Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Nit-picking. What mental image does that conjure up? A persnickety mother nagging at her children for a job done not quite well enough? If so, I salute you! More than likely many of you see an instant play-back of a scene you never want to repeat.

Let’s talk about head lice. Makes you scratch just remembering it, doesn’t it? Sorry, but with Thanksgiving coming up, I find myself thanking the Lord for a year free from head lice. How many of you can join me in saying “Glory Hallelujah!”?

For those of you not similarly blessed in 2010, my sympathies go out to you. All I can say is that I’ve been there, done that, and DON’T want the t-shirt OR a photo. No one in my family would have dared take a picture of me looking like a Smurf with a trash bag covering my mayonnaise-slathered head.

Another memory forever stamped on my brain is of sitting with my daughter for hours at a stretch, inspecting her hair strand by strand, then tapping the comb on a white piece of paper. It was revolting to see the number of teeny lice and egg sacks that dropped from the comb, but I must admit there was something weirdly gratifying about hearing that little click when I crushed each live egg with the surface of my thumbnail.

Two vital items for every missionary’s first aid kit are tea tree oil and a good metal nit comb. Not to be superstitious or anything, but in my experience it’s like carrying an umbrella to ensure it won’t rain. Leave it at home, and you’ll wish you had it. We haven’t had a single outbreak since I bought mine.

A couple of years ago, we were (scratch, scratch) on the verge of leaving for a summer furlough when I discovered a lice infestation on my own head and my daughter’s, too. I was absolutely desperate to get rid of the little buggers to avoid sharing them with unsuspecting supporters and hosts in the U.S. There’s nothing funny about spreading head lice to friends from Texas to Ohio.

Consequently I tried every antidote known to man, first starting with the lice shampoo sold at the local pharmacy, proceeding to attempt every home remedy on the internet (to no avail), and finally resorting to something my local friends guaranteed would work. We sprayed Raid in a glass, mixed it with oil, and then slimed that on our heads until every louse and egg was dead.

It worked all right, but getting those toxins out of my system was a long expensive process. I don’t recommend it, not even to prevent head lice at the in-laws’ house. Go for tea tree oil instead.

So, what are you thankful for this year?

IRL* Itching to see the response to the “louse-iest” post I’ve ever written.


  1. Oh my how I relate! I'm on my first term in Indonesia and I have a metal nit comb on my wish list when I take furlough! Me and my two toddler girls had lice several months ago. While I got their case resolved after two shampoo treatments, mine took more than 6 weeks to get rid of. My husband got good at finding nits (for better or for worse, right?). At the time, the city was sold out of lice shampoos. I think what finally worked for me was one treatment of the dog's shampoo for fleas and ticks. Ahh, the memories.
    So, what I'm thankful for today is though I won't get to enjoy turkey for Thanksgiving, I can make a pumpkin pie from scratch. Hooray! And ... there's always rice!

  2. Ah, yes, always rice! Well, I pray you have a joyous Thanksgiving with your pumpkin pie, anyway.

    I'd never thought of using dog shampoo. Speaking of which, that's on my list today to get one of the dogs to the vet to take care of a mutant tick that I am too squeamish to handle.

    Wouldn't a nit comb fit in an envelope for someone to smuggle in a letter to you? Might be worth trying unless furlough is right around the corner.

  3. I had to help treat an infestation at the little school my kids go to. It meant for weeks, going through heads at school looking for lice and then making some house calls where moms needed help.

    We learned that if you wet a head with vinegar, and leave a plastic bag on it for an hour so it stays wet, that it dissolves the glue that the eggs are attached to the hair with. Then the combing out with the metal comb is much more effective.

    I also learned that if you have boys, shaving their heads is the best option.

  4. I'm happy to report that we haven't had an infestation in years! You reminded me to be thankful for that!

    I will make you jealous and tell you that I'm thankful for a plump American turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. We celebrated early because we have a field-wide conference over Thanksgiving Day. Almost our entire team and half of another were able to join us Monday for a completely American Thanksgiving meal.

    We just returned from the U.S. and brought a turkey back with us just for this occasion. You should have heard the grumbling from my husband (about how much weight was in the car and how it wouldn't fit and how I always bring home foolish things), until he got to eat! =)

  5. I wish I could be thankful not to have experienced this in 2010! Alas, we find this is a "pest-y" situation that is ongoing every school year. But I am thankful that the two children God added to our family this year are BOYS - because head shaving is indeed a wonderful thing! :)

  6. I have three daughters with long, thick, curly hair. I honestly had nightmares about head lice for several years after a particularly bad infestation.

  7. Alas! we were "blessed" with a lice run in 2010 -- and it was on FURLOUGH, no less! Being a short summer furlough, we couldn't even deal with it in our own home -- talk about a lesson in humility!

    We caught the infestation early, so not many nits, but I was so frustrated that live bugs kept showing up! Finally, after no help from commercial products, we got some good advice from an elementary school principal. He told us to soak the whole head in mouthwash (any kind) and cover with a shower cap. Leave on for 4 hours, then rinse it out. Put on some conditioner for a bit, then comb out. He also recommended tea tree oil (says they put a few drops prophylacticly in their shampoo) and also recommended repeating the above treatment in 3 days or so. We didn't have to; it worked well the first time.

    SO -- I am thankful for good advice, loving (and patient) friends and hosts, and the prospect of a lice-less eternity!

  8. Strange that we, too, never encountered the little buggers while ON the field, but caught them on furlough from uh, a family wedding where everyone was sharing hairbrushes to primp.

  9. A "lice-less eternity" - now there's something to rejoice in.

    Ellie, I sure hope the bride was spared! What a crazy honeymoon that would make. Yuck.

    Yes to the tea tree oil in the shampoo or conditioner.

    Yes to shaving boys' hair and agony with thick haired girls.

    Actually the first time we got lice was coming back from our son's wedding. We got them on a first-class bus here in Mexico, or perhaps on the plane. We never knew which, but I've been paranoid of head rests ever since.

  10. Jamie, you crack me up! It is gonna take me awhile to get the mental sound of crunching out of my brain! I totally feel blessed with not having the nit-picking experience thus far! I feel blessed!

    Happy Thanksgiving! And to answer your question, I am Thankful that my mom will be here for Thanksgiving AND Christmas this year! This will be the third time in 15+ years that I will spend the Holidays with one of my family members!!! SOOOO EXCITED!!!!

  11. Woo-hoo, Tish! That's certainly something to rejoice in, having your mom with you over the holidays. Enjoy every minute with her. And I'm glad you don't personally know that crunching sound. We were lice-free the first 20 years on the field, and I always dreaded it. Maybe you'll escape forever.

  12. Sigh. AS I was reading this (I missed it before), my daughter came up to me and said her head was itching! Found lice - checked the other kids and found my son with it AGAIN. So how do you get rid of them without a dryer or hot water?? Tea tree oil is in all our shampoos.

  13. Sorry to hear about this. For whatever it's worth, we don't have a dryer either, but we hung everything out in the hot sun. Depending on where you live, this may not be an option. We put all stuffed animals and pillows and other non-washables in plastic bags for about six weeks. Supposedly lice can't live long without a host. I'm praying for you today. It's not the worst trial in the world by a long shot, but it sure is an awful nuisance you wouldn't wish off on anyone.


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