Many a tolerant friend has entered my kitchen when we are in throes of head lice eradication and lived to tell the tale (whilst furiously scratching). Head lice slaughter in our household has a fraught and bloodied history. Conditioner slathered through our hair. Comb. Garlic-infused olive oil. Chili. KP24. I've been sold so many pesticides by over-earnest, eighteen year old, wannabe make-up consultants in pharmacies over the years, I've paid their weekly ecstasy and cocktail bills several times over by now.
The walk home from school often involved a visit to the Health Department for a quick family nit check. A resulting positive would garner us some free treatment, a noxious smelling chemical handed out in those nasty little brown bottles with the child proof lid and indented ridges down the side.
An old hippy Mum from Denmark once told me; "Families with straight, thin, oily hair tend to suffer from worms. Families with drier, thicker, curlier hair get head lice." Those old hippy Denmark Mums have got it all going on, but this fact of family life is just so unfair. Try dragging a metal nit comb with the diametre of an Egyptian cotton thread count through (dry, curly, thick) hair like ours and you understand just how unfair this biological reality is.
I've resorted in occasional, desperate moments to kerosene. These days I think kerosene is the bomb, especially when there is matches involved. It's the napalm of nits, kero. All power to the petrochemicals.
Life goes on, kids grow up. As they grow older, head lice is not so much of an issue. I think the main reason is that between the ages of ten and thirteen, hair and bodily contact is not so constant. (After that it probably increases, selectively, think about it). In any case, new issues emerge and they tend to be behavioural rather than the old basic reliables like head lice and worms, and yet (dammit) so much more baffling.
Try Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder for baffling. This disorder can hit kids entering the threshold of adolescence. It skews their life choices all over the place because, to stay focussed on anything, ADHD sufferers must take high risks to access the adrenaline they need to stay what is considered straight and normal. Otherwise their heads are like a box of crabs This level of risk taking behaviour in teenagers is quite terrifying to comprehend, let alone the aftermath to deal with, for the kids and as a parent.
So ... this week, while I was out at the inlet fishing, listening to the radio, a report came up. A study done by scientists at the University of Montreal and Harvard University has conclusively proved that children who have been diagnosed with ADHD (the operative word being 'diagnosed' here and haven't we all grown up with someone who is only ever on the ball when they are doing spun out things) have higher levels of organophosphates in their urine.
I've worked in the horticulture industry and have sold this stuff to people who tell me "Just give me whatever it takes to kill the bastards". Organophosphates work as an effective pesticide. This report focussed on the organophosphates that I know well: Malathion and a few other other nasties that folks use to get rid of fruit fly in Western Australia. This compound doesn't block the spiracles of insects - it goes for the nervous system. The nervous system of insects is eerily the same to that of humans. This is why people get freaked out about organophosphates. The writers of the report on ADHD kids think that the link is all about washing your fruit of these pesticides (really, really well) before you eat it.
They didn't mention head lice treatment. I didn't even think about it myself 'til I thought about those little brown bottles we used to get for free from the Health Department ... and the fact that the skin on our scalps is the most porous and absorbent skin in our whole body. I've been pouring this stuff over my own and my kid's heads for years.
So today, in the chemist shop, I thought I'd try the pharmacist out.
"See this KP24? It says it's active ingredient is Maldison. Is this an organophosphate?"
He went to the computer. And five minutes later, he told me, "Yes, it is."
I told him about the report. He went away looking thoughtful.
I hope he will follow this one up.
I got the meds for my kid's ADHD from him. Again. To keep our lives drama-free and achievable because, these days we have bigger and more dramatic things to contend than mere head lice.