Thursday 17 October 2019

Time to call in the Hairforce as technology fuels nits war

'Every time my poor daughter scratches her head, I’m over to her like some kind of ninja, wielding the nit comb as my chosen weapon of defence'
'Every time my poor daughter scratches her head, I’m over to her like some kind of ninja, wielding the nit comb as my chosen weapon of defence'

Sinéad Moriarty

The kids going back to school strikes fear in my heart. Not because of homework, packed lunches, over-scheduled after-school activities or the dreaded science projects - what really bugs me is the head lice.

Last year, my six-year-old daughter came home from school with lice six times.

My neighbour's daughter, same age, different school, had lice seven times.

Not only are these wriggly, vile creatures a nightmare to deal with, they are now becoming resistant to over-the-counter products.

Every time my poor daughter scratches her head, I'm over to her like some kind of ninja, wielding the nit comb as my chosen weapon of defence.

These creatures, known as 'nasty nits' in our house, caused havoc last year as they seemed to bounce from school to school and class to class.

Children hate having to sit still while parents laboriously comb through their hair pulling out eggs and lice. It's no barrel of laughs for parents either.

Not only do you spend hours combing through your child's hair, you also have to launder all of their bed linen, clothes, coats, hats scarves, towels, and anything else they may have come in contact with over the previous few days.

The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) estimates that one in 10 schoolchildren suffer from head lice at any time, and that 80pc of infestations occur between the ages of four and 16.

A teacher friend of mine had a mother in the class who would not treat her child's hair because she refused to believe her precious little one had head lice. Thus the nit infestation continued for months.

In desperation, my teacher friend got some Sellotape, stuck one of the child's wriggly nits to it and placed the Sellotaped louse into the child's homework notebook. She added a little note to the mother stating the evidence was self-explanatory.

Another problem with parents having to deal with repeated cases of lice in their children's hair is the constant use of shampoos that kill lice and contain chemicals.

There is a theory that tea tree shampoo and conditioner repel nits - they don't. Believe me, I tried.

So you end up using chemically enhanced shampoos on your children's' heads. And now, we are being told that there is a growing resistance among head lice when they are treated with over-the-counter products.

What will we be using next to try to kill the nasty nits - rat poison?

A study in Southern Illinois University found that the majority of lice in America are now resistant to shop-bought treatments, due to their over-use.

The report stated that lice in 25 out of 30 US states surveyed are now immune to chemical shampoos.

So why are the sodding head lice so tenacious now? What's changed?

I only ever got them once in my life from a girl I shared my locker with. We bumped heads occasionally when grabbing our gym clothes out of the school locker. But that was it, one time, one comb-through and I never saw them again.

Modern technology is to blame for the rise of the nits. Think about it, children now are drawn to activities where they hover together around a screen - a computer, iPad, iPod, videogames...the list is endless.

Children today constantly have their heads together. Even in school young kids work together on iPads. They probably spend more time touching heads now than sitting alone at their desk.

Apparently you can even get head lice from sharing headphones. With the way children interact today, it's no wonder head lice are on the rise.

There is also now a rise in head lice in teenagers, who traditionally didn't get nits. Once you turned 12, lice simply disappeared out of your life. Not any more. Again, technology is to blame. The teenage obsession with taking selfies of every single moment of their lives has caused a sharp rise in teenage head lice.

As young heads are crowded together in front of the phone, head lice are hopping from hair to hair with gleeful abandonment.

The good news is that help is at hand.

Just this year a solution to the problem appeared - The Hairforce.

The business was brought to Ireland by Michele Hennessy, a mother of five children who was all too familiar with the curse of head lice.

The Hairforce 'lice assassins' is an anti-lice 'hairdresser' with outlets in Dublin, and planned openings in Cork and Belfast this year.

They promise to get rid of your child's head lice using treatments that are totally free of any chemicals or pesticides.

While you read a magazine and your child watches a DVD, a staff member will de-louse your child's head with a hoover-type apparatus and tweezers.

These life-savers are booked solid dealing with harried parents and their lice-ridden children.

I, for one, will be standing outside the nearest Hairforce door the next time the dreaded letter comes home in the school bag, announcing yet another outbreak.

Irish Independent

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