When I heard that some schools are no longer sending kids home for lice, my skin crawled. Of all the blood-sucking parasites we humans attract, lice may be among the most benign. But when it graced my home with its presence years ago, I still found it hard to be grateful that nothing worse had happened.
Lice outbreaks were on the rise that particular summer, and the local camp and town pool circulated cautionary notices daily. By the time school started, rumors and misconceptions were as rampant as the epidemic itself.
I wasn’t taking any chances: My then 7-year-old had unusually thick, long and curly hair, which meant I had to be extra vigilant. I pored over lice-related articles with a fine-tooth comb and became a minor expert on nit prevention. Or so I thought. Each morning I braided my daughter’s hair or knotted it into a tight bun, high above her neckline.
I then applied several revolutions of lice-repellant hair spray to the elaborately coiffed masterpiece, and finished the process by dabbing tea tree oil behind her ears and along the hairline. I marched her to the bus stop, scented and stiff. I warned her not to touch heads while sitting on the bus, and asked that she refrain from hugging her friends until the lice epidemic abated.