Fun Facts about Lice

You didn’t think there was such a thing as a fun fact about lice, did you? Okay, full disclosure, the word fun might just be in there for the sake of illuminating alliteration. But I stand by the information, and you might want to read it in case you ever find yourself going head to head with a louse.

  • Lice are icky. The bugs themselves might not think so, but most humans who host them on their heads do so involuntarily and with a grimace once they discover the pests.
  • They like to hide. When looking for lice on the head of a human, be sure to check behind the ears and at the nape of the neck. You’re more likely to find them there, especially if they’re new residents.
  • The eggs are sticky. While the lice are black and creepy, the eggs are whitish and stationary and called nits. They stick to the hair. So if you see something white in your (or someone else’s) hair, and it can easily be blown or brushed off, this is not a nit. Also, if you find something white on the scalp: not a louse egg. (Yay!) The nits stick to the hair and need to be pulled off. Imagine putting your nails on either side of something small, oblong, and kind of like almost dry Elmer’s glue, and needing to slide it down the hair in order to get it off. That would be a nit.
  • They’re not just after your hair. Lice can live on furniture, clothing, bedding, rugs, and stuffed animals for a whole day without any humans. But they ultimately need humans, so if they come in contact with one when they’re in the bedding, they will hop right on.
  • You can get rid of them! It’s hard though. There’s a reason they’re called a plague! Like all living things, lice need oxygen. So if you’re not into pouring poison on your head, you still have oxygen deprivation options. Some people accomplish this by coating their hair in mayo and covering with a shower cap. This does work. Whether you go through your head before or after this amazing spa treatment to remove bugs and eggs one by one, you’re going to want to be sure to include that step, too. Doing enormous amounts of laundry is also highly encouraged.
  • You can prevent lice from coming. This isn’t a full guarantee, so don’t come after me if it doesn’t work, but keeping your hair short or put up will help keep lice way. Don’t share hats. Never try on hats at a store (your mom probably told you that). And use a shampoo with tea tree oil. This is gross to lice, but still helps you smell like a clean human.

Is your head itching?

Sorry about that.

But another thing you can learn about lice is that you cannot get them through the power of suggestion. If they weren’t hanging out on your head a minute ago, they’re not there now. If you want, if you live nearby, we can meet up and I can check your head. I am an expert lice checker with over 20 years of experience.

Fun thing to have on a resume, I know. But it’s helpful.

And now if you’ve stomached this story all the way to here, you might be wondering why I’m even talking about lice. Thank goodness it’s not because I have them! Nor does anyone in my house. I just wanted to share this information with you because I can. Because I’ve been there. Because I know.

And it’s helpful, isn’t it? Not fun. That was maybe misleading. But if you get lice, you know what to do now, right? Because I wrote it down… and shared it with you… based on already knowing what to do myself.

Just like in this week’s Torah portion! Yes, Tazria/Metzora is the double portion read this week, and while not about lice, it goes into definitely-not-fun detail about how to treat skin issues. How do you know when the contagion period is? How long does it last? What should you do to treat the person? When should they be isolated?

Well, if you ever get stuff oozing out of your skin, what would you do? Maybe… go to a doctor? Because a doctor has more experience with this than you do?

(Just like I have more lice experience. Not to brag, or anything.)

Back in the desert after leaving Egypt, those “doctors” were called priests. The priests were the ones who knew about puss and blood and contamination and cleanliness. As much as anyone could know in those days, anyway.

These days people often look at the leprosy parts of the Torah and say, “Ew, this is icky.” I cannot disagree. But it was important. It still is important, we just deal with it differently these days.

Wishing you a shabbat shalom, and a day – followed by a lifetime of days – without icky stuff happening on your body. But since that’s probably not going to happen, may you have someone to go to for help.

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About the Author
Esther Goldenberg is the founder of Out-of-the-Box Judaism. www.OutoftheBoxJudaism.com Esther is passionate about Jewish life, Israel, and living your religion in the way that's meaningful to you. She lives with her family in the U.S., but spent time living in Israel and goes back frequently to breathe in the air of the mountains, seas, food, and culture. Her mission is to make Judaism accessible and interesting, regardless of how you choose to use that information in your life. She is the author of five books, including The Out-of-the-Box Bat Mitzvah: A Guide to Creating a Meaninful Milestone and the host of The Out-of-the-Box Judaism Podcast. Her latest book, A Story Every Week (Three Gems Publishing, Sept. 2018) has stories that connect the ancient Torah portions with modern life, and can be preordered at http://bit.ly/preorderAStoryEveryWeek
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