You’re sitting at work when you get the phone call. You pick up and discover the school nurse on the other end, telling you that your child has head lice and you need to get them immediately. Never mind that you were about to walk into a meeting, forget about the towering stack of paperwork on your desk, and say goodbye to that movie playing at the theatre you and your husband wanted to go see tonight… you’re now on lice duty.
You drop what you were doing and begin your journey to the school to pick up your daughter, cringing at the thought of telling the other mothers why she can’t go to the sleepover tonight. Why? Because we’ve stigmatized head lice in America. Merely mentioning the “L” word sends tingles into parents’ scalps all over America. But should it?
Each year, between 6 and 12 million head lice infestations occur in the United States among children ages 3 to 16. That’s certainly not a number to scoff at. It means your son or daughter isn’t alone with their head lice diagnosis, and though you probably already feel embarrassed about it, you shouldn’t.
Lice is primarily spread through head-to-head contact, though it can also be spread through the sharing of personal items, such as clothing, hair brushes, combs, hats, towels, etc. They cannot jump or fly, but do crawl. Therefore, head lice can more easily be avoided if we are all just honest with one another.
Sure, nobody wants to be the parent of the child that started an outbreak at school, but surely we all want to be the parent that is told when their child’s friend(s) gets head lice. So follow the Golden Rule here: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If your child gets an infestation, don’t be embarrassed… treat it and talk about it!
Talk to your kids about it. Tell them that anyone can get head lice and that it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Talk to your teachers, coaches, and fellow parents. Let them know that a lice infestation is present in the school or community. If you are a school administrator, talk to your students and parents. Getting the word out quickly, even after just one case of head lice, gives you an enormous leg up in preventing a larger outbreak.
If we continue to stay silent when someone in our family is infected by head lice, we will only perpetuate the status quo and the number of infestations will increase. If we have open, honest conversations, however, we can have a better chance at preventing lice’s further spread.