Lousy Parenting: One Family’s Experience with Head Lice Removal

Nothing sends a family into a fury like Pediculus humanus capitis—a.k.a. head lice

Illustration: Rachel Harris

The scratching should have been your first clue. For weeks, your five-year-old has been gouging the flesh behind her ears like a Great Dane, sometimes until she bleeds, yet you never put two and two together. Then one day she comes home from school in pigtails, even though you hadn’t sent her off that way. So you call the school, and Nurse Martha—a woman who knows her nits—says, Yes, your child has lice.

Lice! The black plague of the Hello Kitty set!

After reading that the females live for 30 days and lay eight nits a day, you—mortified and suddenly itchy—go to Walgreens and buy a lathery insecticide for $14.99 and the humiliating little comb. Then you go to work on your daughter’s hair, feeding her M&M’s with toxic fingers to stop her screams of protest. Twenty minutes later, you think, That’s that and figure you’re done. The next day she’s still scratching. You part her hair at the nape and see the black bugs scurrying from the light. Same story on top. Dozens of them: scurrying, fornicating. You learn that lice have built up a resistance to several over-the-counter treatments. Lice laugh at that stuff from Walgreens. So you Google “Chicago lice removal,” find a handful of delousing companies with cutesy names—Lice Busters, Nitpickers, Happy Hair—and choose the closest one.

Oh, we can squeeze in your daughter tomorrow, says the soothing woman who answers the phone at Hair Fairies, the kid-friendly salon in Lincoln Park. It’s $95 an hour, one-hour minimum. Money-back guarantee. Fine, whatever. What time?

Other than the adorable framed photo of a stuffed louse at the front desk, Hair Fairies seems like any kids’ hair cuttery: clean, colorful, scented with eucalyptus. There’s free candy and a play area. A cheerful woman in hospital scrubs gives your tyke a portable DVD player and proceeds to break up the raging louse party on her skull. She combs the hair, wets it, applies a cream to help loosen the eggs, applies an herbal shampoo that’s supposed to inhibit breeding, and repeats—inspecting every single strand. It takes awhile. You ease onto the immaculate leather couch with other shell-shocked parents and hear their laments.

My daughter hasn’t been allowed at school for a week.

My son refuses to cut his hair. We’re here for the third round this year.

My daughter was uninvited from a sleepover. Everyone knows why.

My neighbor spent $3,000 on her four kids and their nanny.

You examine the paperwork and read that the money-back guarantee is valid only if your child undergoes three to four treatments and the entire family also gets checked (at $95 an hour each). And if you want to avoid future visits, you might look into a special shampoo ($25), conditioner ($27), laundry additive ($20), repellent spray ($14), hand soap ($10), and nit-zapping comb ($12)—all of which are available at Hair Fairies, of course. Just as you’re cursing the place, your child’s nit-picker calls you over to show you a white towel covered with black spots. Those spots represent 45 bugs and 100-plus nits, pulled from your daughter’s head while she was lost in her Pixar paradise. You pony up another $50 to get your own head checked.

“When can we go back?” your daughter asks on the way home, her braided hair declared lice-free, her belly full of Smarties. Never, you think, but you know that you’ll be back, and you’re overflowing with fury, not just at the Hair Fairies—who’ve got you by the scalp, and they know it—but at whatever awful parents sent their mangy kid to school to infect innocent children. It’s only later, when you hear another girl in the class rhapsodizing about her own trip to Hair Fairies, that you realize you might be the guilty one.





3 years ago
Posted by Richard Pollack

Interesting story, but was this nit-picking experience necessary and justified? For those who wish to hire such a service and can handle the costs, then so be it. Be aware that workers in such establishments often diagnose and treat (yet they may not be licensed as clinicians) or cut hair (yet they a may not be licensed as beauticians). Furthermore, products that many such establishments sell and apply may not have been suitably tested for efficacy or safety, or be registered by FDA or EPA. Clients should not be compelled to patronize such providers or even to be rendered free of nits. The expectation that a child be free of nits has no medical or scientific basis. Readers may find it insightful to refer to position statements by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association of School Nurses, and the CDC. Links to these reports, and educational information and guidance I formerly hosted at the Harvard School of Public Health, are now available at https://identify.us.com.

3 years ago
Posted by Clearlice

We tried everything to battle our son's head lice for three months, so we can truly relate to the incredibly stressful situation described in this article. After extensive research and testing, we worked with a chemist to develop a revolutionary natural lice treatment, and lice cannot become resistant to it!

Clearlice offers a 100% natural, four-step complete head lice treatment and removal system that will safely, and without toxic chemicals, eliminate lice and nits from your home in one day – and keep them from coming back.

