Tuesday, 19 January 2010

NIT FAMILY TREFUSIS

Every morning, at about half four, The Tiniest Trefusis climbs into bed with Mr Trefusis and I. Still more than three-quarters asleep, she clambers between us, and welds herself to me, head pressed against mine, a hot arm thrown round my neck, icy feet jammed into my side. Her snuffling breath blows stertorously into my ear, keeping me awake, but I don’t mind. She’s my baby, my last child, and the more Trefusis Minor grows up from infant to boy, each passing week ushering in the wilful independence of six, rather than the boyish neediness of five, the more I cling to the fleeting babyhood of Tiny Trefusis.

So really, much against the better judgement of Mr Trefusis, I can’t quite bring myself to put her back in her own bed. We both crave the comfort of each other still, listening as the intense intimacy of mother and newborn baby echoes back at us over the intervening years. Every time she hops in it reminds me of those precious weeks after her birth, when we seemed to spend most of our time in bed together, she dozing at my breast, and me too awed by her fragile beauty to go to sleep. We’re both caught in the no man’s land of toddlerhood: she reserves the right to be simultaneously ‘a Big’ and a baby, and I can’t bear to discourage her.

However, now that she is on her way to being three, and has started Montessori, this physical proximity has its disadvantages. I waved her off on her first day, and not a week later, as I sat one afternoon at my desk, I started to feel a tell-tale prickling on my scalp, behind my ears, and near the nape of my neck. It quickly became more than a tickling irritation, and I found I could no longer suppress the urge to scratch and furtively shoved a plastic fork underneath my hair and wiggled it about, scraping about the roots as gently and subtly as I could.

Nits. The Tiniest Trefusis had given me nits.

Scratch. Scritch. Scratch. Scratch. Scritch-scritch. Scratch.

As the afternoon wore on, I could find no relief in a little light fork therapy: I locked myself in the ladies lavatory and gave into an ecstasy of scratching; scarlet fingernails whirling dervishes underneath my hair. Oh, the rapture. The elation of being able to sate the insane itching. I emerged to look at myself in the mirror. Any vestige of a once elegant coiffure excised by the beserker action of my fingers, I looked as if I’d had a particularly enthusiastic run-in with a live cable.

The relief was short-lived. As I travelled home on the bus, I had to sit on my hands to stop them going to my hair. To keep myself sane, I focused on the image of the rather ancient nit comb rusting at the bottom of the medicine chest in the bathroom.

Scratch. Scritch. Scratch. Scratch. Scritch-scritch. Scratch.

I gathered the Trefusii together, larded them with the only conditioner I could find – an extremely expensive Kerastase hair masque, rather too fit for purpose, and ignoring their screams as I pulled heartlessly through tangles - Mr Trefusis the loudest of the protestors, naturally – I de-nitted them. Astonishingly, Trefusis Minor and Mr Trefusis were entirely nit free and in a fit of pique I threatened to send them down the road to the Glaxo Smith Kline laboratory to see if they had any special immunity that could be bottled and patented as an expensive anti-nit vaccine. It could make us rich beyond our wildest dreams - I’d pay, wouldn’t you?

The Tiniest Trefusis had six proper nits. Nits so big, you could give them their own sideshow in a flea circus, and they didn’t appear to bother her remotely – not a surreptitious scratch or poke into her still downy baby hair. I started on my own. I’m secretly immensely pleased with my hair – it’s very long, and very thick, and the greatest treat I can think of is a visit to Graham the Hair God for a re-blonding, or a blow-dry or for one of his more elaborate confections should I have something exciting to go to. It’s a devil to get a nit comb through, though. I think it took me a full thirty minutes to comb the Kerastase through the lot. And if I wasn’t as badly affected as The Tiny T, the little buggers were certainly in there. On the upside, of course, we're the shiniest-haired family in Shepherds Bush.

Of course, the problem with treating nits is that you have to keep it up – one session with the nit comb and the conditioner isn’t enough: I’ve been taking the family through the nit ritual daily, and in the case of La Princesse Pou, twice – once with conditioner and once with a special evil battery operated comb which is supposed to condemn the nits to death by electrocution. I’ve developed a whole range of severe, scraped back Let-Me-Be-Your-Stern-Mistress hairdos – the nit comb conditioner trick takes so long in the morning I don’t have the time left to blow dry it, and I’m pretty keen to keep my hair up and out of everyone’s way until I have the nit all-clear, particularly given the amount of air-kissing that's obligatory in my line of work. It also means I can poke hair pins at the itchy bits mid afternoon, on the pretext of tidying my 'do'.


