What the?… Okay, this is turning into a bit of an eclectic blog, but it keeps me writing so what the heck?
The simple answer – in my experience is yes.
Perhaps it’s me but head lice seem to be more of a problem these days than they used to be. I went through the school system like everyone else and I never caught them, which suggests they simply weren’t as prevalent in the sixties and the seventies. Both my kids, educated in a supposedly more enlightened age, have had them, though they won’t forgive me for saying so of course.
In the olden times we had regular visits from the school nurse and I remember full assembly hall inspections, waiting your turn in front of “nitty-nora”, a severe, matronly woman who could probably tell just by the look of you if you had them or not. Anyone suffering from lice would be duly identified, and letters dispatched to parents. This would probably be classed as abuse now, either that or it’s just too expensive to carry out and the nurse has more pressing things to do with her time. Either way, they don’t do itany more and parents are left to cope with both the diagnosis and the cure on their own.
Of course, this isn’t a problem that afflicts school-children alone – as any teacher will tell you, it’s an occupational hazard. It doesn’t matter what sort of area the school draws from – either rich or poor: head-lice are no respecter of social background nor income bracket. You just brush heads with someone who’s got them, a playmate, or a partner, and you’ve got them too. You don’t have to be a grubby kind of person to catch them either, but there is a stigma that comes with them and that’s why they can be so distressing.
Being married to a teacher, and the father of school-aged children, I’m no stranger to head-lice. I’ve used pesticidal shampoos on my offspring in the past, but found them ineffective and, to be honest, a pain to use – also reading the labels of these substances used to frighten the life out of me.
Then I remembered the tales of my grandmother delousing her own offspring and any other children who happened to be in the house at the time. She used malt vinegar, a fine-toothed comb and an attitude of Edwardian common sense. This use of vinegar is generally quite well-known but, reading the various web-postings, there also seems to be some confusion about the best way of going about it. I’m sure there’s more than one way, but here’s what I do:
Before we proceed I have to remind you I’m not medically qualified in any way, and therefore haven’t a clue what I’m talking about. If in doubt, go and see a “medical healthcare professional” who will probably prescribe some pesticidal shampoo. If you’re interested in the old wives method then read on:
Get yourself a bottle of ordinary table vinegar. Malt vinegar is common and cheap here in the UK, so that’s what I use. You’ll also need a fine toothed comb, what is more commonly called a nit comb – the chemist will have one. An ordinary comb is no good because it’s not fine enough.
Take a saucer and pour some vinegar into it – you don’t need much – you’re just going to be dipping the comb into it. Now fill the bathroom sink with warm water and thoroughly wet your hair, as if you were going to wash it.
Take the nit-comb, dip it in the vinegar and run it through your wet hair, then swish the comb out under the water. You’ll soon be able to tell if you’ve got head-lice, because they’ll end up in the water. Sometimes you think you’ve got them but you’re not sure and it turns out to be just an itchy scalp because you’ve been using that cheap shampoo from the discount store again, right? But believe me there’s nothing subtle about head-lice; if you’ve got them, you’ll know for sure at this stage.
Repeat the procedure until you’ve covered every inch of your hair – dipping the comb into the vinegar, running it through your hair and swishing the comb out into the water. Be thorough. It’ll take ten minutes or so. Then wash your hair as normal to get rid of the stink of vinegar.
You won’t be free of head-lice at this stage, no matter how thorough you’ve been because you’ve still got the eggs in your hair. They’re tiny and sticky and they resist the comb. Then they hatch and you’re infected all over again. So, you’ve got to repeat the vinegar and nit-comb trick every day – sort of sweeping them up as they’re hatching out, and not giving them enough time to breed.
I prefer this method to simply tipping neat vinegar over your head, which sounds a bit drastic to me. If your hair is already wet, running a comb dipped in vinegar through it is a much gentler solution – we only want to get rid of the head-lice remember – not damage your hair.
It takes four or five days to clear them up properly. After five days, if you don’t see any head-lice in the sink when you’re swishing the comb out, it’s probably safe to say you’re clear.
Okay the method involves some effort on your part, and you’ve got to be persistent, but I’ve found it’s a very reliable way of getting rid of them. Also, I may be a softie, but I’d rather put vinegar in my child’s hair than a pesticide.
Okay – next up, getting rid of the most mysterious childhood complaint of them all: verruca’s.