Combing through facts on secrets of eternal life
I’ve discovered the secret to eternal life. It turns out that after thousands of years of human discovery and scientific experiments to find the elixir of immortality, it may just have been there all along, right under our noses – or at least right behind our children’s ears.
Nits. Those invincible, indestructible, lousy little critters. No matter what you do to them, they NEVER DIE. EVER.
If you’ve got kids, you’ve almost certainly had nits in your house. It’s estimated that between eight and ten per cent of all children have head lice at any one time.
A female head louse produces about four eggs per day and a total of about 88 eggs during her lifetime. That’s 88 more lice that lay another 88 eggs each, or 7,744 lice on one head. At least until they spring out on to the next head that comes within reach.
Lice have been around as long as humans. They’ve been picked, preserved from Peruvian mummies and even prised from the teeth of a Roman soldier’s comb.
Google head lice and you’ll find a thousand treatments, as well as dozens of ‘alternative’ remedies, from slathering mayonnaise, olive oil, salt, coconut oil or vinegar on to the affected head to electronic combs that beep upon execution, or vacuums that suck out the worst.
We were pretty lucky. My first daughter made it through nursery without a scratch. She made it through most of the first year at primary school without a nit.
And then they came. At first, it was just a little itch. By the end of the week she was scratching like mad. I dutifully headed down to Boots, begged for help from the pharmacist and was pointed in the direction of the ‘very best head lice shampoo money can buy’.
Amid wails of protest, I shampooed, I combed, I dragged dozens of the critters – and their eggs – from my daughter’s scalp. Thankfully, the shampoo was nothing like the vile, potent chemical concoction I remembered from my youth, when nit shampoo would fill the house with fumes and left a revolting smell in your hair for days.
I congratulated myself on making it through my first nit experience with relative ease.
And as the days went by and the scratching subsided, I was convinced I’d cracked it. I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about.
But two weeks later, they were back with a vengeance. We were back on the shampoo. This time, both daughters were dragged into the ordeal and an hour and a half later, we were all in bed, exhausted by the trauma of painstakingly nit combing the hair of two girls who don’t like having their hair brushed at the best of times.
I bought a tea tree oil shampoo. Apparently, lice don’t like tea tree, so we nicknamed it the ‘don’t come back’ shampoo and started using that to wash their hair. But it’s a lie. It seems there is nothing on God’s green Earth that can repress a nit.
One week on and they were both scratching again.
I can’t pretend I didn’t swear as I dragged them down to Superdrug to find a new shampoo, a new comb, a new magic formula.
I reckon we have now de- nitted my children’s hair every other week for the past six months. We’ve tried pretty much every headlice shampoo in Sainsbury’s, Boots, Morrisons, Superdrug and Asda. We’ve done everything other than crack out the vinegar and mayonnaise.
And still they persist.
‘They prefer clean hair,’ said my mum. ‘That must be why they keep coming back.’ It’s not true. Apparently, it’s a myth perpetuated in the
1970s to persuade middle class families that they, too, could get nits.
‘Slather on the conditioner,’ said a friend. ‘The conditioner stops them from moving around so you can get them out before they crawl away.’
I try again. I wash the sheets. I wash the hair. I slather on the conditioner. I comb. And comb. And comb. But the girls are even scratching in their sleep.
This week, I was at it again. I washed, conditioned, combed, washed, conditioned, combed. Three days in a row. Every strand of hair. An hour and a half of painstaking combing. By now, my kids are used to it. They barely flinch, providing I get them in front of the TV and let them watch some dreadful mermaid programme.
As I finally got them to bed on Tuesday night and picked up the nit comb to put it away, I just put it up to my head. They only like children, right. There was no way…
I absent-mindedly dragged it through my hair. And there it was. One brown louse, nestled in the comb. From my head.
‘Why did God invent nits?’ asked my daughter.
‘Good question,’ I replied. ‘I think it’s because they might just hold the secret to eternal life.’
It seems there is nothing on God’s green Earth that can repress a nit