I’m very over all this – how long do I have to keep doing it? Do you have nits? Any cunning ways for getting rid of them that I don’t know about, short of making the Tiniest Trefusis wear a bedcap so she doesn’t keep on sharing her nits with me at night?


Scratch. Scritch. Scratch. Scratch. Scritch-scritch. Scratch.

36 comments:

Marie said...

Ha ha, a brilliant post. I had forgotten how annoying nits can be but sympathise with the itchiness. My current batch of mosquito bites turning me into a giant itching machine. So no ideas to answer your questions I'm afraid, but full sympathies instead!

claire said...

I know of no easy way to rid yourselves of these awful insects.It seems that a natural cycle has to run its course;I cut my daughter's beautiful long hair short if only to lessen the daily torture of the nit comb whilst spending a great deal of time in the office loo myself when the itching became unbearable.Eventually they disappeared.Why,where,I don't know.This happened with more than one infestation,so,forebear,everything passes-eventually.

Mr London Street said...

I still remember being told that "they only like clean hair" as if this was meant to be some kind of consolation. What it actually established that cleanliness might be next to godliness but involved other prices that just weren't worth paying.

I love the constant refrain in this. It's so well written I find myself wanting to scratch my own head.

Pochyemu said...

I was a child predisposed to nits, it seemed. Wot you need, roit, is chemical nit treatment for everyone's hair, putting everyone's bed linens (including pillows)/lounge pillows/sofa blankets/sofa covers on ultra-boil in the wash, nit powder shaken onto carpets, and then pray you've killed the little bastards.

mothership said...

just reading this has made me itchy. I haven't had nits since I was a child at school myself and I can remember the attendant shame and fearful scratching than went along with it.
Shocking that you have to waste your Kerastase on the family. Surely there is something *ahem* budget you can use on the rest of them?
Lovely writing
Scritch scratch scritch..

Artichoke Queen said...

I just KNEW that confession was you! Being without spawn of my own, I don't have any solutions, so sorry. xx

Completely Alienne said...

Keep it up for a good 10 days to catch all the hatchlings, then you'll have to do it once a week to check for reinfestation until she starts secondary school. At which point all such infestations cease miraculously. If she becomes addicted to hair straighteners before secondary school you will get time off for good behaviour. In the meantime I found that a few drops of tea tree oil in the shampoo were very effective. Apparently the little sods don't like the smell so it deters them; alternatively you could try giving Tiny T a number one cut ......

hampshireflyer said...

When I was at school in the late eighties, they sent leaflets round about a Bug Buster campaign where you were apparently meant to use a special head-louse-trapping comb every single week even after you'd caught them the first time....

Wildernesschic said...

Hate them !! Nits that is .. I remember watching my youngest at the school play scratching his head constantly and when I checked he was crawling in them he has thick blonde hair.. they both do and his brother had more than a few also.
I could not believe I hadn't noticed.. and worse the same child kept re infecting them !!
Tea tree oil is supposed to be a good repellant tip from my aromatherapy expert friend.. Great post .. very funny it happens to the best of us.. infestation that is x

Anonymous said...

RID - lice killing shampoo

Steerforth said...

After discovering that most anti-nit shampoos have a constituent of nerve gas in them, I bought an organic alternative. It was so smelly that my oldest son screamed "I WISH I COULD SAW MY HEAD OFF!"

He has a very low tolerance threshold at the best of times.

He then started pleading with me to put mayonnaise on his head. I thought that the boy was completely mad, but a search on Google revealed that he was spot on. Apparently it suffocates the lice and makes them easier to remove.

For some reason I never get them - perhaps my remote, Victorian approach to fatherhood protects me (actually, I think it's the tea tree shampoo).

I know exactly what you mean about the second child. It's a gift, having those moments again. I often sneak into my youngest son's bedroom to smell his hair and stroke his soft cheek.

But when the little bugger gets into bed with us, it's hell. He wriggles and kicks all through the night, managing to turn 90 degrees to ensure maximum discomfort.

I agree with Complete Alienne - a tea tree shampoo along with a few drops of the oil on a comb should stop the nits paying a return visit.

The Divorcee said...

