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Lice, Lice, Baby!

Getting rid of these pesky parasites is all about the combing, combing, combing

Perhaps this story is not the best way to introduce myself as the new editor of Maplewood Patch.

But one purpose for focusing on the topic of lice is to remove the stigma. "Lice are nothing to be ashamed of," says nitpicker Lisa Sista of Short Hills. "They've been around for all of human history. They're our fleas."

And there are no better carriers of those parasites than our adorable children. Children who like to play with each other's hair, sit side by side on the sofa, wrestle, tackle, hug and lean close together while playing with toy soldiers or glitter glue.

There is good news: Lice do not carry diseases. They do not make you sick. However, chronic scratching can lead to abrasions of the scalp and possible infection. Also, visible bugs crawling around your head is just icky.

For the past two weeks, lice have been harrassing several families on my stretch of Plymouth Avenue here in Maplewood. One neighbor has been driven nearly to distraction and can talk of nothing else. Another shaved his boys' heads to boot camp standard. One afternoon, several neighbors could be spotted on a front lawn checking each other's scalps. And, though my two children and husband showed no signs after a pre-emptive Rid shampooing and comb-through, I had become a host (or hostess?).

It was time to call the "Lice Whisperer."

Lisa Sista came highly recommended by a Maplewood friend who has been through a couple rounds of lice infestation with her three children. Ms. Sista makes house calls and charges $50 for a head check and $100 for a full treatment (sometimes more if the infestation is bad and the treatment takes longer). A metal lice comb is included in the cost but you can purchase one solo for $20.

This morning, Sista visited my home and demonstrated the process on me. Sista swears by Pantene conditioner (you can see the lice against the white solution very well; add baking soda in extreme cases when the lice eggs, or nits, are resistant). She squeezed almost an entire bottle of the goo on top of my head and worked it through the hair, first combing back, then combing down, then combing out behind my ears, and finally again around the nape of my neck.

Good news: I was completely clear.

While I have been barraged with advice and multiple tips on how to get rid of lice—methods included applying pesticidal shampoos like Nix and Rid, to smothering the hair overnight in olive oil or Cetaphil cleanser, to blow-drying repeatedly at high heat—Sista insisted that the real solution is the combing.

"The lice seem to be becoming resistant to the pesticidal shampoos," she said. Her professional advice was that—while the Rid, Cetaphil, olive oil and other homeopathic methods certainly won't encourage the lice—the most important thing to do is comb out, comb out, comb out.

"Lice have two-week cycles," said Sista. "Two weeks to lay, two weeks to hatch, two weeks to mature. You have to realize that this is going to be a two-week process and that you will be combing out every two or three days. You'll be coming every day only in cases of extreme infestation."

But what about your house? Do you need to call in an exterminator? "You really just need to concentrate on the bedding of the infested person," said Sista. "Put the sheets and pillows in the dryer for 40 minutes, vacuum the mattresses and flip it over if you can." Sista suggested bagging stuffed animals for a couple of weeks ("The bugs die in 48 hours but you never know if you'll get one crazy one that lives for 7 days.").

She also suggests putting a towel over the child's car seat and a sheet over the couch for a couple of weeks.

Sista strongly suggests telling everyone you know that you or your child has lice. "The more we talk about it, the less people feel stigmatized by it." And the faster you can start combing!

Anybody feeling itchy?

Lisa Sista can be reached at 908-601-0219.

Scott Doug October 13, 2009 at 06:56 PM
Ugh!! Yes, we also got the DREADED attack of the killer lice, well not quite killer, but it felt that bad anyway. I'm glad you also meantion what to do to get lice out of the home as well, because that is the thing that tripped us up...we kept getting reinfected over and again, until we took care of the home as well. We used www.licetokill.com and thank GOODNESS no more lice. But honestly Im shocked it was so hard to get rid of. I won't allow my daughter to go to school w/out her hair in braids or ponytail, and knock on wood, no lice again yet... Great article Thanks! Scott

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