One thing I've learned from the Lice Crisis is that lice are not as easy to spot as you might think. I brush G's hair for her every morning and help her rinse it in the shower, and I still didn't notice the little buggers until they were practically doing the samba on her scalp, mostly because I didn't know what to look for.
A few real-life friends have asked me this week how they would know if their child had lice, and since I've become an unwilling expert, I thought I would share a few tips for finding and removing them:
- Lice themselves are tiny, fast-moving brown bugs with a lot of legs. You probably won't see them in regular lamplight or indoor light. I finally found them on G by looking at her head under bright morning sunlight.
- Nits are tiny sesame-seed-shaped objects that are attached to one side of a single strand of hair. They're either yellowish brown or white/clear, depending on whether they've hatched or not. You'll find most of them around the hairline, especially behind the ears and at the back of the neck, but they're not limited to those locations, so be sure to look everywhere when you're picking.
- Nits are also glued onto the hair and either have to be combed out or pulled out individually with your fingernails. If you can brush it off or blow it away, it's not a nit.
- Plastic nit combs are crap. Buy a metal one. I got one from CVS that has two interchangeable combs, an attached magnifying glass, a pair of tweezers and a cleaning brush for about $10. I also bought the electronic RobiComb, but it only works on live lice and I'd already eradicated all of those by the time I started using it, so I can't vouch for how well it works.
- Combing will get a lot of the nits out, but nowhere near all. To get the stragglers, you have to pick. Make sure you actually verify that the nit has been removed (you can wipe it off on a wet paper towel) because sometimes they'll slide all the way down to the end of the hair strand and then stick there. Conditioner helps with this part.
- If your kid has thick hair like G does, you will need to section it off with clips while you pick. I've been clipping it up the way hairstylists do at salons and working on the underneath layers first, then the top ones.
Moving on, I only found four nits during this evening's session, and all but one of them were dead/empty, so I think we're winning the war, or at least this skirmish. I'm pretty sure I'll never use the terms "nitpicking" or "going through it with a fine-tooth comb" quite so blithely again, though. And given what I do for a living, I use them both a lot.