Thursday, March 12, 2015

Pediculophobia - Fear of LICE!!!!!

Is it just me or does the word LICE immediately have you scratching your head and thinking to yourself, “oh God no! Please don’t let it be my kid!” while you start recounting all the encounters with friends your child has had in the last couple of weeks? You immediately begin to formulate a plan, thinking of all you may have to clean, the moms you may need to call and the plans you may need to cancel. All of this is done while you are trying to keep a fair distance from your child as you peer down upon her head. And, if your body begins to show signs of anxiety at the mere uttering of the word, you could be suffering from pediculophobia – the fear of lice.

I have experience lice three time – yes THREE! And now, today, as I was picking my birthday girl up at school after her after-school program, the instructor ran out and insisted on talking to my daughter’s friend’s mom about lice. She saw them on the computer that my daughter's friend used. Just moments before, my daughter was romping around with this friend, heads pushed together, hair hanging and colliding. I began to itch immediately, as a matter of fact my head is itching now but I am trying to keep busy by typing because I know the minute I stop typing, I am going to be itching imaginary itches.

My first experience with these super sleuthing bugs was when we lived in Korea almost 8 years ago. Because I had taught at a middle school, I knew what lice and their eggs looked like and I knew where to look for activity thanks to the school nurse. My middle child came home from school and at about 4p.m. said, “Mom, my head itches.” I thought it had to be dry scalp but I decided to have a look just in case. My daughter was in 4th grade at the time and had never heard me swear. I started to look at her hair and it didn't take long before, “Oh, shit!” fell out of my mouth and into her ears (she still brings this up as the first time she ever heard me swear). There they were, those little buggers, in all their glory, trying to escape my human eyes. So, what do you do when you are in Korea and you find lice? First, you panic and swear and feel like you may need to do a few shots of vodka to calm the *beep* down. They don’t have CVS pharmacies where you can just drive over and get your box of Rid. Once I calmed the *beep* down, I called the international clinic and was told I needed to bring her in and have her diagnosed before they could prescribe the treatment (which is not over the counter and for good reason – I’ll explain shortly). I took my daughter in and guess what?! She had lice – yep, just like I thought. The doctor, who explained to me that this was strictly an American thing and that Korean’s don’t spread lice, handed me a prescription and sent me across the busy street from the hospital to the pharmacy. I was given the prescription – a bottle of clear shampoo, and sent on my way. There was no comb for the nits which I thought was strange so I called doctor back wondering if I got the wrong stuff. “Oh, no, that’s the correct shampoo. It will kill both the lice and its eggs but it may cause her to get a rash or her hair could fall out.” What?! Of course I couldn't read the bottle because it was all in Korean! I didn't know what chemicals were in there. But, here’s where I get the “Mom of the Year” Award. I loathed lice so much that I was willing to risk my daughter’s hair falling out and her getting a nasty rash. I suppose I could have gone to the market and gotten some mayo but I wasn't even thinking of that at the time. When we got home I had all three of my kids strip down to nothing, and because my head was itching, I did the same. I lathered up each head and had them sit with that shampoo on their head for probably longer than the recommended time before allowing them to rinse. I grabbed all their clothes and began throwing them in the washer, bagged up all their stuffed animals, stripped all their beds. I had piles and piles of linens in the laundry room that took a couple of days to wash. It was exhausting.

The next day, my middle daughter went back to school. I notified the school and they ran a lice check. It was their field day when the students participate in fun team competitions. I went to the event and walked over to my daughter and one of her friends who was swinging her hair around and whipping it towards my daughter. After the girl walked away, my daughter told me that she was the girl with the lice – they found it on her that morning but never sent her home. I began to itch again. It was so nice of her to continue to share her hair pets! Ugh! That night, I washed my daughter’s hair again with that noxious shampoo!

