Comb­ing through facts on se­crets of eter­nal life

Western Morning News - - News -

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

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