Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Do Head Lice Respect the One-Drop Rule?

The kids are both finally back in school and so we begin a new year of homework, field trips, birthday parties and my favorite, the onslaught of communicable diseases that my children seem to love to bring home to mommy!

The one common elementary school infestation that I dread the most is head lice. Eww! Just writing the words makes me itch. But here's the thing, my paranoia and fear about finding white creepy crawlies in my kids' hair is tempered with my fervent hope that their hair is "Black" enough to repel the heinous little buggers.

I mean everybody knows that Black people can't get lice, right? No really, I wrote a book about Black hair and I did the research. Let me explain. It's not that Black people CAN'T get lice, it's just that the North American head louse has adapted to Caucasian hair and can't really navigate the shape of African-American hair follicles. Can you say I'm happy to be nappy? If you go to Africa, or even Brazil however, those badboys are all over Black hair.

Here's a recent statistic I found:

"According to Andrea Beth Trowers, MD, of the University of Miami, African American children are much less likely to have head lice (medically called pediculosis capitis) than white or Hispanic children."

Now, here's where I had my meltingpot meltdown. These kind of stats don't take into consideration mixed kids like mine. I hate to break my kids down into racial categories for any reason, but when it comes to combating parasites on their head, I'll do it. So, I'm trying to figure out just how Black they have to be, or rather how Black their hair has to be to be truly unwelcoming for the North American head louse to take up residence. And of course my SpaNegro boys have two distinct hair textures, one being more kinky than the other.

I'm not one to wait around and see if the one-drop rule is respected by head lice, so I will take action. As soon as the cold weather hits and the hats and scarves come out (aka prime lice season), my boys will have their hair greased up good (because lice can't get their claws into a slippery head). I'll switch to coconut-based shampoos (because supposedly lice hate the smell of coconut. Even if that's not true, I love coconut so that's no big sacrifice). And mostly, I'll pray that I've passed enough of my kinky genes on to them that they will be spared the itchiness of the louse.

Anybody out there with Mixed Hair have an opinion on head lice? I'd love to hear it. Do you feel safe from the lice epidemics because of your racial makeup? Do tell. Isn't it interesting how being mixed can obliterate so many of the things we monoracial folks just take for granted? As a Black mother to mixed kids, I am constantly surprised by the things I have to relearn. I believe it's a good thing though to have your assumptions and ideas confronted by a different truth. Wouldn't you agree?



Ms. Wooden Shoes said...

I have the same concerns regarding lice. The only difference is the heads I'm concerned about are those of my two mixed race daughters: one, who like one of your sons has much kinkier hair than her sister. I too tremble when lice season comes, but try to hedge my bets with hair grease. And now that I know about the lice aversion to coconut, I'll try that as well.

Anonymous said...

I am African American and we had a lice scare in elementary school, I remember that the person who checked our hair said that I didn't have it b/c my hair was in cornrows, she didn't mention anything about race. Back in the 80's when I was in school black kids usually had their hair in more conservative styles. Boys had hair cut low and girls had our hair in braids. I assumed people w/ free flowing styles where susceptible to lice, biracial kids I see tend to not have their hair cut or in braids.

Me said...

Mrs. Wooden Shoes,

Thanks for making me feel that I am not alone. And I checked out your blog, can't wait to hear more about your life in Holland!

thanks for posting and visiting the Meltingpot. I remember when we had lice checks at our school, even though I hated having the nurse poke through my hair, I secretly knew I wasn't going to have lice in my head. And my hair wasn't braided either, just well oiled and in afro puffs.

Sara said...

You know, I went 22 years without ever catching headlice. I may have had chicken pox twice, strep throat and any number of kid-diseases, but never lice. In fact, the idea never even occurred to me.

Until I went to New Orleans with my school's Habitat for Humanity group. We stayed in an abandoned school with 500 or so other volunteers, and halfway through the week, someone showed up with lice and started an epidemic.

There were announcements urging everyone to get checked daily, and eventually an ultimatum stating that we couldn't eat if we weren't check and, if needed, treated. This is when I learned that North American lice are less likely to nestle in black hair.

Me, I wondered the same thing you did. Being biracial, I wondered, is my hair black enough to deter the little creepy crawlies?

My hair is thick. It is smooth. It is Shirly Temple-style curly.

Not black enough.

I caught the suckers and now live in fear of lice-infested kids who may give me lice again. Yikes.

Me said...


Thank you for sharing...and instilling the fear of God in me :) Good story. And stay away from small children with itchy heads.

Head Lice said...

Thanks, interesting post.

Anonymous said...

Hello there, I just stumbled aross this because I always have a terrible problem during lice season. I am mixed. My hair is very fine with large cork screw curls. My daughter gets those nasty things from school and then they infest my head ans I can't get rid of them. I came across your sight because I was trying to find out if oiled up braids would help me get rid of them. I have washed my head with that pesticide 3 times as well as the whole rest of the process. This happens every year. I am tired of it. Almost ready to shave my head. Anyone know if braids will help?


Anonymous said...

