The Poux Touch

Written by Jenn

Les Poux: \poo\ noun; French for Lice

Yes people, we got LICE! French Lice….Twice!!

During our travels, our kids were able to spend a lot of time together. They’ve become very good friends (although they can scrap really well too). I’ve enjoyed watching them make up songs and games. Like giving each other the “Sistine” instead of high fives while we were in Italy, which involved almost touching each other’s index fingers like God and man did in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel painting.

They’ve made up some really silly songs, like:

I’m driving down the highway drinking my beer

Eating my potato chips, drunk like a deer.

They can really get into this one together, with the boys going off on riffs with their phantom guitars. To which I asked them if they’ve ever seen a drunk deer, and they replied that they couldn’t find another word that rhymed with beer. A nod of understanding all around. Rhyming is important.

These past couple of months, they’ve tweaked the common tag game into the Poo TouchI imagine they got the idea from skipping across countless dog caca on the sidewalks here. They’d run around giving each other the dreaded Poo Touch, treating each other equivalent to an undesirable disease like scabies or boy/girl germs or something. Sometimes they’d get really into it and join alliances, which really is not so good when there’s a 3 to 1 alliance, and I’d have to break it up because the person left out is reduced to tears. I’ve even been a victim of the Poo Touch while unsuspectingly cooking dinner, and I’d find little kids standing behind me giggling and pointing shamelessly.

Well, two weeks ago, we got the real Poux Touch. After a few days of complaining that she had an itchy head, I took a look into Lucy’s hair. I had to control myself, bite my lip, and remain calm, when all I wanted to do was run away screaming like a banshee from my daughter. I wasn’t able to mask the fearful surprise in my voice when I told Lucy that she had lice. I had to give myself imaginative slaps in the face when I saw my sweet little girl burst into tears. The other three kids didn’t help out a bit when they screamed  in terror and scrambled to the corners of the room far away from Lucy. All at once Lucy was scared and embarrassed. I have to admit, I was a little frightened and uncertain too. With four years of primary school in Canada, we’ve never encountered lice. We had to reassure Lucy that this was a common thing with school kids.

The Pharmacy was closed already so we decided to keep Lucy home from school the next day, buy the Poux shampoo, start the treatments, soak all the hair brushes and accessories in high percentage bleach water, and start my mountain of laundry to rid us of the lice and nits. Once the other children got home from school, they received their anti-lice shampoo treatments and combing.

Paranix: Anti-Poux Shampoo and Spray. I've gone to the Pharmacy 3 times to buy more Anti-Poux.

Like anything, situations like this can be a very good educational experience. This is what I’ve learned:

  • Lice like clean hair and scalp.
  • When mature, lice move fast and can jump quickly from one head (or shoulder) to another.
  • Lice only like human scalp, so you can’t give it to your pet.
  • Lice can swim in swimming pools because the chlorine is not strong enough to kill those buggers.
  • Lice can live up to 2 days without a human scalp as its host to nourish it with blood.
  • Nits are lice eggs and they can live on cloth fibres up to 8 days.
  • You must wash every cloth (especially pillows) the contaminated person has been in contact with in water no cooler than 60 degrees Celsius.
  • It is expensive to treat lice with a family of 6. Even though only the girls got it (perhaps it’s our long hair, and we also share brushes), we shampooed everyone.
  • After rinsing out the special pesticide shampoo, you must painstakingly go through the hair with a very fine metal tooth comb to remove nits. Ours came with the Paranix shampoos.
  • You must also spray helmets and other cloth surfaces and even coat lapels with the lice/nit killer spray.
  • It can take up to a month or two to completely rid your life from lice and nits.
  • For preventive measures, you must tie your child’s hair back when she goes to school. I gave the girls a hair cut and trimmed Edmund’s hair. There’s also lice repellent spray you can buy to spray your hair, neck, and shoulders with.
  • Either the French are really polite, or lice here in the schools are very common. Not one person gave me a disgusted terrified look, nor bat an eyelash when I told them my kids had lice. I have to admit, back in Canada, I would have probably gasped. I know my sister back home got freaked out when I told her on Facebook. Here, they just nod understandingly and say, “C’est normale.” You know, I’m really grateful for that. Have I told you lately that I really like the French people in Southern France?

The girls had fun with their lice caps the second time around. They even decorated each other's aluminum caps.

