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Lice, Lice, Baby

Infestation management strategies that include bribery, screaming and fake hugs

There are two groups of people who should be wary about reading this post: people who grew up outside of Israel and people who have never had kids in the Israeli school system. I should probably add people who are at all squeamish to that list.

Venn diagram; who should avoid this post?
If you’re confused at all, check out the Venn diagram.

So, if you’re in both of the first two categories, and definitely if you’re in all three categories, you should probably stop reading now. Here, go amuse yourself with some Mel Brooks quotes. Wait, but don’t do that if you haven’t seen the movies before. Taken out of context, those quotes make Mel Brooks sound like a giant bigot. So watch the movies instead, and when you’re done with them, just scroll down to the dotted line.

Okay, they’re all gone? Everyone still reading has a stomach of steel and either grew up in Israel or has raised kids in Israel?


So, listen, my head is itchy.

Don’t worry, I don’t have lice! I went through my hair with my trusty ASSY 2000, so I know I’m good.

Assy 2000
The Slytherins all have the ASSY 2001, but they have more money than skill, so I’m not worried.

My kids, though…well, I have to admit that this is not my favorite aspect to the beginning of the school year.

Last year it began around Chanuka. I don’t even want to say how long it took until we saw the last of them. I would make sure to get every bug and egg out, throw the bedclothes in the wash, and… a few days later, the scratching would begin all over again. And over, and over, and over.

“Use the lice comb on them every single day, whether they have lice or not,” people say. People whose children don’t scream as loudly as mine do, I assume.

I used to be patient. I used to say, “Aw, I’m sorry that it hurts,” or, “I know, but you’re so brave!” or, “Once we’re done, we’ll have ice cream; won’t that be fun and delicious?” At this point, I’m more like, “Stop. Stop screaming. I already used the regular comb on you, and your hair has no knots in it; ergo, this does not hurt. I use this comb on myself all the time and it doesn’t hurt. STOP screaming. It DOESN’T hurt. Stop SCREAMING! IT DOESN’T HURT!!!” (For some reason, this plea is not as effective as one might think.)

My alternate method is more sneaky. (WARNING: If you have any doubts about how squeamish you are, skip this paragraph.) “Come here, give me a hug,” I say. And as soon as I have access to the tops of their heads, I start checking for bugs like it’s a plate of rice. I slide nits out of their hair like a ninja, without breaking a single strand. And when I find a bug, my fingernails get to work. Pow! It’s almost as satisfying as bubble wrap.

(I hope the people I told to stop reading really did, right? I hope they’re not hiding under the desk, following the whole conversation. If they are, they’re probably really sorry about that right around now.)

Bottom line, my kids don’t trust my hugs anymore.

Anyway, after all the sweat and tears, what finally did the trick for us was this “natural” non-poison spray that you leave in for ten minutes, then comb out. It’s supposedly not like conventional lice shampoo, and the lice don’t build up an immunity, so you can reuse it next time, etc. I think the ingredients are ylang-ylang, rainbows, butterfly kisses, and coconut oil. (Coconut oil fixes everything.) I’m kind of skeptical about the whole non-poison thing, because when I ran the lice comb through their hair afterwards, all of the lice were already dead. It was totally gross and also kinda cool. Oh yeah, semi-squeamish people, skip this paragraph, too. Retroactively. Or at least don’t picture all the dead bugs. (I said, don’t.)

Fun nostalgia: When my eldest was a baby and my visiting sister had lice, I went to a pharmacy and picked up some of that regular pesticidal lice shampoo. “But they build up a resistance, and it won’t work next time,” the pharmacist told me. “Next time, you’ll need to get a different kind.”

Ooookay, I’ll keep that in mind, because I’m sure lice have such a long memory, I thought sarcastically.

More the fool me! I mean, not in that particular situation, because we didn’t see lice again in our house for another few years, but seeing as I was a young married woman buying lice shampoo without saying whom it was for, the advice was solid.

All the Anglos I know are like, “You have to make kids with lice stay home from school! It should be a law! Somebody get me Rachel Azaria on the line!”

But, the argument goes, we already have so few days off compared with the number of days our kids are off. (The 11-13th of Tishrei? Why?) If we had to stay home whenever our kids got lice, we would never be at work.

But, the counter-argument goes, if we had to keep kids with lice out of school, then they wouldn’t catch it as often.

B’kitzur, Israelis making kids with lice stay home from school is like Americans switching to the metric system. We understand that, theoretically, it’s better for us in the long run, but the journey is just too painful to imagine.

We used the coconut oil spray (just to clarify, it doesn’t actually have coconut oil in it) the day before Yom Kippur. (This may be part of the reason why break-fast the next evening consisted of water, toast, and carob spread.) The bathroom still smells like coconut oil (again, not coconut oil). It seems to be keeping the lice at bay, so far. Here’s to hoping!

Meanwhile, I’m gonna go run that comb through my hair again.

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Hi, welcome back! How were the movies? Pretty outrageous, right? Don’t worry, you didn’t miss much over here. Thanks for being troopers; I’ll try and cater my next post to you guys.

About the Author
Tzippy grew up in the vicinity of Teaneck, "Ir HaKodesh." She made aliyah because there just wasn't enough kosher pizza.