Blogger mom lesson: Here’s what not to do when your kid gets lice

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Last Thursday my almost 12-year-old daughter came running out of her bedroom shouting words no mother or father or otherwise caregiver wants to hear.

“Mom, I found this in my brush,” she shouted in sheer horror.

The horror was all mine when I turned to see her holding a single strand of hair with, gasp, a nit glued to it.

If you’ve ever had to deal with head lice, you know the initial reaction to a lice infestation, big or small, goes something like this.

Shave the kid’s head and burn the house down. Torch it all. They’re just things and hair grows back.

Of course, once the fury wears off (who am I kidding; THAT doesn’t happen) you decide that it’s not fair to punish your kid for having bugs in her hair. I mean, eww, amirite?

When you have more than one kid, the news in compounded by the sudden realization that, for the love of God, they probably all have it. And worse, OH MY GOD, I probably have it.

Everyone in the house begins to itch uncontrollably. The brain takes over and says, “hey, nasty — you’ve got bugs in your head, ITCH IT!”

And you do.

It was too late to do anything about the problem that night, but the following morning it was game on.

I’m not writing about this to shame my poor children — all three ended up with the dreaded lice — but rather so no one else ever, ever in the history of lice (those bastards can survive a nuclear holocaust, they’re not going anywhere) makes the same mistake I did.

Here’s what not to do, please feel free to laugh.

Don’t head to Walgreens to buy an over-the-counter lice treatment. A kit costs about $25 and when you’ve got three, well, do the math. The kit comes with two bottles of brain-frying chemicals and a comb that looks more like a torture device. There’s also a spray to treat upholstered furniture that may have a stray louse or two.

Don’t follow the directions and only leave it on your kids’ head for 10 minutes. Don’t then notice that none of those little blood-sucking sacs of sh*t have actually died and call your kids’ pediatrician in a frenzy.

Don’t ignore the still living bugs and take out the aforementioned torture device/comb and spend FIVE hours meticulously removing eggs that, I swear to God, are adhered to hair with a force more powerful than a thousand suns and superglue.

Don’t miss an entire day of work. Don’t enlist your boyfriend or ex-husband or the neighbor’s sister’s nanny to come over and take a turn nit-picking your poor, now back-broken child’s hair in the hot Florida sun on your it-should-be-cooler-than-this patio.

Don’t run through your house like a crazy person washing every pillow, blanket, sheet, stuffed animal, fluffy cat or anything else that seems like it may still have lice.

Don’t retreat again in three days and then again in three more. Don’t, and I repeat, DO NOT fry your kids’ scalp with chemicals.

Why? Lots of reasons.

One: it can’t be good for your kids’ head.

Two: It doesn’t effing work!

When I said those jerks could survive a nuclear holocaust, I wasn’t joking. Lice have this sneaky little way of out-maneuvering the chemicals once thought to be effective in killing them.

And even if a chemical kills the bugs, it probably doesn’t kill their eggs — even if the box says so.

Instead, bust out your check book and hire a professional nit-picker. I’m totes fo’ realzies.

These people exist. And they’re not as expensive as you might think. I had a woman come to my house and de-louse all three of my girls and make sure I was louse-free for about $200. (I won’t say who it was because I don’t want to be a commercial, but it was the best money I’ve ever spent!)

She didn’t use a chemical — not a one. And she did all three of them in, get this, THREE HOURS. I spent five hours. My boyfriend spent a couple of hours. My ex-husband spent the better part of a weekend. His wife pitched in a few hours and a forklift full of laundry-doing. Grandma even came over for a bit. AND THERE WERE STILL LICE!

So this chick spent an hour each per kid and gone. Poof. All better. Plus she left us with one of her nifty combs (still looks like a torture device, but this one actually worked.)

She used oil, the comb, her fingers, an odd looking light-up magnifying mask and a little crash course lice education and said, if we listen, we should never have to call her again.

While she did say cleaning linens and dirty clothes are a must and vacuuming the couches is advisable, it’s not likely the kids will get any new outbreaks if they just follow her five-minute-per-day tip.

Run the torture device through your hair before bed.

So, what did this ordeal cost me? A day of work, a few hundred bucks in total and my sanity. But I’m fairly certain I’ll never screw it up so royally again.

You’re welcome!

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email