Daughter has suffered with nits for what feels like most of her life. It has been an ongoing struggle for us, as I stand crook backed over her in the bath yanking the comb through her hair, her wailing and me despairing.
I have suffered from various humiliating episodes myself, including finding one wriggling in my eyebrow (ugh, the memory makes me nauseous) and another time involving a colleague that I just cannot bring myself to repeat.
Last treatment, a few weeks ago, I couldn't believe the infestation. It was of biblical proportions. We have tried cutting, conditioning, chemical, non, the list is endless.
I shall be trying out the straighteners and the tea tree suggestions as things are quite desperate!
A lovely post, despite the deeply unpleasant subject matter, bon courage!

Rose said...

mercifully haven't had nits since childhood when I remember my mother dragging those horrid combs through my hair.

The part of this post about you and Tiny T huddling together is just lovely.

BetsiBoo said...
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BetsiBoo said...

My son had nits for almost a year. I would painstakingly remove them at the weekend, he would go straight back to school on the monday and they would hop straight back on! It got to the point where I almost cut his long wavy Australian-surfer hair, althought that in itself was virtually impossible, as I refused to do it myself and my hairdresser wouldn't touch him.
Eventually I discovered that the best way to deal with nits is to comb through the hair with the expensive metal comb and a good conditioner. In between nit episodes, I wash all three of my children's hair with tea tree shampoo and conditioner, they end up smelling like Wrigley's spearmin gum but it keeps the nits away!

Miss Cavendish said...

Oy--this sounds challenging. (And I am starting to scratch right now, from the power of suggestion.) We have never been plagued, knock on wood, and I think that this type-A person would lose her cool entirely.

Anonymous said...

Whilst I wholly subscribe to the Tea Tree oil prevention method,(even though it sounds rather like some sort of third world birth control), cannot stongly enough stress, mix TTO with baby shampoo, or sim. V mild shampoo prior to applying. To young virgin baby skin is akin to applying sulphuric acid. I'm sure you know this already but, having made sim. mistake, felt I would be remiss in not mentioning.

Lewis William said...

Oh you do make me laugh. Mummy always used Eucalyptus oil and then unceremoniously wrapped cling-film over our heads to smother them. The oil is an antiseptic and the residue supposed to discourage them. We would sit on the verandah for 30 minutes, 3 scientific experiments with shiny, cling-filmed heads and towels around our necks.

Helena Halme said...

Oh I have sooo been there. (Sorry a ladette moment there)

Daughter seemed particularly prone to nits. At eleven they vanished for a while until she started babysitting little neighbour's children. Her worst moment came when at hairdressers she spotted (through the mirror she was facing)the girl that washeth hair whisper not so quietly into the stylist's ear, 'I think she has NITS'

Daughter was then fifteen and it took me a full two years before I could convince her that not all hairdressers are so unthinking...

Helena xx

PS. You've made me scratch my hair now.

Top Bird @ Wee Birdy said...

Oh lordy, nits. I'm recoiling from the notion of motherhood as I type.

In the meantime, you're quite brilliant, you know? And hilarious. Love the idea of you spreading nits via work air kissing. xx

Miss Welcome said...

Oh. My. Good. Lord.

I was cracking up while reading this. Our first nit experience was while I was in the hospital delivering our third child. My youngest two caught them so my husband could neither leave them with anyone else, nor could he visit us in the hospital. I was so anxious about the whole ordeal I needed to get medicine to help me sleep (which, unfortunately didn't transmit to my newborn).

Anyway, all our early photos of #3 and fam were with eldest in a pink scarf, and middle with bare spots throughout his crew cut like a leopard. (He moved a LOT during his hair cut, which was a home jobby after the salon loudly ostracized him, pointing fingers towards the door).

A couple more experiences after that have made us pros, but we prefer the ghastly chemical stuff here in France, so I cannot offer any practical advice for the more organic-minded.

Sonya said...

Oh - poor you. I'm itching just reading your post!

I have found Lewis's recommendation (I also used olive oil and blow dried the plastic-wrapped head), followed by a vinegar rinse to loosen the eggs and then the nit comb to work.

You do have to either hot wash repeatedly all items in contact with their heads (pillows, sheets, soft toys, hats, etc.) or bag for two weeks those you can't wash.

I also found that adding lavender oil to our shampoo for the duration of primary school prevented further infestations. It doesn't sting the way tea-tree does and they seem to dislike the odour.

Good luck!

Hodmandod said...

