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Lice to Meet You

A statistical rundown on the scourge of schools and camps

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6 to 12 million: Number of households affected by head lice each year, according to the CDC

$95: Approximate hourly cost to have a haredi woman from Brooklyn come to your house to pick lice out of your children’s heads

100: Species of insects the plague of lice in Exodus could have been referring to, since a taxonomy of insects was not actually invented until Aristotle’s time

9,000: Age of head-lice-infested mummy found in cave in Israel’s northern Negev. The mummy’s hair had been glued onto its skull with asphalt as an adhesive; the hair contained lice eggs identical to the kind found in Israel today.

lice comb 77 CE: Pliny the Elder writes: “Nits are destroyed by using dogs’ fat, eating serpents cooked like eels, or else taking their sloughs [shedded skin] in drink.” Yum.

Circa 1185 CE: Maimonides writes: “It is permitted to kill lice on Shabbat because they are [spontaneously generated] from sweat.”

2004 CE: Menlo Park, California, pediatrician Dale Pearlman develops protocol for treating today’s often-pesticide-resistant lice by smothering them with Cetaphil Gentle Cleanser.

7: Number of Germans infested with head lice invited to live for three weeks at Israel’s Museum of Bat Yam in 2008 in a performance-art meditation on German-ness, Jewishness, and the meaning of parasitism

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Another classic story about the determined vermin?

This one, like the lice discovered in the course of archeologists combing the Judean Desert for relics – comes from Israel:

At one point, a booming 2.4 million-dollar business in anti-lice shampoos stood to go down the drain due to over-efficiency. Two jealous, and it seems over-zealous Israeli manufacturers at logger-heads to prove who could be more effective, left both firms liceless, as listless sales plummeted by 20-50 percent in Tel-Aviv pharmacies. The source of their downfall? Both manufacturers added a new ingredient to their own preparations that not only killed-off live lice and demolished eggs; it deterred the determined vermin for weeks to come. But, nature took its course, of course: Five years later, both manufactures and the lice were back in business…

This, and other quirky news stories from Israel gleaned from the Hebrew press — can be found in an online news site in English called Chelm-on-the-Med Online that contains a host of stories you won’t find in the Washington Post. Not even the Jerusalem Post.

Go to: . And, don’t forget to read Tablet’s profile of the ‘Chelm project’ written by Hadara Graubart (“Story Corps”).

Do you know what the active ingredient was that worked? And, if not, do you know where else I could ask?

Marianna says:

I have encountered some bizarre performance art, but the Bat Yam thing wins for weirdness. An Israeli museum sponsoring an exhibit which all-but-explicitly compares Jews to lice? What is the world coming to….

Eileen says:

Aaaarrrgh! The dreaded head lice! It took a month to get it fully out of my daughter’s hair, the worst month of my life. The only thing that really worked was picking, picking, picking. I would tell her to come into the bathroom for “bonding time.”

Usually I turn away when I see the word, but I can’t resist reading Marjorie Ingall.

Aliza says:

@Eileen – same here! My daughter had them 5 times in one school year – and I did EVERYTHING to get rid of them – I don’t think her schoolmate’s parents were as thorough with the cleaning. It was an experience, let me tell you – but we did make lemonade of lemons a devised a take home packet for parents about lice, so that was good. And yes, I couldn’t resist an article by Marjorie Ingall either :)

I don’t know what was in it, but the lice became resistant anyway..

What we do in Israel, that still works — I use it on my dog, in fact and dab it on the pantry shelves with the flour, lentils and pasta is stored, against mealy bugs — is rosmary oil (rosmarin) which can be obtained in any drugstore… The lice (and fleas) don’t like the smell and avoid anything faintly smelling of rosmary (and it is used in some anti-lice shampoos, in fact). Just dab it on the kids hair or put some in a spray bottle and wet their (the dog or the kid) hair/coat with it…

Another tip from my nit-picking days… Hair conditionersoftens the lice egg shells and makes them easier to comb out.

Take a look at the Chelm website (just google “chelm-on-the-med”) whenever you need some comic relief. I ensure you it will allow you to LAUGH about Israel,instead of feeling SAD, ANGUISHED, DISHEARTENED, WORRIED, DISENCHANTED, UNCOMFORTABLE, ASHAMED OR ANGRY.

If I’m wrong, let me know (via the website).
If I’m right, let me know, too…

Glenda says:

Chatting with other moms while we were chaperoning a field trip, we noticed a strong correlation between natural colored hair and head lice. It seemed that moms who colored their hair never got lice when their kids did, but moms who didn’t mind a few strands of grey usually picked up lice when their kids brought it home.

After that, several moms used temporary hair color on their daughters as a lice treatment. If you use the child’s natural color, it’s not noticeable, and it works much better than picking nits or any products labeled for killing lice. (Boys? No, a buzz cut is easier.)

Certain statistics, such as the oft-reported “6-12 million cases per year” in the US are gross exaggerations based upon a flawed analysis of product sales data. Another interesting statistic is that the majority of presumed louse infestations, identified by parents or by school ‘screening’ strategies, are NOT head lice. Misdiagnosis is rampant, and this leads to much unnecessary treatment and loss of school time. For more information about the biology and management of head lice, visit this educational site: See also:

Its amazing to me how many ways one might go about investing your money. I’ve found for me that best solution is both risky and low risk stocks. I usually put about 1/2 my investments into low risk mutual funds that grow over time and the other half in high risk high gain stocks. I recently got into day trading and I discovered that software stock picks are more reliable as they can automate a process that I cant do quickly enough. The fellows over at have a fantastic system. You should check them out!

fantastic points altogether, you just gained a brand new reader. What would you suggest about your post that you made a few days ago? Any positive?

Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that I’ve truly enjoyed surfing around your blog posts. After all I’ll be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write again soon!


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Lice to Meet You

A statistical rundown on the scourge of schools and camps

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Which Words Still Shock Me? Not Many.

By Marjorie Ingall — Seven thoughts on obscenity in honor of Carlin’s ‘Seven Words’