published Monday, June 25th, 2012

Grand Thoughts: What a lousy reason to take a vacation day

Chante Ballou, right, a licensed vocational nurse with The Texas Lice Squad, looks for lice on a client in Missouri City. Ballou uses a product called Nit Free to loosen up the glue like substance that sticks the nits to the hair and a lice comb to extract them. The process takes about three hours and has to be so tedious that she can't leave one nit or lice behind or else the search is lost. Penny Warren, The Texas Lice Squad president, says parents should check weekly for lice because you can't prevent infestation but you can control it.
Chante Ballou, right, a licensed vocational nurse with The Texas Lice Squad, looks for lice on a client in Missouri City. Ballou uses a product called Nit Free to loosen up the glue like substance that sticks the nits to the hair and a lice comb to extract them. The process takes about three hours and has to be so tedious that she can't leave one nit or lice behind or else the search is lost. Penny Warren, The Texas Lice Squad president, says parents should check weekly for lice because you can't prevent infestation but you can control it.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

My young granddaughters have already given me so much -- unconditional love, unbridled joy, endless happiness and lice.

Yep, lice.

Recently, as I was leaving for work, my older daughter, Kacee, called and said, "Mom, I love you."

I know she loves me; we say it every day. It's not typical, though, for her to call me at 8:45 in the morning to declare her love for me. I knew something was up.

"I love you, too, Kacee," I answered, anxious to hear the real reason she was calling.

"Just remember, Mom, I love you," she said, just before she got to the point. "Tilleigh has lice."

I stopped in my tracks, turned around, put down my purse, called my editor and requested a vacation day. I headed to the bathroom mirror and began looking for creepy little critters in my hair. Though I couldn't spot anything, my scalp suddenly began itching.

Having never had an experience with lice, I did what any reporter would do. I went to the Internet and Googled "lice."

From the National Institutes of Health website I learned:

"You can get head lice if you come in close contact with a person who has lice; touch the clothing or bedding of someone who has lice; share hats, towels, brushes or combs of someone who has had lice. Having head lice does not mean the person has poor hygiene or low social status. Having head lice causes intense itching but does not lead to serious medical problems. Unlike body lice, head lice never carry or spread diseases." And, very importantly, the website noted, "Lice are usually killed with the proper treatment."

Later, from the Centers for Disease Control, I learned that up to 12 million cases of head lice are reported annually and that the majority of those cases occur in preschool and elementary-age children.

So count my family among the 12 million.

After educating myself about lice, I'm not surprised they found their way to us. Since Tilleigh, 5, started preschool at 3, I have gotten every cold, every stomach virus, nearly every illness she has suffered. And there's a reason: I'm a kisser and a hugger. It makes sense that if my grandchildren have a cold, I've got a cold. If they've got lice, I've got lice.

Just two nights before we discovered the lice, Tilleigh and Evie, my 2-year-old granddaughter, had spent the night with me. When they do, it's routine that I snuggle with them at bedtime.

After the phone call, Kacee and I spent the next two hours, washing, conditioning and meticulously removing dead lice from the girls' scalps (yes, Evie also had lice). Though the girls were exceptionally patient, they were not happy. Afterward, Kacee and I treated one another. Meanwhile, my other daughter, Karah, checked my mother's scalp. None were discovered, but Karah gave her the hair treatment, since she spends so much time with the girls, and treated her house with a lice-killing spray.

Ridding a house of lice is time-consuming. It is necessary to clean everything that possibly came in contact with the lice, most notably bedding, including mattress covers, pillows and mattresses. A lice-killing spray is available for things that can't be thrown into a washing machine or hand-washed.

Meanwhile, we are aware there's a possibility we didn't kill all the lice. The shampooing process has to be repeated 10 days after the first application. Therefore, it's not unusual for us to keep checking one another's scalp, which makes us look like a family of monkeys.

I'm confident the critters are gone, but I'm afraid the faux itching is going to haunt me for months to come.

about Karen Nazor Hill...

Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...

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