When it comes to lice, our kids get off lightly

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Ispent an interesting Friday night last week helping a friend of mine treat her entire family for head lice. It’s one of those subjects that we hate to talk about – it makes us feel like embarrassingly bad parents, like our homes aren’t clean and our children need to be quarantined.

It’s amazing how something so tiny can be so powerful. Just thinking about them can have you scratching your head and speeding to the pharmacy for a just-in-case-treatment. In fact, I guarantee you will have scratched your head at least once by the time you finish reading this!

My son has had two bouts of the little critters in his life. The second time it went on for months and as much as I tried, I could not get rid of them.

Verging on tears, I dragged myself down to Boots for the umpteenth time to spend another week’s wages on various treatments when I discovered the Nitty Gritty Comb, which frankly saved my life – or at least my hair. I think every household should have one of these, and they’re not even paying me to say that.

He moaned constantly through the treatments of course; mainly because it meant he actually had to sit still for a minute – but these kids today, they don’t even know how easy they’ve got it.

Back in the ’80s people were still under the belief that lice could hop, swim and bungee jump from one head to the other and that they could survive on our clothes and upholstery. So with the discovery of head lice in my waist-length hair when I was a child came a fullscale cleansing of the house – carpets were scrubbed, curtains came down and bedding was boiled to within an inch of its cottony existence.

Not only that, but the odourless products that are available now are practically hot oil treatments compared to the eye-watering, scalp-melting stuff they used back then.

Now we know that head lice don’t survive for long off of the head and away from the heat – though it’s a good idea to wash the bedding anyway to get rid of any debris. Lice don’t discriminate against social status either and they’re not as fussy as we think. Long, short, straight, curly, clean or dirty – like tiny little backpackers on a budget, they will quite happily set up residence in hair from every kind of household.

You would be lucky to get through parenthood without ever having to deal with this. It’s one of those unfortunate inflictions on the human race, like flies in summer and the sniffles in winter.

With 100 children to a school and all that rough and tumble in the playground, head-to-head contact is inevitable and even though we have better products these days, it doesn’t make them any less revolting or traumatising to deal with (though my friend and I did find a large glass of wine helped us through last Friday).

Other than shaving off all of their hair, all you can do is check their hair regularly with a good comb and treat when necessary.

So did you manage not to scratch your head? No, me neither.