Sunday, May 3, 2009

Decontamination Protocols: Phase One In Force

No. It's nothing to do with the Irish fiddlers. The last of them took off yesterday, full of lingering good cheer, booze, and tasty food. It wasn't a bad weekend. It could have been, if I hadn't simply written it off to music and kids. There's no way I could have actually achieved anything. But accepting it as a weekend of noise, chaos, music, kids, and so forth meant it worked just fine.

The Decon Protocols actually refer to a much more cosmopolitan and pedestrian pest: Pediculus humanis capitis, better known as the all-too-fucking-common Head Louse. Natalie's been scratching her head and complaining for over a week now, but we put it down to the change in weather. However, the Mau-Mau started scratching too, and a cursory examination showed she had rather a number of fellow travellers aboard.

Ahhhh, shit.

On the good side: my background with bugs means I don't get uptight about this stuff. Lice happen, especially when you've got a three-year-old in daycare. And as pests and parasites go, lice are really no big deal. They're vulnerable to an exciting array of chemical countermeasures, and better still, they don't survive away from the host for very long. All you have to do is kill the present lot of adults with some kind of treatment, then repeat the dose in about six days -- after the new lot hatch, but before they can start breeding.

In the meantime, it makes sense to wash hats, pillowcases, bedding and the like in good hot water (add a little bleach if you wanna get serious), then dry and air them thoroughly in the sun. Run the vacuum around the place to pick up any stray hairs that might be carrying an egg. That's it. You're done.

Except, of course, that you have to make sure you co-ordinate with the people your kids play with. There's really not that much resistance to chemicals in the louse community. Mostly, what people think is resistance is actually nothing more than reinfestation from contact with an external source.

Ergo: even though Natalie and the Mau-Mau were the only ones with any sign of buggy buddies, I've spent the morning treating everyone in the whole damned house. The girls got a Maldison-based shampoo, which is nasty but effective... and not recommended unless an infestation is confirmed. The boys (including yours truly) got a treatment involving a commercial blend of ti-tree, lemon, and eucalyptus oils. Stinky as hell, but not nearly as toxic as good old Maldison.

The Tale of the Comb was telling. (Those super-fine-tooth combs? They're fuck-all use in terms of treatment. But they can help confirm the existence of an infestation.) Natalie and the Mau-Mau were both well occupied. The boys and I - shorter hair? - were all clear.

Being Mister Overkill, the way I usually am, I also picked up a nifty hairspray. It's a mix of pyrethrum (a bug killer) plus various active, pleasant-smelling oils. Orange and lemon, just for starters. You spray it into the dry hair after treatment, and use it daily for a while. It should prevent any reinfestation. I'll keep it up for two weeks. By that time, even if there are any eggs or bugs left in the house, they'll be long dead.

The thing to remember about lice is that they're not like fleas. They stay really close to their hosts. They don't nest in bedding. They don't leave eggs and larvae in the carpet. If they're away from the nice, safe, warm scalp for long, they go belly-up.

On the whole, they're pretty pathetic as parasites go. Now, if only I could coax Natalie back down from the ceiling, where she is hanging, all a-quiver with a truly epic attack of the Ick.


  1. I would love to print this out and hang it in the office of the children's center where I'm formerly employed...every time one kid has lice, everyone freaks out like it's swine flu...


  2. Katsplat! Wonderful to see/hear (whatever the protocol is!) you! I'm going to follow up your Google ID there, and see if you've got a blog I can read. Meanwhile - welcome!

  3. Dirk, short

  4. Yeah, it took me a minute or so chaz, but I was still laughing about Nat being embedded in the roof, pictures of " fuck you, I'm not coming down..EVAAAAR". The feline hissing and spitting.."grins"

    Yeah, its par for the course with kids at some point and it never ceases to amaze me, just how badly some react to it. like you say, its straight forward.

  5. Well... relatively short. Compared to my daughter and my wife, you know?

    Natalie's not clinging to the ceiling any more. Instead she's engaged in full-forward recuperation, bolstered by a lot of cider, Zelda on the Wii, and the promise of a dinner of spicy prawns and cous-cous with a bottle of bubbly to wash it down.

    Everyone else is largely unscarred. Except the lice, of course. They're fucked, and they know it.

  6. Also scarily enough for the poor tykes who get branded leper outcast unclean when they come down with it it doesn't depend on wether you have hair that is washed, combed and coifed every day or left to grow into dreadlocks. As long as the louse is warm and has blood to drink it will settle into any hair.