I too am mixed race and I never ever had head lice even though most of my peers in elementary school did. I thought my hair was black enough but then a few yrs ago my daughter who has straight hair brought it home and infested the whole house. Me, my son w/kinky thick hair that was in braids, etc. I found that smothering the head w/mayo and olive oil. then I put tea tree oil in the hair when I brush it and make sure it's up in braids or a ponytail braid. Lavender oil brushed throught the haird daily also (I've heard) deters them. As confirmation, I mentioned the tea tree and lavender oil to my children's school nurse who agreed that it worked. I still run out and buy the spray but I keep a good stock of tea tree oil and lavender. Finally, I make sure I keep their head oiled w/Sulfer 8 or Ultrasheen. Even my straight haired baby gets her head greased and braided. Hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

I have mixed hair and I assumed that I couldn't get lice. I've never had a problem with it until two weeks ago. I noticed my daugher who has straight hair itching. I started itching. It's been horrible! I've treated each of us twice and I still have it! I've never dealt with this before even though I teacher preschool. My daugher had it once before, but never passed it to me and it only took one week to get rid of it. Any suggestions would be welcome! I've tried rid and home remedies. I'm also washing everything in hot water, sprayed my car and furniture with lice spray, and what I can't wash is bagged. Please help! Thanks

Anonymous said...

Two mixed race kids, with mixed results too.

My step-daughter with very dark, very curly hair never got headlice once. She had hair product combed through her hair all the time to manage it.

My son has much lighter, straighter hair and we just put a little oil gel on it after bathtime.

He just got them for the first time, ugh!

We always theorised that it was the grease. This is the first time I've read anything about it. It's really interesting reading different people's experiences. Thank you for bringing up the subject.

Anonymous said...

I was looking for help on getting these nasty bugs removed from my daughter who is also mixed she has long fine curly hair and YES she got it. Her sister who has very thick and tight curls does not have it and they are together all the time. So I truly think it has to do with the type of hair at this point. They both use pink lotion and sheen so Im going with the type of hair. I have also read that the blood type has something to do with it and they have different blood type so hope this helps. Im hoping I have taken care of it at this point. I used RID and a metel lice pick and spent about 4 hours getting it all out. I hope Im in the clear but will need to check for a few days and continue to check her.

ZUMBA said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Organizer said...

I also have biracial children and never considered that we would ever have to deal with head lice, since I never had a case as a child. Well, to my surprise, I received a call from the school nurse earlier this week informing me that my youngest was sent to her office for a lice check after being spotted scratching and failed! I was floored, never had a case with my oldest who has thicker, darker curlier hair. After reading this post I see why. My youngest has thinner, finer corkscrew curls and if I didn't identify myself as her mother you would never know she was a mixed child. We did the RID was and gel comb through with little success and later discovered that lice have become immune to pesticides. After doing my homework on natural remedies, we decided to take the mayo, olive oil, tea tree oil and metal comb route. Good bye lice, but hello to daily nit picking sessions. physically removing the eggs one by one, is the only successful way to fully rid your children of head lice. Simply killing the adult louse is not enough...comforting I know! We're only on day 4 with 10 more to go, wish us luck! Thank you for the post!

Lala said...

is it because their hair are always in braids and the head lice finds it difficult to "migrate" to? hahaha! and thus, white or hispanic children are usually straight and their hair is always down and is susceptible to getting infected with lice. i think lice loves to live in places where they can move freely. LOL

Anonymous said...

I know of people who are African American that got lice. I was told that the old wise tale says this because of grease and hot combs being used all the time kills the lice

Anonymous said...

Today I was contacted by the school to inform me that my daughter had head lice. Her father and I are both African American so we were both floored to find this out. Recently, she got a relaxer in her hair because her hair was not manageable anymore. I am still in shock because I did not see anything when I combed through her hair and the school said nothing was active at this grease it is and forever will be!!

Anonymous said...

My family is mixed (Afr Amer/White/Native Amer) and when my son was in 3rd grade, he got head lice. His dad is Latino and son's hair is straighter than mine; I had dredlocks at the time and figured I was safe. I mean, how were lice going to figure out how to navigate my hair. A couple of weeks later, after my son's lice problem was eliminated, I started itching and upon closer inspection, realized I too had head lice. Since I couldn't comb the nits out through my dreds, I had to cut them. I hated having to cut my locks and cried during the process, but did get rid of the lice.

Anonymous said...

22 black female i have nits :-(

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Anonymous said...

I have white hair but it's very thick and long. I have had the misfortune of getting lice twice in my life plus this morning I found some baby lice, which is what brought me to your blog. My son is multiracial. I dont believe it matters how "black" you are. What matters is both the texture and the product in your hair. The more kinky the hair type, the more difficult for lice to live. Even with indian hair or other ethnic hair that is combined with "black" hair such as extensions for example don't really run the risk of getting lice, because lice live closer to the scalp anyway. Some bi or multiracial kids use oily product in their hair while others don't. Again the ones that do, are less likely to get lice. Anyone who says white hair is easy to maintain, guess what, not always!

Anonymous said...

Btw...braids have nothing to do with it. I know white people with dreads and cornrows who got lice and the braids are perfect for lice infestation. It's the texture of hair that matters, not the style. Either the teacher was naive or trying to insinuate that only black people wear cornrows(although they always look nicer on black scalps in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Okay so I'm full african american my husband is Caucasian and our children are half. My kids have different hair textures my younger 2 have very kinky hair and my oldest has very curly less frizzy hair. They contracted the nasty little pest from my mother in law whom was under the impression us blacks can't get lice...urgh o wanted to kill her after I found out my kids had it! Its an ongoing process and I have very black hair and I myself also have them....gross my hair is going shaved no doubt about that but my girls on the otheehand is a paon in the butt to pickbout the nitts and flat iron the hair over and over again not to.mention the pesticide washes.....which btw ladies it does good on our kinky hair it left mt hair shiny and bouncy lol

James R said...

It's crazy that some people aren't educated on this. One time I explained this and I got the response of, "no, lice aren't racist". Hillarity, good post.

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Anonymous said...

I also have lice, my daughter hair seems to be treated, but I'm at the point where I'm about to cut my hair off!

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Osbaldo Moore said...

I hate head lice. They are so itchy and irritating.

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