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Well, we almost made it to four years with a clean bill of follicle health, but it seems that my smug superwoman cape has slipped. Yes, head lice have come to town. 

I’d spotted Mouse giving her head a few not-so-subtle scratches but put it down to attention seeking or, I don’t know, perhaps just a genuinely itchy scalp because of winter. I asked her where it itched, to be met with a wide sweep of her forearm across her entire upper body – “it itches here and here and here and here”. Fabulous.

I had a quick rummage through her hair, which is thankfully short but really bloody thick. All I could find were remnants of our pastry-based dinner the night before, definitely nothing crawling about having a party. Still, I picked up a nit comb (bloody £3 in Sainsbury’s!) and resigned myself to an evening of “detection” before I forked out on the lice treatment shizz.

Now, you know if someone yawns, you also feel the need to yawn? And if someone remarks to you that they have a headache, you also suddenly think that yes, you might have a headache too? Everything itched. “Do you itch?” I asked my husband. I’d forgotten, momentarily, that he’s bald as a coot and probably as enticing as Alcatraz for a head louse. “No. No, I do not itch. I think I’m safe.”

I’d been going at Mouse’s tresses for about 10 minutes and had found precisely nothing, but tensions were running high and patience was wearing thin. “One more quick go around your ears, and I’m done, I promise.” Then, the comb drew out an enormous beast of a louse. You could actually see its legs waggling around in protest at having been extracted from its cosy bed of golden locks. Now, I’d read that they can vary in size from 0.1cm to 0.6cm. This one was definitely in the morbidly obese category. “Can I keep it, mummy? As a pet?” Shudder. We found a couple more smaller lice, bringing our initial count to three. Isn’t it funny how the discovery of livestock festering in your child can make you quite reluctant to cuddle them? I air kissed her into bed and dispatched daddy for bedtime story duty, while I carted the wispy-haired and surely lice-free Moo off.

I remember when my brother had head lice as a child, and my mum wasn’t sure if the specimen she’d extracted from his head was actually a louse or not. I’d given her a petri dish with a little magnifying disk from my science kit, and she’d popped the dubious suspect in there to show one of her friends on the school run. Some days later, while doing the weekly shop, she reached into her coat pocket for a tissue and pulled out the petri dish in the middle of the rice and pasta aisle.

Anyway, I digress. The next day, I picked up some of the Hedrin treatment stuff, as well as some eucalyptus shampoo and leave in spray. Little tip for you frugal mammas – Savers. As in the shop. Less than a fiver for the proper merch, compared to £15 in Boots. The treatment is a bizarre self-foaming mousse substance, that’s akin to the scientific properties of antibacterial hand-gel in that it goes on like a flood and then suddenly dries off beautifully. You’re supposed to leave it on overnight and then wash it off, but we don’t do morning hairwashes in my house so on it stayed for a full 24 hours. That’d get the fuckers.

In the days that followed, I developed a questionable fascination with her scalp. Like one of those mountain gorillas off David Attenborough, I’d sit with my bellies rolling over the floor, legs astride, while inspecting my young for interlopers. Worse still, I discovered that daylight is kind when it comes to spotting them, so I could regularly be found hunched over her in public while scraping my false nails through her hair and squinting at her hairline. Nothing. Another few goes with the nit comb confirmed it. I felt a bit ripped off, to be honest. Three lice? Seriously? I’d seen all the photos on Pinterest (yes, really) of infested scalps and rotting corpses of lice on a tissue and I’d been quite looking forward to a full-scale massacre.

The nit comb went through the dishwasher a couple of times and I remained eagle-eyed to any scratching, but we seemed to have ridden out a very lacklustre storm. There’s something about Mouse that’s quite half-arsed when it comes to illness, I *think* she’s had chicken pox twice but nothing severe enough to warrant a vat of calamine lotion and six hours of Nick Jr. Ditto hand, foot and mouth. I imagine we’ll fall prey to the creepies again one day soon, though, and I’ll be ready – gorilla style.

As I’m here, you might as well have some facts about head lice that I’ve ripped off from NHS Direct.

–          They’re very small whitish or grey-brown insects that range from the size of a pinhead to the size of a sesame seed. The term “nit” refers to the hatched egg cases, not the live lice.

–          They are spread by direct head to head contact. They climb from one person’s hair to another’s.

–          They can’t fly, jump, or swim.

–          Boil washing clothes and bedding does bugger all to thwart them. So it was probably pointless dishwashing the detection comb.

–          They don’t have a preference for dirty, clean, thick, fine, short or long hair.

–          Once detached from the hair, lice will die after 12-24 hours.

–          Treatment sprays and lotions should only be used when an actual live louse is found.

Are you scratching yet?

-SJW March 2017

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