Sunday, November 4, 2012

Daily Assignment #123: Head Lice,a.k.a. Head Lights

The dreaded, small, stubborn head lice are probably creating havoc in your class about now.  The minute I hear those 2 words my head starts itching.  These tiny parasites bite your scalp, which becomes itchy and then lays their eggs on strands of hair.  
Lice has been associated with filth, however, the 2 are not related.  Head lice does not discriminate as to who is clean and who is not.  They usually affect children, who pass them on to their friends.  Think of all those winter coats hanging up, stacked up, or worse yet lying in the coat area.  And then there are the weekend sleepovers, head lice loves them.
As the classroom teacher I was always anxious that I would get the dreaded lice.  I never did, even though it was a yearly issue.  Several years it was so bad I was checking the heads of parents as well.  I had a few parents screen the students every morning, while I screened parents.  We would then put each student's coat in a trash band and tie it.  At recess the students took their coats out of the bags and stuffed the bags in their coat sleeves.  We would repeat the procedure when they came back in.  We were all desperate to end the cycle.  We even bought special magnifying glasses especially for looking for lice.
Other challenges include parents who are not vigilant about combing their child's hair and cleaning the bedding, rugs, etc.  Also, if a parent doesn't tell the teacher that their child has head lice because they are embarrassed then that creates a delay in stopping the spread.  I've also experienced the parent who was indignant that their child had lice.  She refused to deal with it.  It wasn't until the principal stopped her at the door and had the nurse check her child that she finally agreed to do something.  It wasn't because her child had lice that she finally agreed to address it, it was because he wasn't going to be allowed back in the school until she dealt with it.
I had a "no tolerance policy" in my class, which was different from the district's policy.  Whether it was nit or the actual bug, the child went home.  Not all parents were pleased with this policy but if I had gotten lice I knew I would be absent for a while, which would mean a substitute.  Also, I reminded them of how it felt for the parent of the child who didn't have lice. So reluctantly, they all accepted their fate.
There are ways to get rid of the tiny parasites.  There are chemicals that can be used, but needless to say, there are pros and cons to using them.  There are also non-chemical alternatives.  With 35 years of classroom experience I have seen both methods used by desperate parents.
NIX used to be the chemical of choice, with a good combing, using a metal lice comb.  Unfortunately, we now have NIX resistant lice.  Recently, I heard of a new chemical, Sklice, which requires a prescription.  
If chemicals are not the route you want to take you might try the following, which was recommended by a parent and a  "Nit Picker" (yes, they do exist).
Step 1: Saturate the hair and scalp with Listerine (the original amber 
colored one.You don't want sugar in your hair.)Cover with a disposable 
shower cap, and let sit for hours.

Step 2: Douse the hair/scalp with vinegar.

This will help loosen the nits.

Step 4: Run conditioner through the hair to facilitate combing.(I was 
told to use coconut conditioner.We bought the Suave coconut.The girls 
loved it, and it's cheap.Double bonus.)

Step 5: The comb out!You'll need a lice comb, and you'll want a metal 
one with very small tines.I couldn't find metal at CVS, only at 
Walgreens.They sell this comb two pack, but the larger one is useless. I 
also recommend white paper towels and hair clips to section the hair.

Comb out, step A: Section the hair.

Comb out, step B: Comb through that section of hair in very small 
sections, wiping the comb on the paper towel after each stroke.Those 
spots you see, those are the nits.Make sure to always keep the same side 
of the comb up and to go at a 45 degree angles.I threw each paper in a 
plastic grocery bag.I used the ones with the small sheets, and that 
worked well.

Comb out, step C: Using a wooden skewer or similar, carefully examine 
each strand of hair and manually remove any nit you can see.

Comb out, step D: Repeat step B.

Comb out, step E: Continue repeatedly combing around the head until you 
can get a completely clean paper towel.

Throw out the bag of paper towels outside.

However much time you think this will take, triple it.  My daughter's 
hair is thick.It took 2.5 hours.

Step 6: Saturate the hair/scalp in olive oil.Cover in a shower cap and 
leave on overnight.This will suffocate the lice you missed. (Yes, you 
missed some.)

Step 7: In the morning, repeat the whole comb out.Expect it to take as 
long as it did the night before.Be prepared to wonder where in the 
*bleep* all the *bleeping* nits came from after you worked so hard the 
night before.

Step 8: Wash hair and put up.

Repeat the comb out with conditioner at least daily.Repeat the whole 
procedure every 2-3 days.Change the sheets and pillow cases daily and 
tumble dry the pillows on high between each changing.

We did everything outside.It's easier to see in sunlight, and it's less 
gross.We are fortunate to own an iPad, so I had my daughter watch 
Netflix to keep her happier.(Yes, for those keeping track, that is 5 
hours of Netflix!)We did the entire procedure on the whole family, 
despite the rest of us seeming to be lice free.In fact, we never found 
any nits on the rest of us, but we'll do the repeats on us as well.It's 
just so easy to spread within a family. Better to get out ahead of it.

We purchased a steam cleaning to clean the beds, rugs, couch, chairs, 
carpets, etc.

Before the above, we tried NIX and the Cetaphil treatment 
( think the Cetaphil 
treatment was unsuccessful because I didn't realize how to completely 
comb out.They may say you don't need to, but I disagree.I'm hoping that 
we don't need to repeat the Cetaphil as well because this is already 
really involved.

And, of course, you can also hire a professional "Nit Picker" 
but it can be quite expensive and you still have to clean 
your house.

Now that I have made your skin crawl and your head 
itch, I would like to remind you to take a look at my 
book---Daily Assignment: Effective Teaching 
Strategies, on

My next blog will be on December 
2nd. In the meantime, I hope you 
will take a look at past blogs for 
ideas to experiment with.
Please share this blog,and book, 
with colleagues and friends.

Best Effort,

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