With my youngest child mere weeks away from finishing primary school, I thought I'd left my nit-busting days behind me. But, like a farewell gift that no one asked for, I found myself with an infestation just days before the Year 6 formal.
I can deal with my kids' nits, after all these years, I'm pretty much pro. My own hair is another matter.
My husband, who is generally amazing with all things domestic and kids, seems to have a blind-spot when it comes to nits. He seriously never gets them (even though he hugs the kids as much as I do) and asking him to check my hair is a complete waste of time as he can't seem to see them even when I point them out.
He also doesn't quite get the importance of treating everyone simultaneously and thoroughly, tending to say unhelpful things like: "This is taking ages, why don't you finish another day?".
Previously, when it has been clear the buggers had made the leap from my kids' heads to mine, I've successfully treated myself. But it's exhausting and I faced extra challenges this time, with my hair being very long and it coinciding with good old end-of-year overwhelm.
I'd been intrigued by the idea of outsourcing this job so, after doing an initial treatment myself, I decided to visit a professional for the follow-up.
I found two options near me. One, part of the Nitpro chain, is a traditional 'check, goop and comb' style treatment. The other, Lice Clinics Australia, offers a heat-treatment option that I hadn't heard of before. Both promised the chance to sit in a chair instead of wrestling my hair in the shower. Both also promised to be very expensive (the former option ranges from $45 to $130 depending on hair length and the second is $150 a go).
This was nearly enough to send me back to embrace my nit comb but, in the interests of sharing the experience with you, dear reader, I made a booking. (I chose Nitpro but, though I hope to never have to deal with lice again, I would be interested to try the heat-treatment if there is a next time).
Did it work? Yes (hooray!). Was it easier than doing my own? Definitely. Was it as hassle-free as I'd hoped. Not quite.
The treatment area was at the back of a kids' hairdressing salon, so much of my session was accompanied by the screams of a child who clearly did not want a haircut that day (no judgement - we've all been there).
I sat in a one of two regular hairdressing chairs which, luckily faced a TV screen rather than a mirror (as there was no beautifying going on). Unlike the kid who started his treatment half-way through mine, I wasn't offered a choice of Captain Underpants or Frozen to watch!
The process was not radically different to what I would have done at home but I was extremely pleased to having someone else doing the work. I picked up a few technique tips such as sectioning the hair more finely and then combing each section from different angles.
They also used a different 'goop'. Though there were no ingredients listed, they said it was salt-based and dehydrated any live lice. It certainly didn't have the chemical whiff or the tingly acid-bath feel of the commercial products I've used before.
I confess that I felt uncomfortable. This was not from anything the staff did or said but is simply because there is still social stigma associated with having nits and I am far more used to dealing with them in the privacy of my own home rather than in a more public space.
The staff assured me that I was the third adult they had treated that day, and two kids came through while I was there (having much shorter hair, they were in and out while I was still being combed).
The kids seemed surprised to see an adult in the chair, but I dealt with all our discomfort by striking up conversation. Their mum was dealing with her first nits so was happy hear tips and have nit myths dispelled by me as well as the hairdressers.
Follow-up checks over the next week showed that the treatment was successful (remembering this was already my follow-up treatment).
Getting nits treated by a professional is super expensive but a good option for those who either can easily afford it or who – for whatever reason - can't deal with it themselves.
If I was prime minister for a day, I would add this public health service to the Medicare schedule (a note to private health insurance companies – here's a service that might help keep families in the system!).
Are there nits at high school? I hope not!