Our products are much cheaper than going to a place like Hair Fairies. Kids will enjoy the quick and easy treatment in the comfort of their own home, and be back at school the next day. We also offer an unconditional 60-day money back guarantee. Visit our website for videos, reviews, and to order Clearlice.


3 years ago
Posted by Rachel

i know what that's like! One of my children has platinum blonde hair, and we couldn't even see the lice until it was too late! Imagine trying to pick lice out of a 2 year old's hair, nit, by nit, by nit...

However, there's really no reason to spend so much money on getting rid of lice. Simply use margarine (leave it out a little to soften it up) and smear it throughout your child's hair.

Once you're sure your child's hair is completely saturated, cover their head with a shower cap. Between the margarine and the shower cap, those little buggers will be history!

3 years ago
Posted by ParentCoachAtlanta

Oy! I have been there. I found Lice Ladies of Atlanta and what a God send! Jenny came to my home and hooked us up. It was less expensive than your salon but after THREE failed treatments, and 12 hours of nit picking (total, not in one sitting), I was DONE! I would have paid anything to get rid of the problem.

Thanks for posting!


3 years ago
Posted by ParentCoachAtlanta

I have been there and I was so frustrated with the hours I spent in vain trying to get rid of head lice myself. I couldn't believe my kids had lice (oh, and I had it too). I used Lice Ladies of Atlanta and Jenny was amazing. She came to our home and got rid of the problem. She came again to recheck and we were all clean. Jenny gave clear instructions on how to prevent re infestation and gave us a special comb to use (those plastic ones at the drug store are worthless).

3 years ago
Posted by Research Doc

Richard P.: Your ongoing statement "The expectation that a child be free of nits has no medical or scientific basis." Is "FALSE"! Numerous patients seen at my Family Practice with live lice and viable nits must manually remove the head lice in order to take care of there infestation. The latest Clinical Research shows that there is no product Prescribed or OTC works 100% even if applied correctly. Patients have a better chance in managing there infestation if they manually remove the viable nits and live lice. This is proven through recent clinical research and in doctors offices worldwide. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association of School Nurses, and the CDC are "NOT" stating your comment "The expectation that a child be free of nits has no medical or scientific basis." The way your portraying
this statement is Medically and Clinically FALSE.

3 years ago
Posted by Richard Pollack

To anonymous 'research doc': We'll have to agree to disagree. Just because no individual product is 100% effective after a single application doesn't mean that these are completely ineffective. Indeed, you'd be hard pressed to find any drug that is 100% effective in treating any condition. Hence, the outcome you expect is unrealistic. For head louse products, two well-timed applications will often do the trick to eliminate the lice. If the lice are resistant to the active ingredient, then it makes sense to select another product based upon a different class of active ingredient. Manually removing lice and nits is an option for those who wish to pursue that strategy. As you should note in the medical literature, manual removal also falls shy of the 100% efficacious goal. The only thing that would be fully successful is to shave the scalp, but this is not a reasonable pursuit for most folks. So, they may either pick lice & nits, or treat, or some combination thereof. Note that most nits on a person's head hair will be non-viable (dead or hatched). Hence, these are merely relics and are of no significance, whatsoever. Accordingly, removing nits is NOT medically necessary to eliminate an infestation. They need not be removed, unless it is just for aesthetic reasons.

3 years ago
Posted by Caroline

For those of you who have been battling head lice may want to try a new treatment that is available called the LouseBuster. It uses only warm air to quickly eradicate all stages of head lice in one treatment without the use of chemicals. When my daughter had head lice that I just couldn't seem to get rid of no matter what I tried, my mother-in-law told me of an article she had seen in Time magazine featuring the LouseBuster Device. I did some research and found a local service provider that came to my home to provide the treatment. After the treatment the head lice were gone, I didn't have to do any follow ups and the prices were fair. I couldn't be any happier with the service I received I would recommend them to anyone. I just wish I would have known about this service at the onset. The name of the company was Nit Free Noggins the website is www.nitfreenoggins.com

2 years ago
Posted by TeachMom

I just called this service, Caroline, and the price was very reasonable, at $195. However, they couldn't get me in until noon the next day, which would have reinfested my children. So, I went the more difficult route and had a friend do the old "treasure hunt" through my scalp. It's good to know that it really does work, though. It would be a viable option if, God forbid, this horrible thing every happened, again.

