Friday, April 27, 2012


Graphic / Label design: Deviant Art / Adam Emery
My kids came home with lice on Tuesday.

The news of their new 'pets' launched me into a 24-hour natural-remedy makin', shampoo'n, nit-pickin', laundry-doin' bender.

Since I had learned that morning that one of my daughter's friends was dealing with the issue - combined with the fact that I had just finished editing an article on key essential oils to have in your medicine cabinet - I stopped by Whole Foods after my chiro appointment to grab some oils and prepare for the worst.

Initially, I didn't see anything in Daughter's hair. Neither did Husband. But we kept rooting and rooting through her massively dense head of dark brown hair and blam-o! Something moved. She had 'em. And so did Little Guy.

By 4:30 that afternoon, I was stripping all of our sheets off of beds and making giant piles of laundry on the living room floor to determine what needed to be washed first so that we'd all have covers to sleep under that night.  And since we have never dealt with lice before, I sent Husband to the nearest pharmacy for a lice comb, cheap vodka* and shower caps.

I called the school around 5 pm, to find out when the kids could go back to school, if I was treating them that night. The man on the phone (possibly the Vice Principal, I didn't catch his name) told me both kids could return to school the next day, so long as we treated them that night and sent them to school with the label from the box of shampoo we had bought as treatment.

It isn't toxic, and it doesn't come in one box.
Me: "Uh. I'm using a natural remedy of essential oils, olive oil and vodka. Do you want me to peel the label off the vodka?"

Him: (slight laughter) "Hold on. Let me ask."

I heard him relay my method of treatment to the Principal. Then I heard her snicker and say in a really snide tone, "No. We use a 'conventional' treatment."

I felt bilious rage rising from the depths of my tummy to the back of my throat. My core temperature shot up about 12 degrees.

Me: "I'm not putting those chemicals on my kids. So...when can they come back?"

Him: "The day after tomorrow." 

Me:  "Fine, I'll send them in on Thursday."

I. Was. Furious.  

But I had no time to be angry**. I didn't even have time to do the heebie jeebie dance that I so deserved to do.  The rest of the night was a frantic blur: mixing batches of our regular shampoo with blends of Tea Tree, Lavender and Eucalyptus oils; conditioning with olive oil; picking, picking, picking; rewashing; spraying with vodka; conditioning again; picking, picking, picking.

I boiled combs and brushes. And with the use of a neighbor's dryer, by the end of the night, we each had a hot, nit-free pillow to sleep on under clean sheets and blankets.  Both kids went to sleep with olive-oil soaked heads hidden underneath plastic shower caps.

The bottle is unopened. The purple comb is worthless.
To say I slept that night would be a bit of an understatement. It wasn't until 11:30 that I was able to wash my own hair and have Husband check me for ... friends ... (and I for him)***. The next morning, I leapt out of bed at 6 am, grabbed a pile from the living room floor and headed to our basement to continue washing everything we owned that could have possibly come in contact with our kids heads. By 9 am, I was at the nearest beauty supply store looking for a metal lice comb. As it worked out, Husband couldn't find just a lice comb on his Tuesday pm shopping spree, so he ended up buying the cheapest bottle of 'nationally recognized' lice elimination shampoo, which came with the worst, plastic nit comb.  

After another morning of washing .. just to make sure I got it all, I spent another 3 hours picking nits from the hair shafts of my children, in between running up and down three flights of stairs to keep up with my laundry.

By 5 pm, the kids appeared nit free and I had finished about 11 loads of laundry: only 2 more to go.  I sat down and started to do my research on the chemicals in 'traditional' shampoos, as well as more research on my natural remedy.  I penned a letter to the Principal.  

Wanna see it?

Dear Blah-Blah:

I was very disappointed with what I believe was your response to my phone inquiry on Tuesday pm re when my children could return to school, after I had treated their lice/nits with a natural remedy on Tuesday afternoon.

I believe I heard you tell the man who was handling my call that I had to prove I was using a "conventional" treatment or wait 24-hours before I could send the kids back to school. 

A few points, because I think there is a misunderstanding about how lice can be effectively treated.

1)  The use of essential oils, vinegar, vodka and olive oil is considered a conventional treatment, it simply excludes the use of toxins, such as piperonyl butoxide and pyrethrum extract.

