Friday, December 12, 2008

Lousy Lice — CMB Post

Originally posted on the now defunct Chicago Moms Blog post.

When I was a kid, before the F word stunted my vocabulary, we used far more descriptive language to express our feelings. For example, if the ball went over the fence during a kickball game and it was your turn to retrieve it, you would mutter "Dirty, rotten, stinkin', lousy fence." Those four words, in that order, seemed to cover all the negative bases. It wasn't until this weekend that I connected "lousy" with "louse" and then "lice."

This will teach me to be a good Samaritan. I took care of an ailing friend's two boys on Saturday, one of whom ended up spending the night. Sunday afternoon, I got the call. "Don't scream," she said, "but K (not his real initial) has lice. Don't use the chemical stuff. We read on the Internet to use a combination of petroleum jelly and tea tree oil." I did not scream, but dutifully stopped at the drugstore to pick up the necessary supplies, all the while thinking: "Dirty, rotten, stinkin', lousy, f-ing lice."

My two youngest boys share a room and both had played closely with our infested guest during his overnight stay. While I did not spy any of the creepy critters when I searched the boys' skulls, I thought we should go ahead and treat them just in case. So, I mixed up a batch of the glop and slopped it onto their heads, rubbing it right down into their scalps. The crabby 11-year-old complained every minute, while his 10-year-old brother embraced the situation with humor, fashioning his goo-laden locks into his first-ever Mohawk. Then began the four-hour wait.

In the meantime, I stripped the beds, washed the linens and mattress covers in hot water with the extra rinse cycle on, and sprayed down the pillows and mattresses. Just before bedtime, I put one of the guys in the tub to wash out the gunk. Or so I thought. It turns out that it's not so easy to wash out petroleum jelly. I knew it wasn't water soluble, but my friends had assured me that a couple of wash-rinse-repeat cycles with a clarifying shampoo and a final rinse with white vinegar would do the trick. Not so much.

I washed that boy's head seven times and marinated him in vinegar. It didn't even make a dent. Next I did a quick Web search for remedies to remove petroleum jelly from hair. I had just gotten to the part where it read "… if that doesn't work, try corn starch" when the phone rang.

"Um, have you been able to get the jelly out of their hair?" asked my friend sheepishly. NO. "Don't try the cornstarch," he said, "it just makes a bigger mess. I think it would have been better to use mayonnaise. Let us know if you find anything that works."

What did work, at least modestly, was to go over their hair with a fine-tooth comb (ah, now you know from whence that saying came). We combed and combed and combed. "My hair is falling off," yelled the complainer. "It feels kind of good," said the sport.

I checked the Web one more time. "If that doesn't work, try using a blow dryer and then blotting the hair gently with a towel." The complainer was done, so we just covered his pillow with a towel and sent him to bed. But the sport and I thought the blow dryer method was worth a shot. Armed with a couple of towels and my 1875-watt turbo hair-straightening big gun, I set to work trying to melt the goo out of his hair.

"Mom," he said, trying to get my attention over the roar of the blower. "Mom! I think the oil is starting to boil my head! Hot, hot, hot!" Poor boy. Now we were done. "I think we should just get a pet monkey so he can groom us and eat the lice," he suggested. I'm seriously considering it.

My friend called back one last time. "How are you doing?" she asked. "We're done," I said. "Did you get it out?" she asked. "No, we're just done." In the background, I could hear her poor ailing husband: "Does she hate us?" No, I don't hate them.

Unless I get lice.

When not hanging out here on Chicago Moms Blog, Susan tries to figure things out at Two Kinds of People and The Animal Store Blog.

Photo credit: "I Say, Damn Boy, You Eat Up With The Lice !!" by bamakve via

1 comment:

Susan Bearman said...

Comments from the original Chicago Moms Blog post:

kenn said...


September 12, 2008 at 07:34 AM

Rox said...

My daughter was in first grade when she caught lice in her super-long, super-thick hair. She caught it twice more before we finally realized that the BOY sitting besider her kept passing it along; his mom "didn't have time" to treat it. Sigh...

In any event, we didn't use chemicals either. We bought a "licemeister" comb and used a natural oil that I bought at the drugstore, sold alongside the chemical treatments (sorry, I can't remember the name). The third time, that ran out, so I used just olive oil. Both were easy to wash out of super-thick, super-long hair with just two shampoos. SO... I hope it doesn't come back for you, but, if it does, a great comb and olive oil will be easier. Good luck!

September 12, 2008 at 08:39 AM

Susan @ 2kop said...

Thanks, Rox. Readers should note that most schools require you to report if your child contracts lice.

September 12, 2008 at 08:43 AM

john said...

yuck. that is the worst.

September 12, 2008 at 09:12 AM

Maria said...

What about using dish washing liquid to get out the oily substance? It cuts through grease why not other oily stuff?

September 12, 2008 at 09:21 AM

Jill Asher said...

Two years ago, I volunteered to do lice check at my daughters school. YES - I VOLUNTEERED! Silly, silly me....

I had to take a popsicle stick and examine the scalp of all the kinder classmates. Slowly, with the popsicle stick, I pushed back the hair of each child.

Guess what I found .... LICE, LICE and more lice!

Ewwww.... I was so grossed out, I vowed that I would never examine another scalp for the rest of my life.

Fortunately, neither of my daughters had the little critters mating on their scalps. But the stories I heard of families trying to rid these creatures sounded EXACTLY like your story.

Good Luck.... and take it from this lice checker, you never want to see lice. Ever... on little Johnny's scalp.

September 12, 2008 at 10:06 AM

Asianmommy said...

I'm getting my daughter's long, long hair cut tomorrow!

September 12, 2008 at 10:18 AM

Jessica Gottlieb said...

Oh have I fought lice this summer...

Found it, loved it.

Kudos for dumping Malathion on your kids' heads. Yes, really, it's Malathion.

September 12, 2008 at 02:04 PM

moodymommy (aka Sophia Leto) said...

Has anyone tried "Boo" the shampoo and/or conditioner to keep lice away? I'm curious to know whether it really works. In other words, who has used this and gotten lice nevertheless? Or, who has used it an never gotten lice?

September 14, 2008 at 09:27 AM

Christine Steendahl said...

I'm so sorry you went through this, but I must admit I laughed really hard as you told the story with such great humor.

September 15, 2008 at 06:25 PM