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So with three children, aged 14, 16 and 19, I have had plenty of experience with pediculus humanus capitis, or the common head louse. I’d tease and taunt my soignée friend Trinny Woodall, co-presenter on our show What Not To Wear, shaking my hair next to her. There was a good deal of scraping with a viciously toothed nit comb combined with over-the-counter foams and creams that, whatever the medicinal names on the packets, were in fact industrial-strength insecticide. My children were again welcome on the party circuit.Today, however, the head louse is a subtly different creature, as I have discovered to my cost.
One believes she got them on an aeroplane, another says she caught them from her daughter.Because neither products contain insecticide, it is thought that the bugs are unlikely to evolve resistance.No one, however, is committing themselves to this theory, and certainly not me.Each helmet had probably come into contact with ten heads a day.The source traced, I went to war on what, even before the arrival of the super-nit, was a fearsome opponent.Then someone asked me if I had borrowed any kind of hat worn by multiple people and, to my consternation, I remembered using a crash helmet at our local go-karting track a few months ago.
Nits thrive on hot, sweaty heads – just like tightly enclosed heads careening around a race course, particularly in the heat of summer.
A teacher friend tells me she has to de-louse at least four times a year.
Assuming it was a momentary technicality over bleach, I resumed my contemplation of the latest fashions that I could neither fit into nor afford. ‘Susannah, I’m really sorry but we can’t continue colouring,’ he confessed, a little abashed.
I’m doing so in the hope that other parents fess-up to what is plainly a widespread and growing problem, and one that needs discussing. I’d assumed it was from one of the children, but their hair was nit-free.
They are decisively not to blame (and fortunately I have so far managed not to pass them on).
My hairdresser, usually methodically fast, suddenly stopped, brush held aloft in mid-air. Leaning in a little closer, he actually whispered in my ear: ‘You have nits.’Seeing the shock and revulsion on my face, he instead tried a little soothing.