My son arrived home from his first “schooling” experience at age 4 with a letter and pictures of these amazing creatures. He was really hoping that these cool animals were living on his head! He is now 15 and has only ever had one time when they did choose him! My daughter is only 10, and she repeatedly attracts these little insects to her tasty scalp. Both children are tactile and formed close contact relationships with their friends at primary school age. They have both had long hair too. I thought parents were exaggerating until my second experience.

I was determined that my children’s heads were not going to become the chemically laden areas which I had observed and heard about. Having a science background, I was horrified by the ingredients which were being liberally applied to these vulnerable children and their baby siblings. Some were already known to have nasty effects in other circumstances. It is about time that our attitudes change.

Head lice are not dirty, or a sign of negligence and it is ridiculous to exclude children from school because their parents are vigilant enough to find them. This is the latest policy, until they have been treated. My whole philosophy is to turn the concept on it’s head and regard head lice as a chance to spend some close contact with these children, and indeed the whole family!

Grooming in other primates (yes, we humans are part of this group) serves to keep the body free of parasites and dirt, but also constitutes the social cement of primate from lemur to chimpanzee. These animals experience pleasure in grooming, both as recipients and groomer. The grooming of newborn monkeys by their mothers is intense, and forms a specific psychological bond. This grooming is carried out within the larger group between older monkeys and is part of their social bonding.

We can spend ages grooming our children too. Adults have told me they visit the hairdresser for more than just a hair cut. As a massage therapist, I have found that many people simply enjoy having their head stroked. The two male members of my family take every opportunity to be checked for head lice! My poor daughter does become a little fed up when it takes an hour to check her hair! She still tells me where to inspect and when she gets itchy we know they are back! When we have a few days of uninterrupted inspection opportunities it only takes a week to be free of the lice.

As an aromatherapist, I do apply my own mix in the form of oil, but I really believe the trick is the mechanical removal of the crawling lice and the sticky eggs (nits). Sounds yucky? We make it into a family event and everyone likes to see the really big ones! Totally amazing! This isn’t really different to observing creatures out in the garden. It is really important to spend time thoroughly inspecting the whole head, but it is better to do a quick check every day than not at all.

My kit at home includes an old ice cream tub to store everything and to use as a drowning bath! Head lice can’t swim. A bottle of my pre-prepared oil, as fresh as possible, and a bottle of hair rinse are included. I also have a metal toothed louse comb (I have found the plastic ones less effective), some tweezers and some of those little plastic hair elastics.

I systematically check the hair by dividing it up, and find that little plaits all over is a great hairstyle. If I find lice I apply oil, which also aids the combing. After a few days of this, and if I find no more lice, we wash with mild shampoo. Apply conditioner, and comb through my aromatherapy hair rinse. This can even be sprayed on and the essential oils act as a repellant. This is the only time that hair is washed, as clean, oil free hair is easier for lice to attach to.

Couldn’t be simpler! It is time consuming but just measure the benefit of being so close with your child for all that time. Head lice do not cause direct harm and do not transmit disease. The greatest harm is caused by the toxic substances applied for removal which are not as effective as grooming!

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Touching by Ashley Montagu