Pages

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Nit Picking

I have a phobia.  Head lice.  Even the thought of them makes me start to itch, to want to scratch my head furiously.  I cannot bear the thought of them invading my hair, or that of my child.  Until having Pip, I had all but forgotten about the existence of the pesky head louse. Who gives ‘Pediculus humanus capitis’ a second thought in their twenties and early thirties? No one. They’re left behind with the memories of childhood; with faded recollections of the ‘Nit Nurse’ popping into the classroom once or twice a year and rummaging roughly through everyone’s hair, ruining well braided plaits and swinging bunches.  Unfortunately, like a bad dream I thought had gone forever, they’ve re-entered my life; and I’m finding that just the thought of the little blighters gets me quite agitated.

Last week, I received an email from Pip’s nursery.  It communicated that there had been an outbreak of head lice and requested that parents check their children’s hair and treat as necessary.   On his appointed nursery day, as I dropped Pip off in the morning, I noticed a sign on the door saying there had been 6 cases of head lice in his ‘learning’ room.  Practically breaking out in hives at the thought of it, I nearly turned tail and took my golden haired, lice free angel straight home. But instead, I gave myself a firm talking to, reminded myself that this was my one day a week to myself, (I was still going to have to pay for it whether he attended or not) and then subsequently left him, in the den of the louse, praying that he would not be infected.  By the time I picked him up late afternoon, the count on the door had increased to 7 cases.  It seemed the nursery was on the verge of a nits epidemic.

In the course of the day, my email had been flooded with further messages from the nursery about head lice.  Subject matter included a video link to ‘Lice Assassins’; the mega lice busters featured on Channel 4’s embarrassing bodies, who use a hoover, tweezers and all sorts of other paraphernalia to get rid of the most stubborn of critters. There was another email suggesting an ‘alternative remedy’ using olive oil and vinegar for parents who did not want to use over the counter pharmaceutical treatments on their child, plus, a few other suggestions forwarded from parents all jumping on the ‘Defeat the Nits’ bandwagon.

I sought out the frazzled looking duty manager, to try and understand why this sudden outbreak was upon us and joked slightly about the ever increasing head count of children being infected.  He was clearly stressed, and started to download. The conversation that followed was quite enlightening. 

He told me that nurseries are not allowed to check children’s hair for lice, and neither are they allowed to exclude them if they are infected.  He confided in me, that against the rules, he had however, checked some children’s hair that day, to try and stem the problem, and had asked one set of parents to collect their infected child.  But what really amazed me, as the conversation continued was the revelation that some parents he had contacted had been aware that their child had head lice when they dropped them off at the nursery that morning.  He also went on to tell me that another parent he had contacted was refusing to treat the problem as they were worried about the effect of using chemicals on their child’s hair, but had not, as yet found a suitable ‘alternative’ therapy.

Both of these admissions made my blood boil.  I accept that every parent has the right to choose how to treat the problem, but, treat it you must (by whatever method), and continuing to send an untreated child *that you knowingly are aware has head lice* into a nursery environment is, to my mind, inconsiderate and selfish.   I also appreciate that parents who go to work may struggle with last minute issues regarding alternative childcare arrangements if faced with a surprise head lice infestation but, I do not consider this an adequate justification for sending a child to nursery when you know that they have head lice.  It’s not fair to other children, their parents, staff at the nursery, and it’s not fair to the child that’s infected either. 

As a parent of a small child, I accept that head lice is a fact of life.  It’s incredibly common and there’s a reasonable chance that at some point at nursery or school age, they may come into contact with it.   If Pip gets it, I won’t like it, for him or for me, (trying to get a nit comb through my own hair will be a nightmare) but, the point I’m making is - as soon as I am aware of it, I will treat it. Immediately.

I check Pip’s hair regularly, and especially carefully on the days he has been to nursery. To some, I may seem a tad obsessive but so far, he’s been louse and egg free, and I hope to keep it that way.   After this recent spate, I’ve upped my defensive strategies.  We are now in possession of a Nitty Gritty metal comb.  After each bath and hair wash, I apply some leave in conditioner to his hair and run this through afterwards checking for eggs or lice.  I have been told that if you do this every three days, the likelihood is that you will catch any eggs before they hatch.  It’s not a cast iron guarantee, but if wet combing may help prevent an infestation in my son’s hair, then I’m happy to do it.
And just in case we do get unlucky,  I’ve got a bottle of treatment lotion in the cupboard, ready and waiting. So if on any occasion, I do catch a critter; hatched or unhatched, I can deal with it straight away.  And certainly, I won’t knowingly be sending my son out into the world to pass it on.








