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When lice strike, UWS families fight back – West Side Rag

Humanus capitis louse, better known to its unfortunate victims as the head louse. Credit: Leif Czerny via Wikimedia Commons.

By Andrea Sachs

Until recently, preteen Emma (a pseudonym) lived in a bustling two-quarry house on the Upper West Side. But additional, unwanted work took over her parents’ already busy lives. Emma, ​​a primary school student, contracted lice last month for the third time in two years, and it quickly became her family’s main concern again.

Emma is a classic example of the child most likely to have Humanus capitis pedicle, better known to its unfortunate victims as the head louse. According to “The No-Panic Guide to Head Lice Treatment,” published by the Johns Hopkins Medicine website, lice are more common in girls, children ages 3 to 11, and white children. Another possible risk factor for Emma: head lice are more abundant in metropolitan areas.

Emma has a lot to say about what it’s like to have lice on your scalp. “It’s really itchy and feels like you have bumps on your head,” she says. “You start to feel like your head is going bald. You feel like you’re itching everywhere. Sometimes you can even see the lice, and it’s really disgusting.

When lice strike, Emma’s family acts collectively. “The lice shampoo you use, my dad puts it on my head and squirts it around. And then I wash it. Usually it works, but right after, my mom combs it with a special lice comb and she usually picks up the remains. Then her parents throw her sheets and pillowcases in the washing machine. “We have become hypochondriacs with lice,” says Emma’s father. “If you miss just one, it will slowly recur and re-infect itself. »

Over the past week, the family’s efforts have been successful and Emma is now out of harm’s way. She has the embarrassment of a teenager over the whole 10-day crisis. “I feel like if someone noticed the lice they would feel uncomfortable and I would understand.” The experience involved the whole family. Emma says: “As I had had lice for so long and they didn’t go away, my parents were thinking of sending me to have them removed by a professional. »

Lice are a recurring problem among school-age children, and it is impossible to determine whether their incidence is increasing on the UWS this year. Calls to city and state health agencies yielded no current statistics. And nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers data that’s almost laughable in its inaccuracy: the agency reports that about “6 to 12 million” infestations occur each year in the United States among children ages 3 at the age of 11. old.

What one can assess is this: Over the past decade, an industry has grown in response to the problem, including companies that will come to your UWS home for a discreet consultation and removal of lice and nits (their eggs).

The rise of mobile lice removal services was perhaps inevitable: where some people see misery, others see money. According to Global Market Insights, a market research and management consulting firm, “the North American lice treatment market accounted for $461.5 million in market revenue” and is expected to grow 6.4%. by 2032, including everything from sales of specialty shampoos to at-home lice removal services.

Perhaps because no one really wants to think about the realities of a lice infestation, lice removal companies serving the UWS operate under catchy names like Lice Happens and Larger Than Lice. These companies are expensive, typically costing hundreds of dollars per visit, depending on the number of family members and the severity of the problem. But many parents are at their wits’ end and willing to pay almost anything to resolve the problem. These structures offer their services almost 24 hours a day, some available from 7 a.m. to midnight, 365 days a year. And what is most attractive for many parents is that they visit you at home. Your nosy neighbors don’t need to know every little detail of your life. (Okay, I’ll stop with the parasite puns.)

In fact, the lice removal industry is notable for its dedication to secrecy. Although medical authorities and school officials in New York and elsewhere have repeatedly told the public that lice are not the result of poor cleanliness habits, a feeling of embarrassment, even shame, often follows. this condition.

“If a child is upset,” says Lena Gorelik, founder and owner of Lice Free Noggins, “you calmly explain to them that it’s normal to have lice. That it happens to everyone and it’s very easy to deal with. This doesn’t mean you’re dirty or doing anything wrong. You always want to make sure the child is comfortable.

Gorelik, whose company was founded in 2013 and now makes house calls throughout the city, has helped hundreds of families on the UWS; Additionally, she said she regularly visits public and private UWS schools to check students for lice.

Then there’s Derek Croft, a former management consultant who last December purchased LiceDoctors, a 15-year-old New York lice treatment service. Croft lives in Dallas, but his home treatment company works across the country, including at UWS. Technicians come to your home in unmarked cars, Croft says. “There’s a lot of stigma around lice, even though there shouldn’t be. As a result, our technicians are very discreet,” he explains. “Your neighbors don’t need to know, that’s the idea.”

Croft says his technicians are usually former nurses, teachers or hairdressers. “They find themselves in a situation in homes where the situation is often very stressful” and so they “will bring toys or stickers to play with. For the child, it’s like someone just combing their hair, which can feel very relaxing to him, sometimes it’s more of a struggle.

For UWS parents who decide to avoid paid services, there is good news. There are many excellent websites online, like those from the Mayo Clinic and the CDC, that will help you learn the art of nitpicking.

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