Went to that very smart hairdresser in Chelsea. Real Hair? They have so many Chelsea ladies in with nits, that they have special policy. Whisper in ear, then out of the door, shamefully dripping.

Hodmandod said...

Delacet, guys. It is the only thing that works, and I've been at it for the best part of 20 years. http://www.elixirhealth.co.uk/asps/ShowDetails.asp?id=1065

Knackered Mother said...

We had 'em last week. Boys were treated and sheets washed so thought we were done. But no. Realised I had them but not until the day after I had been to the new hairdressers in town. Don't think I'll be going back.

katyboo1 said...

I feel your pain. Tallulah had them last week. Am still in the throes of combing her twice daily for ten days. Then Tilly announced she had them yesterday morning at breakfast. Another ten days of purgatory. Those combs with the ridged teeth that cost £10 each are great from Boots, but you have to use tons of conditioner to stop it ripping out lumps of flesh and hair.

Yes to tea tree oil. Yes to lavender oil.

And scalping. scalping is going to make a massive comeback in 2010. Particularly in Glenfield.

Lizzie said...
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Lizzie said...

Eurgh. At a festival a couple of years ago, while queuing for the toilets I had a 5 year old foisted upon me by their drunk dad to accompany to the toilet. She gave me nits. It was maddening! I slathered myself with chemicals and combed the bastards out. Every day. For at least a week, to make sure.

Wendy Mallins said...

I spray my children with teatree & water spritzer as they are leaving the house and in 6 years no nits - very pleasing

Welsh Girl said...

Why is it that in a world where we can fly into outer space we can't eradicate nits????? I have had hideous etiquette dilemmas where I have picked up nits from the children of friends and never been able to tell them. Yet still, every time I go to their house, I come away with a small zoo on my head.

Jo said...

Neem oil (from healthfood shops) is the best preventative (apparently nits are becoming immune to the powers of tea tree) - add several drops to shampoo & conditioner - it's a fantastic conditioner and treatment for hair & scalp anyway.
Other than that, it's a weekly comb with the nitty gritty comb - that removes eggs as well as nymph & full grown beasties, so is far more effective than most of the non-pesticide OTC things from the chemist.
Good luck - my hair's very thick and very very curly - so much so that it only ever sees a comb or brush when it's wet with conditioner - the weekly nit-comb ritual is an utterly hideous experience.

Glenland Ladybird said...

Tee hee. I was refused a haircut by the smartest hairdresser in Fife on the discovery of visiting nits; a gift from OnlyGirl. My lovely daughter had nits for the five years that she was a boarder at prep school. I reckoned that the matron on nit picking duty couldn’t see the eggs, in her blonde, frizzy tangles. Nit searches for my boys were random but for OnlyGirl it was first night home routine.My husband blamed the school laundry and remains convinced that had the sheets been boiled, the little blighters would have died. We did suggest hot washes to the school but this wasn’t considered “cool” for a green and friendly environment – possibly more to do with saving money, we thought; and so the nits lived on.

nishitak said...

Aah...just had to comment on this one. My little snubnose has recently come home with a bundle of them.

The best solution I have found for them is a shampoo called Mediker. You just wash the hair, the buggers get totally drunk, you just need to comb hair with a normal comb and out they come - just begging to be squashed.

You could try some kind of Indian store in London. They might have them in stock.

TrulyMadlySweetly said...

Every Sunday night many moons ago after our bath my mother would (religiously) nit comb me and my two sisters over a piece of white paper. We were never ever allowed to wear our hair down for school(all our school photos bear testament to pleats, pigtails and ponytails)and we never had nits. Several years ago I was horrified to find them in my daughters hair - a one off afer adopting my Mum's Sunday night regime without fail. One day my own daughter might thank me.

Anonymous said...

Hello. And Bye.

bbonthebrink said...

We are suffering nits at our house as well. What a hateful waste of time.

Combing with conditioner is our preferred technique. Here in France they prefer the hardcore pesticide solution, with very little combing. I don't think it works. I have closely studied the lifecycle of the head louse. My research tells me that you need to comb for 17-21 days to be sure you're out of the woods. The eggs take 7 days to hatch and then the newly hatched lice take 7 days before they can reproduce. The trick is to get them during this period of non-fertility.

I read somewhere that in the USA they are developing a technique where you sit under a thing that blows warm hair onto the head. Warm air dries out the eggs AND kills the lice...'mit einem streich'! I only hope this technique hits the high streets before my kids leave school.

Good luck with your head-fellows

BB