My friend Lisa was on her way to visit us, so I worked late into the night doing the laundry to be clear of the Poux before she arrived. I tell you, after three full, long days of washing and hanging laundry, I really missed my large capacity washer and dryer! Before lice, I actually enjoyed hanging all my laundry to dry because I found the simplicity with less clothes to be more manageable.

Our sheets drying outside

It’s not customary in the Mediterranean to own a tumble dryer. The weather is too nice, plus electricity is expensive. French families who do own tumble dryers use them during winter when it is too cold or rainy.

Once the shampooing, combing, vacuuming, spraying, and washing ended, I thought we were done with the Poux. We even made sure to do an extra shampoo treatment the day before Lisa arrived to ensure we were completely clean.

We enjoyed our week visit with Lisa. She came just in time too because the kids had a week off school for Toussaint (an All Saints school vacation week). The kids were sad when she left eight days later. I think we have a hard time with goodbyes in our family.

The night after Lisa left, Susan started complaining of  an itchy scalp. That’s when we discovered tiny lice eggs and one just hatched, crawling blindly on the metal comb.

I almost cried.

I racked my brain on what I could have possibly done wrong.

What did I miss or contaminate? Could we have possibly given it to Lisa?

I’ve been dreaming about lice for the past two days. It has consumed my thoughts and even made me feel a little down because it’s been raining all week and I won’t be able to dry all my laundry outside. I’d also feel very sad and guilty if we gave lice to Lisa.

My friend Delphine says that all it takes is one missed nit and the lice infestation would continue. So here I am again, shampooing (for the third time) and combing hair, vacuuming, and doing laundry. This time, I’m washing the curtains and the IKEA sofa covers instead of spraying them with the Anti-Poux killer. This time, it’s a little more challenging with the rainy weather that’s supposed to stay for the whole week. Thank God for our solarium which heats up nicely during the day. I had to get creative by hanging linen up on the doors and chairs though.

Laundry hanging on doors in the sunroom.

This Poux experience has really affected my perspective on hair. I watched So You Think You Can Dance on my computer (hey, I like to watch amazing dancing when I’m depressed, it lifts my spirits and inspires me) while I waited for my load of laundry to finish. As I watched the female dancer’s shake their long sweaty heads everywhere, I couldn’t help but think about the potentially high risk of spreading lice to their partners. I see hats, pretty hair accessories, and helmets in a different way now – mainly as Trojan Horses for lice armies.

I suppose that’s the consequence of having the Poux touch.

If anyone has suggestions on ridding our lives of this Poux Touch once and for all, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE share it with us in the comments!

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15 Responses to The Poux Touch

  1. Leann says:

    Also, rosemary oil seemed to be a good deterrent when my girls were in grade school. Whenever there was a lice outbreak (we never had it, thank goodness) I would get concentrated rosemary oil, pour it on my hands, rub them together and then run my hands through their hair from nape of neck upwards. Lice like the back of the ears and neck mostly – is that what you found too? Oil makes it hard for the lice to hang on, and I suppose they don’t like the rosemary. You can probably find it with the homeopathic remedies.

    • Thanks Leann! I’ve never heard of rosemary oil and will certainly check it out. We got the Lice cleared (fingers crossed). I purchased the Tea Tree oil last week for prophylaxis. I like the smell of rosemary so I’ll keep that in mind once we run out of the Tea Tree oil. Thanks for the suggestion.
      Jenn 🙂

  2. Trish says:

    Hello Jen! I have to say that I had a good laugh at your post! It felt like a kindred spirit across the world. Ever since my move to teaching in the inner city a couple of years ago I have encountered an ENDLESS stream of lice (it falls on the desks while the students are working) bed bugs (I have taken 2 home) scabies (yep they are real) and impetego!!!!! I am constantly creeped and itchy when my lovely darlings want a hug from Mrs. Roffey. The only life saver I have found is Tree Tea Oil. I put a couple of drops in my hair with each shampoo, or add the small bottle to your shampoo bottle. Lice cannot stand the stuff!! The smell is hard to get used to at first (Cory really hates it) but to me it smells like freedom from constant itch and wonder! Knock on wood but it works and many of our teachers use it daily. Good luck!

    • Oh my gosh Trish! I feel for you! Has the problem at your school been remedied? Is there any way to do so??
      I am interested in how you took home the bed bugs. Is washing the sheets in hot water the only way to rid yourself of the bugs? When going through this continually, one’s view of hair and contageous bugs change. My friend here who is also a teacher in the Old Town school (the school we go to) said she had a student once who had the BIGGEST monster louse she ever saw.
      Good luck!