2 years ago
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2 years ago
Posted by leonediamond

My son had lice and was sent home from camp. He was very upset until we found the solution. We bought clearlice from clearlice.com and we saw fast results. He was back at camp and happy faster than we expected.
Thanks clearlice

2 years ago
Posted by Caroline S. Conell

we have been enjoying our summer break all thanks to clearlice. I am one of those people who checks their childs head very often since she started school because i freak out even over the word lice. So just imagine how I was when my oldest daughter came home and said that her head was itchy. I looked and looked and to my horror I found them crawling around I almost went into shock. I checked everybodys head in my house and found them on my toddlers head and in mine. I had my husband run to the nearest drug store to get the over the counter stuff to kill them and clean the house. Well after a very long night I was finally done everyones head cleared and the whole house reeked of chemicals. The next morning when I woke up I could hardly chatch my breath I suffer from asthma, but I had no idea that I would have a reaction like that. We were free and clear for three weeks and bam she comes home from school again with headlice I know she was clear because I checked heads everyday. I was about to lose my mind over this I reaserched everything I could to get rid of them without and nothing worked. I was crying everynight until I found your website and I got excited so I ordered the family of four package and the next day it was at my door step. We used it and no tears no problems no allergic reaction plus the house smelt great my daughter said mommy the house smells like candy canes and I could not help but laugh because it did. I just want to thank yall once again for saving my sanity and summer break.

2 years ago
Posted by Jonathan Pierre

For 2 months my wife and kids went thru a very difficult time due to lice. We tried all the over the counter products with negative results. We finally tried Clearlice and got rid of the lice. Your product did what it said it would. I would give your company and products a five out of five!!

2 years ago
Posted by Notenoughhours

I live in Atlanta, 4 girls with long thick hair, and all 4 were sent home from school. Omg, panic city. I googled and Family Lice Removal was the first to call me back and within minutes I had an appointment set up. Melanie showed up like Glenda the Good witch, so calm, easy going, knew exactly how to interact with kids (she was an elementary school nurse before), while she went to town removing those nasty bugs and nits. She charges a flat fee of $150 per treatment. So knowledgeable, told us to forget crazy stuff we read about lice on the internet, She has this preternatural calm about her...even taught me exactly what to do if heaven forbid it happens again so that I can maybe handle it myself. I'll probably call her anyway because the girls loved her and it was g-o-n-e.

1 year ago
Posted by choosesuccessnicole

Clearlice worked great. My daughter got lice from a girl at school when when she borrowed her jacket, then I got it, and also my son. I was so frustrated and embarrassed, that I didn’t know what to do. I went to the doctor, and they treated me like I had the plague or something. They gave me a perscription which did not work, then we tried over the counter stuff, and that didn’t work either. I finally did some research online and found clearlice. It worked great, I could see the dead lice coming out of our hair while rinsing the product out. Give this stuff a try, it works better than anything else out there!

1 year ago
Posted by mishti

Clearlice most definitely stopped my nightmares. I was beginning to wonder if we would ever get rid of them! The family pack we purchased had enough products that we are still using the conditioner. It’s been awhile since we’ve seen any new nits, but we had enough shampoo to do “spot” treatments anytime we found a few stray nits. It was SO nice to just keep on treating and not have to worry about toxicity!

1 year ago
Posted by parul

I treated my daughter TWICE with over the counter products, cur her waist length hair to her shoulders and combed nits every night for two weeks before getting the Clearlice. We followed the directions and were nit and lice free after ONE TREATMENT. TRULY AMAZING. If you are put off by the cost, don’t be. Your time, energy and nerves are well worth it

1 year ago
Posted by Elaine1

I am a beliver that Clearlice is the best product on the market today. We had them bad, in our hair, in our beds and cloths before we knew it….we tried everything that you can buy from the store, and spent a lot of money, treating and retreating, all that done was basically pissed them little biting buggers off. So I went online and found Clearlice, ordered it, and it worked instantly. We washed all our cloths and sprayed beds.

Yes, I am living testomiony that this product works, and works fast, and I will tell anyone who ask me how to get rid of lice.

1 year ago
Posted by Bethany

This product really does work. Most people try pesticides when they find out their children have lice. I learned first hand that those products do not work. This shampoo does kill the lice and nits. It was much easier then any other shampoo I used. And it worked in one day. I did not have to do a second treatment. I just made sure there were no nits left in my daughters’ hair by shampooing and combing for 20 minutes.

12 months ago
Posted by Brenda

We were using a product called RID. It just was not doing the job. We could not get rid of the lice. We looked on the internet at several different products. Clearlice was the only one that looked like it would work. So we ordered it and used it. After one treatment the lice, nits and all were gone. It was the most amazing thing ever. Thankyou for the product. It worked wonders in a very short timeframe.

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