Thursday, March 1, 2012

Lice


A beautiful bouquet of almond blossoms sits on my kitchen table.  I just love the delicate white and pink flowers that herald the beginning of spring in Israel.  They are in full bloom now, even though we had a bit of snow in Tzfat today.  But sometimes when I see the almond blossoms, a less pleasant memory is sparked...

When Teneya was in preschool, I attended her class Tu B'Shevat party.  The table was charmingly decorated with almond blossoms and booklets, colored by each of our children, with songs and stories inside.  But at the table I shared with four other parents, someone else had joined the party.  It was a louse.

"It's one of the seven species of Israel," joked the teacher, blushing.  Lice are a problem in Israel, where a no-nit policy hasn't yet been adopted by the schools.  Though the lice problem is not unique to Israel, and in the US alone there are 6 to 12 million cases every year.  The best the teacher here can do is send notes home to the parents of children with long-standing infestations.  It doesn't end after preschool either.  In elementary school, with girls especially, your child is bound to get them at least once a year but it gets worse as they get older and share scrunchies, cuddle together in group hugs and lay side-by-side on the grass to watch the clouds go by.

Lice are such a part of Israeli culture that they have been featured in an art exhibit.  I don't need to pay to see that, because I get my own show every winter on Teneya's head.  Although now that I am prepared and know what to keep an eye out for, it's a very brief exhibit.  Here are a few things I've learned over the years...

By Hanukah the lice reach their peak season; check your child's head for lice often from the beginning of December because they multiply quickly.  If you can catch them early on, it's a lot less work to get rid of them.  The kids are cooped up inside of school six days a week and when one gets it badly, the whole class does.  The frequency of bathing drops slightly at this time of year because it's just so cold and that also aids in the spread of these nasty little pests.  Israelis don't seem to understand that houses need insulation, not just missile protection, so the walls are made of concrete...and more concrete.  If it's hard to heat your house, and if your bathrooms have windows that won't close all the way, then it's very difficult to convince your kids to get wet more often.

No amount of chemicals will help you.  This will kill the already-hatched lice but you'll still have to comb out the eggs for a week or two.  Then your child brings it home from school again.  Do you really want to poison your kid's head every couple of weeks?

There is a comb called (I'm not joking) Assy2000.  It has a rounded grip area and long, spiraled teeth.  It's the best lice comb ever.  Spend the 50 shekels each year to buy a new one; the teeth get stretched out after that long and it looses effectiveness.  Comb once a week when you don't have lice and after every bath when you do.  You heard me: comb your child's hair once a week...for the rest of the school year.  Welcome to Israel.

I was told that essential oils in your conditioner can help ward off lice.  Apparently they are especially annoyed by peppermint, rosemary, and tea tree oils.  If you have essential oils at home, just add a few drops to your children's conditioner bottle.  No need to buy a special brand, and it does seem to help.

Do you have any great tips for getting rid of lice or keeping them away?  Please share below in the comment box.  Thanks!