2)  I'm attaching a photo of the ingredients I used to treat the live lice and nit shells for both kids.  All legit, safe and found in my home pantry and medicine cabinet. 

3)  I understand that the lice protocol is in the CPS handbook and that is what you may have been enforcing.  It is worth pointing out that anyone can buy a $12.00 box of RID or comparable poison and turn in the box to 'prove' treatment.

4)  I'm attaching a photo of the RID that we bought last night only because we needed the lice comb (it's the purple one in the picture, and it is a really awful lice comb).  The product is completely unused.

5)  I'm attaching a variety of links that outline conventional, non-toxic treatments of lice which support my treatment preference. Please note that the "Licenders" link (which, is not the product I've used) specifically says that "It is possible to get rid of lice w/out oil...or shampoo.  Technically...combing out the lice, if done properly and repeatedly on a daily basis, is enough to get rid of a lice problem." ( (

6)  Perhaps, the CPS policy should require parents bring in a used - and dirty- lice comb to prove their child has been treated. It matters very little whether it is a chemical or a natural, food-grade oil that kills living lice: it's the tedious job of combing that gets the job done well.
I have gone through the laborious task of washing and drying ALL of the bedding and clothing that could have been infested, which seems to be AS important as combing out nits. I will comb out their hair before bed tonight and check for nits in the morning. I will print out these attached images and include them in the notes to their teachers.


Educational, right? A little snark slipped out of me with points 3 and 6, but generally speaking, I kept it cool. 

Wanna see her response?

"Thank you for your response.  I have enclosed the CPS policy on the handling of lice.  I’m sure you understand that as an employee of CPS, I am bound to uphold their policies.  This particular policy calls for outbursts to be treated with this special shampoo.  I do appreciate your compliance, especially since it does not conform to your personal, preferred method."

If you want to see the lamest policy on lice, go on and Google "Chicago Public School Lice Protocol".  An empty bottle of pediculicide (look it up; it's used almost interchangeably with the word 'pesticide') is all they need as 'proof' that parents have treated their kids and can come back to school.  I'm still uncertain why my empty flask of vodka wouldn't have worked. 

I hope at least one of you reading this is pissed off. 

In short, she didn't read my letter. If she did, she'd realize I DIDN'T comply. She didn't need to send me the CPS protocol either ... I had indicated in the letter I had read it, because I'm like that. I do my homework.

She also proved to me that she and the CPS have limited interest in the wellness and well-being of our children.  To say that spreading toxins on their heads is the best way to deal with lice is ridiculous. To ignore the fact that any asshole can bring in a box  or empty bottle label and say they did their job is pretty flimsy (why not a baggie full of nits and dead lice? how about video footage of laundry being washed and dried?).  She's following a stupid policy that doesn't solve the problem (FYI - the bugs are getting smart and developing an immunity to those pediculicides) and she's defending it.

She's defending it poorly.

I am still livid. I just don't know what to do about it. I don't know that I have time to start up some kind of CPS Toxic Avengers Gang nor a Facts of Lice Task Force. It would be like banging a lice-ridden head against a concrete wall (not an effective way to destroy nits).  My gut instinct is to become a fat pain in her ass, calling unnecessary meetings and then scratching my head until my scalp weeps blood down my forehead and neck in her tiny office.

The nit issue seems to be under control. I'll continue to comb my kids hair daily with the nit comb...and then soak it in a vinegar and boiled water. Only time will tell if I cleaned all of the upholstery and beddings and pillows appropriately.  And if it comes back again, I will use my own treatment.  Although for shits and giggles, I may just draw a picture of a louse dry humping someone in the school administration on the back of the RIT box when I need to seek readmittance to the school.

I said it once, and I'll say it again.


*  We had a bottle of Grey Goose and Stoli in our liquor cabinet.  I may be trying out this 'natural' thing, but I'm no dummy. Top shelf vodka does not belong on a lice-ridden head. Husband came back with a $7 flask of "McCormick's" vodka: the preferred hootch of our local homeless folk.

** I had time to be angry ... and I was steaming, hot mad ... I just couldn't focus on the rage. I managed a quick call to my friend who I knew would support my anger and I shot out a nasty Facebook post about the bullshit 'label' policy.

*** Neither of us had lice or nits.   Regardless, I still can't stop scratching.

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