11 comments:

  1. I scratched my head reading this! I'm not surprised you needed to vent though as you must be feeling angry towards those parents who are knowingly sending their children to nursery with head lice. Sounds like you have it all in hand though, and are hopefully preventing any outbreak on Pip. I remember the nit nurse! I feel lucky in that I have never had nits before ... well I guess there is always a first time and could end up with them from Little A when she starts nursery. Hope this gets nipped in the bed soon. X

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am rather cross. I am sure these parents are in the minority, but it is still disappointing. I guess I had expected that as it was a nice nursery in a nice area it may not be an issue.(Naieve I know.). He is starting pre-school in September so will be leaving at the end of summer anyway.

      Delete
  2. I know of a family who doesn't treat head lice, either, just combs the hair and sends the poor child out with lice to infect all the other children and subsequently get reinfected himself. It's awful for everyone, because more responsible families are stopping their children playing with him (so they don't get infected) which isolates the poor child and confuses the uninfected children, as they don't really understand why they can't play with this child anymore. That school isn't allowed to exclude due to the human rights of the child. What about the human rights of all the others surrounding him / her not to be constantly infected? Disgraceful situation. Polly

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know, it's a difficult situation when you can't force parents to do anything about it, and can't exclude infected children either. It means there's no incentive for parents to fix the problem. What can you do?

      Delete
  3. that made me scratch my head too in more ways than one! TC doesn't go to nursery yet & no.1 child did but never got lice or any other critters, I don't remember there being an outbreak until big school when I refused to let them douse him in chemicals (I was way ahead of my time then) & he still didn't get any. Allegedly they like clean hair, which is all the more puzzling as his hair was washed daily, I've never had them either so maybe we give out No Camping Here signs on our heads :))

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know, I wasn't expecting this until big school, and even then was hoping it would never happen. My brother and I didn't have a problem with it when we were at school, it only surfaced when my youngest brother started school ( 5 years later) and unfortunately, his class was always having outbreaks. My mum then had to treat the whole family, and we ended up being horrible siblings and picking on my poor little brother the whole time because we were so sick of it. It was the case that there was a child in his class who's parents didn't treat him regularly enough (and to be fair he was one of 8 siblings so I'm sure, in that house, one or other of the children was often impacted) but, the dominio effect was very rapid, and very irritating.

      Delete
  4. Thankfully our primary school days are done and it's been 3yrs since the last affected head. I remember after one particular outbreak at school a parent actually saying ' you all keep telling me to check my sound hair for nits, but I dont know what they look like' another mother said I'll check for you.....i replied easy.....anything that is on your sons head other than a hat shouldn't be there and to remove it.....the child was riddled you could see them clearly.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thankfully I've not seen a real life infestation (and I hope I don't). But, this is what annoys me - it's easy to find out what you're looking for. Google, you tube, etc. Just one click and you can watch a video showing you exactly what to look for and what to do.

      Delete
  5. I can feel your frustration Mummy Plum. I also have the same anger when parents send children in with tummy bugs and fresh colds / coughs to spread around to all. J1 is currently suffering the consequences of the tummy bug I have mentioned. I understand the issues of child-care when you are working, having been in that very position myself, but never once did I send J1 unwell as I did not want him to spread it around and ultimately get it back! J2 contracted Foot and Mouth from nursery, and when I called them to alert them what J2 had been diagnosed with, they said 'Oh we know it's in the nursery but we can't stop the children that have it being brought in' WHAT?! So I am fully in cahoots of your frustration at this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks L, good to know someone else understands. I hope J1 is on the mend soon. x

      Delete
  6. Just the mention of the word has me itching too, we have luckily so far avoided this but i know the fateful day will come so im going to take your advice and get a comb and lotion in our cupboard ready.
    Thanks for the heads up on that one !!!
    Cat x

    ReplyDelete