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 Touch. I 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.
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?
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.
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.
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!