seven whole months while her mom futzed around with patchouli oil and organic mayonnaise.

The simple fact is, it behooves parents to keep their children’s lice from spreading to other children. Of course, if your kid has a nasty infestation of head lice, harsh chemicals are not your only option. There’s always home schooling…

Image: edenpictures