Three years ago, a phone conversation with my best friend began the way many horrible talks do.
“I have terrible news,” she told me.
Now in our 40s, my best friend and I have shared many things in our relationship. We have known each other since we were 6, and now our daughters are good friends, too. I was fully prepared for her to tell me that someone close to us had died.
Instead, she told me something that was nearly as devastating to me at the moment: Her daughter had lice, and she thought my daughter might, too, since the two had spent the night at her house the day before.
My friend confessed that after discovering the lice late the previous night, she’d been up all night scrubbing, washing, drying things on high heat and sealing off pillows and stuffed animals in garbage bags.
My only reply: “Why in the world didn’t you call me sooner?” It was 10 a.m. at this point, and I had lost precious hours in the battle.
I immediately checked my kids. Two of three had head lice. That’s when I morphed into Psycho Lice Mom. The fear of shaving my 2-week-old’s precious brown curls drove me to obsess about evicting the bugs loitering on my children’s heads (don’t worry — she’s the one who didn’t have lice).
A frantic trip to the drug store netted $100 in products — shampoo, special nit combs, lice-killing sprays and even a $25 electric bug-zapping comb. I made everyone in the house use the shampoo – against the advice of the product directions – multiple times in a two-week period just to be sure. I checked everyone’s hair several times a day — OK, hourly – and “zapped” when necessary.
But I couldn’t stop there. I threw away throw pillows and sheets, spent hundreds of dollars to dry-clean bedding (professionally laundering king-size quilts and comforters is expensive) and put toys and stuffed animals in bags (some of which remain unopened in my garage to this day).
And here’s the clincher: Ultimately, after spraying lice-killing spray on our sofa – where one of my daughter’s was sitting when I made the gruesome discovery – I couldn’t stand the thought of the bugs or the chemicals. So, I got rid of the sofa, too.
Advice from the experts
However, according to new advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics, my cleaning frenzy to rid our home of head lice, now known as the “2007 lice incident,” was completely unnecessary. I’m sharing the AAP’s report and my story in hopes of sparing you the pain and suffering that I went through in the panic of ignorance.
Of course, we survived the ordeal, and thanks to the AAP, I’ll know better next time… though recounting the incident still makes my skin crawl.