Why is lice taboo?

Lice, such a taboo subject.  But why?  How did we become a society in which a health issue is off limits to discuss?  When lice came into my house and I couldn’t get rid of it, or talk to anyone about it, I knew I had to delve a bit further into why lice had become the subject that most everyone has had, but no one will talk about.  

When lice first came into my house, I did everything I was told to do.  I used the most commonly prescribed lice shampoo (which is a neurotoxin) to kill the live lice.  Only problem was, 97% of the lice in Canada are immune or resistant to it.  Fast forward 3 weeks later:  too many loads of laundry, an anxious child, a neurotic mother and more hair combing than I ever hope to do in a lifetime and I decided I needed to learn more.  Out came my nursing and medical articles as I was determined to overcome this invader.

We all know googling symptoms and treatment can lead you down some very dark, and wrong pathways.  I was determined to find out the accurate information about lice and here are some tips I learned along the way:

What you need to know about the resilient louse

  •  Lice are extremely resilient.  They can change color, move very fast and are immune to most of the regularly used products in Canada.
  • Combing with a regular nit comb does not work as effectively as they need to.  In my experience, only the Nit Free Terminator Comb will help you in the battle against lice as they will remove a lot of the eggs and can be safely boiled between uses so you will have it for a decade.  It is also a great early detection tool for picking up lice in your family’s hair.
  •  Lice live on heads, not on things.  So yes, while you need to do a thorough environmental cleaning, you need to focus on the head that has the lice.  And yes, this means checking parents as well because oftentimes a mom or dad will have lice as well and they continue to share it back and forth.
  • Teenagers and tweens are the most overlooked but common carriers of lice due to the prevalence of “selfies”.  Boys are not immune so girls who have lice also need to have their boyfriends checked as well.  
  • Lice is best checked under sunlight or a full spectrum daylight light.  
  • “Your best defence is a good offence” absolutely applies to lice.  You cannot stop lice from entering your home, 100%, but having a good game plan and catching it early will save a lot of time and energy in the clean-up process.  You need to have the right tools and a great resource to ensure you are only having to do laundry etc. once because you are using the right product that will kill live lice.
  • DEC plugs (desquamated epithelials cells) look and act a lot like eggs.  I have assisted people treating DEC plugs for weeks thinking they were lice.  Knowing what you are looking for is crucial.  If you are looking for “white things” you are looking a week late and likely will be finding DEC plugs, dandruff or empty lice eggs that have hatched.  Viable eggs are brown and are close to the scalp.
  • Just because you can’t find a live louse does not mean they are not there.  They hate light and are extremely good at being hard to see, especially the nymphs.
  • Not talking about lice likely means you will end up with it back.  If you do not share that you have lice with those who could have been exposed, you will, in all likelihood, get it back from them as they have probably picked it up and do not know.  

At the end of the day, until we, as parents, start talking about it, our kids will continue to be anxious and no one will get the correct information they need to be “once and done” with lice, which is my philosophy.  It is not a 4 letter word (well I guess it is).  It should not be taboo, nor should it be embarrassing.  Arm yourself with knowledge and a willingness to talk about it, and we will stop being good hosts for lice.  Lice thrive on us being secretive.   To read more about the facts of lice you can go to https://licematters.ca/head-lice-facts/