      • Trish says:

        Unfortunately in my case it is “c’est normale” as well! Inner city schools often have endless cycles of buggy boos that we have to deal with because the families are unable to deal with the infestations themselves. Landlords do not help the situation by knowingly renting out infested suites. Bed bugs are especially difficult to deal with and from what I know you have to fumigate. The two hitchhikers I took home were in my bag with my books and crawled out on my counter. Luckily we saw them and killed them immediately. I just smile, hug my students anyways and ALWAYS use tea tree oil. I have spidy senses for any bug movement though, it seems I am always on the look out. Good luck with all your laundry! Trish

  3. Renee says:

    Haha, Manang, I’m totally with KC on this one! My head was itching too as I read this! LOL…Good luck with all the laundry! You’re a tough one, and you’ll get through this…this will be one of those awesome stories you will look back at and laugh, but not want to relive!

    If you want to have a good gross laugh with our “Poo” story…Well, you know how I’ve been potty training Gabe? Well, I think Anjali ate some of Gabe’s “pooh” today…

    I think I am going to take shower again…



    • Eeeeww, that’s gross! You’re hilarious. Things are looking up. Almost done laundry, but it’s been raining mad these past 2 days. Has been challenging biking in the rain for school. Sending you love and cheering you on during this potty training time.
      Love J

  4. Nancy from Massachusetts says:

    I have heard that Listerine (the orginal one) helps to get rid of them. Although I would think that may burn the scalp a little…
    I remember having them when I was little and about 15 years ago. Hubby and I were visiting cousins in another state who had young children. 2 weeks later, I was dreaming of scratching my head with a wire brush. It took forever to get rid of them!
    My heart goes out to you and your children and yes, c’est normale! (unfortunately!)

    • Hi Nancy,
      Thanks so much for the tip. I will have to check if they sell Listerine here. I wonder if any type of mouth wash would do?
      But yes, I’d imagine how painful the burning sensation would be, and would have to be especially careful to not get it in the eyes. Hearing from your experience, I am coming to see that it’s more normal than I expected. Thank you for your comment.

  5. Holy cow, Jenn, I had no idea it was so difficult to get rid of lice. When I was in elementary school back in California, lice outbreaks were fairly common. Everyone was given the lice comb and told to get the shampoo, but beyond that I don’t remember much about it. Don’t recall if I ever had the Little buggers myself.

    My heart goes out to you with the small washer & line drying at a time like this. Just yesterday I was telling my husband I’ve gotten so used to line drying in six months on the road that—as long as we didn’t live in a rainy climate—I could easily do without a dryer in future. But this makes me think again. Sometimes one does need to turn over vast amounts of laundry in a hurry.

    Well, no useful advice in this comment I’m afraid, but good luck with everything. Sounds like you’re doing a great job trying to solve the problem. Thanks for taking the time to post about it.

    • Thanks for the moral support Renee. It was a better day today. The forecast was rain but all we had was strong winds which was excellent for drying clothes outside. My washing machine was humming from 7am till 9pm. I would have continued but my husband asked me to take a break for the evening. Our washer is old and when it does the spin cycle it sounds like a rocket is about to lift off, it’s so loud. I’m hoping for more wind and no rain again tomorrow.
      🙂 Jenn

  6. Emelie says:

    One option is to take the items may have lice or nits on them, put them in sealed containers and/or in the freezer for about a month. Don’t know what kind of freezer capacity you have, but I’ve heard it works. (Especially since washing and drying bedding in hot, hot water so frequently can be tough). If you haven’t already, you can also get a prescription for a stronger nix treatment compared to the OTC options…
    Hope this helps! Good luck!

    • Thanks Emelie!
      Yes, I’ve put our nice jackets and scarves in a garbage bag, as well as the girls’ dolls and sealed them in for a good week and a half. My fridge/freezer is TINY, so that can’t be an option for us, sadly. I was thinking of a stronger nix treatment too but Brian got a bad rash from the shampoo already, and the girls got bad dandruff. A few people told me about tea tree oil. I will give that a go first.
      Thanks for your advice!

  7. KC says:

    OH no!! scary stuff… I noticed I was scratching my head a few times while reading this post! Could lice jump through computers across the world? LOL Sorry I have no suggestions for that! But reading your post I learned lots! Say hi to the fam from Dylan Brett and Me! ❤ you guys!

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