So your family contracted head lice. When we discovered we had head lice years ago — at a friend’s Christmas eve party no less — we were totally shocked, appalled and ashamed. Amid all the festivities our five year-old son was running around scratching his head and my wife asked the hostess, "Why is he scratching his head like that? Does he have fleas or something?" She bent down, parted his hair in the back and gasped, "You have to leave now." Her experienced eye saw what we had missed, even though we had checked his head several times for what we thought might be fleas—dozens of the small, translucent nits scattered throughout his hair.

So that night, instead of enjoying Christmas eve, we went home and started what turned out to be an over six-week process. We spent hundreds of dollars on highly toxic permethrin-based pediculicides, spent hours combing and looking through each other’s heads for nits and obsessively sterilized everything in the house that could possibly harbor a nit or a louse. We bombed the house and sprayed even more toxic chemicals on virtually every surface until we were all sick, and ran all our clothes and bedding through the dryer until the element burned out and had to be replaced.

The most frustrating thing was finally getting ourselves and the kids completely nit- and bug-free and then a week later having them sent home because their school nurse found more nits. Conventional treatments, even if they’re successful at killing the lice (which they’re not always, as you’ll soon see), they do nothing to prevent them from coming back. What we needed was an effective treatment AND a preventative, preferably one that was non-toxic.

Then to add insult to injury, we found out we were getting a reputation as the lice family. Our kid’s friends stopped coming over and when their day-care came down with an infestation, of course it was blamed on us. But we’ve since learned that, contrary to popular opinion, having head lice does not necessarily mean your family is dirty, disgusting or in any way hygienically-challenged. Everyone and anyone can become unwitting hosts to the little pests. Researchers have determined that head lice actually prefer clean scalps to dirty ones—less dirt and grease to dig through for a meal—and even the royal family of England has famously at times dealt with them. Therefore head lice are an equal opportunity parasite.

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