    On the_weapon we used the conditioner and comb method which seems as effective as the chemical treatments. Just need to do it with a strong enough white light to see the buggers

    Now an infestation of the biting louse Strigiphilus garylarsoni -that would be exciting.

  7. Barnes' conditioner treatment.

    You slather the head in hair conditioner (which is mostly wax) and leave it there for a bit. The lice can't breathe under it and it makes the eggs slide of much easier with the fine tooth comb treatment.

    Worked a treat.

  8. Does this mean that all of the fiddlers went home with extra passengers? I wonder if they show up on the flu scanners at the airport?

  9. God, I started scratching my head as soon as I started reading this. The yawn effect.

  10. Peroxide is how I treated the daughter has had a hair-dyeing addiction since.

  11. Your offspring, Mr B, has short hair. My daughter's hair is shoulder length. Younger Son is busy trying to grow out his hair to look like a Viking warrior. I haven't the patience to muck around with that much conditioner and combing. Better Living Through Chemistry, sez I!

    The Fiddlers won't be carrying anything exciting. They didn't share anybody's hats, or bedding, or hairstyles. Honestly: I've been sleeping in the same bed with Natalie for the last week-and-a-half that she's been itchy, and it's a nil result for me.

    Pathetic parasites, really.

  12. Good luck with that!

    My youngest daughter had running battle with those things right up till puberty.

    Nothing worked, evolution in action.

    Oh and did you consider going on 'Master chef'? :)

  13. Never had the things myself, and thus far The Little Bloke hasn't got them from kindy. Mind you he must have collected every other virulent pathogen going from the kindy...seething vats of infection those places I tell ya.

    If it ever happens I just now Wifey and I are going to be 'meh, bring on the chemicals.'

  14. I have this vision of you taunting a herd of head lice, telling them how pathetic they are andthat in the race of the parasites they won't be figuring in any podium finishes.

  15. And they don't jump. Well,least of all not Canadian lice *grins*

    I am particularly amazed--just how informative you are with this incredibly nuisance of head lice- I applaud you- you just might be the only man I've ever known to know as much about this subject.In other words, been there,done that. Although? Unlike you? my husband rather looked relieved that I took care of the few incident's of head lice when the girls were young-er.

    Common prevention here for head lice is also tee tree oil, though we put a few drops in our shampoo bottle.
    Also I used to encourage the girls to put they're jackets, mits, and hats in their back packs at school, away from other children' s outer wear in the cloak room.This helped.

    Nonetheless, what a pain it all is when dealing with it! I feel for you all there.

  16. Lice happen??? Lice happen??!!!???

    No. They do not.

    Roaches, and scabies, on the other hand, most definitely happen. But when they do, Holy War is justified.

  17. I'm with you Cap'n better living through Chemistry.
    We must have had a half a dozen rounds with the little varmints while the Bobette was @ the State Primary. Unfortunately a large chunk of the enrolled kiddies trooped up each day from the van park where parental responsibility ran as far as letting the kids keep the change from the smokes machine. As you've probably picked up, I'm as egalitarian as all get out, but lordy I strived & struggled not to get judgemental on their collective @sses. The, um, consciencous parents would strike at the little bloodsuckers bleaching combing and shampooing their little darlings, only for them to come home the next day with Shayne's or Sharleene's infestation.
    One particularly undesirable no hoper actually took a shot at the deputy principle who took her little tyke out the back & treated him. "How dare you poison my child?" a simple tactical phone call to Dept. Family Services nipped that particular problem in the bud.

    Can someone explain why otherwise rational & wonderful women take a couple of roaches & head lice as a personal affront?

  18. Yeh - apparently we've got a 'problem family' at the local primary school. Or so I am informed, anyhow. It's all a bit irritating.

    Silent W: my bachelor of science is in Entomology. By virtue of being a little peculiar, it so happens that I recall most of what I learned during that degree, even though I finished it twenty-three years ago. (No. I don't know how or why my memory works that way. It just does.) I am, therefore, pretty unflappable regarding most insects, including lice.

    Therbs: there was no taunting. There was only fiendish chemical death. They deserve no better.

    MickH: what's "Master Chef"? Is that, like, the bloke in 'Halo' who's responsible for the catering?

  19. Yairs, well, obviously there's no ticks in your neck of the woods FH, or you'd be very afraid.
    I want to know how come the tiniest smaller than a pinhead sized bastards leave the largest, itchiest softball sized welts under my skin?