Well, my kids never did get a rash, nor did their hair fall out and by golly, it killed every last one of those damn buggers but, to this day, I don’t know what it was that I put on their heads. Since then, my middle child contracted lice two other times – both while we were living in Beijing and I was armed with Rid from the states. Try explaining to your housekeeper who doesn't speak a lick of English that we have to clean everything because your daughter has lice. I learned to use the Google translate thingamajig and wrote her a little note. She began to read it with a happy face, like I was giving her a love letter. I was worried that maybe, it didn't translate correctly, until I saw her face change from happy to horror in less than a second. She spent the rest of the day scouring the house and doing piles and piles of laundry while her face looked like she was sucking on a lemon.

Pediculophobia. Yep, that’s what I have. The extreme fear of lice seems to be pretty common. Many people suffer from a fear of head lice whether it’s from having it ourselves or experiencing it with our children. Once we are exposed, it’s difficult to not have some aversion to the word because the word carries with it such weight and work.

There are many myths associated with lice, and from what I have read, there are different opinions and information out there as to how they are spread and how to get rid of them.

1.     Lice are not a sign of uncleanliness. Lice don’t really care whether your hair is clean or dirty. I have even read that lice prefer clean hair because it’s easier to grab on to, less slippery with oils. I’m sure lice don’t really care who the host is, they just want a place to get their next meal.

2.   Lice cannot jump or fly. So, if you sit next to someone who has it, you are not going to get it unless you touch heads and probably longer than a couple of seconds. There is some conflicting info on whether you can contract it by combs and brushes. Some say yes, others say no. It’s always good to err on the side of caution and clean all brushes and combs.

3.   Some believe that lice is transferred through pillows and bedding, others say it’s unlikely that lice would voluntarily leave the head, therefore the need to clean bedding is more to clean any lice excrement (ewww!) that may be on the bedding. But, I would cover all my basis and clean them in extra hot water.

4.  Head lice can only survive 24 -36 hours without a host. So, your couch, pillows, carpet, etc. won’t need to be deep cleaned. Still, I would bag the things you can for 36 hours just in case. Especially stuffed animals your kids come in contact with, blankets, etc. Again, it’s better to err on the side of caution.

5.   Here’s an interesting one. I read that it’s not necessary to remove nits from the hair after it’s treated. I’m not an expert, but I think this should be done. If those eggs hatch, you will be kicking yourself as you go through the whole process all over again. The one thing that saved me from complete insanity was going through my daughter’s hair day after day and taking every nit out. I owe my success in getting rid of the buggers by being diligent for a week after treatment – checking every day and removing nits that I may have missed the day before. 

6.   Home remedies such a mayo, oil or Vaseline don’t necessarily work. I guess the concept of suffocating the little bastards while leaving your kids hair looking like a greasy mess is not the best route to take. But, if that is all you have, then it’s better than nothing!

I could go on with a list of myths about head lice – it seems everyone has an opinion on the matter. What I do know, is that prevention is the key to your sanity. Talk to your kids and give them a few pointers.

* Don’t share your brushes or combs with your friends.
*Don’t share your hats with your friends.
*Don’t spend countless minutes with your head next to someone else’s. 
*Avoid putting your head on the school carpet.
*Avoid hanging your jacket against someone else’s jacket.
*Keep your hair up in a ponytail, braid, etc.

Also, there are preventative products out there. Lice don’t like certain scents such as peppermint, eucalyptus, lavender or rosemary as well as tea tree oil. You can find many products that are made to repel lice which contain these natural oils (and your child’s hair will smell fabulous). When I was home for the summer (still living in Asia) I purchased the below product. You can get shampoo, conditioner, leave-in conditioner, etc. I recommend using something, especially during the most active lice months.

So, just know, you are not alone in your head lice phobia and there are plenty of options to help you avoid ever having to go through it. And if you do, remember, it’s not a reflection on your home cleanliness or hygiene. Lice are just little bastards who want to play with your sanity!
#lice #licephobia #pediculophobia


  1. Thanks, now my head itches! ;) There was a kid with luce at Aiden's preschool last year but fortunately he never got them! Whew!

  2. I have a terrible fear of live. My husband swears it was a deciding factor in me deciding to home school 😂

    1. I don't think there is one person, especially female, who doesn't cringe when they hear the word, lice. You're in good company!

  3. I faced a very difficult time for head lice. I can't imagine that time anymore. It's was a terrible time for me.

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