Oh POUX!—You’ve Got Cooties

I hope you’re in the mood to scratch your head because what I’m about to say will make you itch.

That’s right people…I’m talking about lice. Cooties. The minuscule pests that feast on your scalp and reproduce in your hair. Too much information?

Funnily enough, the French word for lice is “les poux,” which is pronounced “poo.” That’s right, POO! As in…well, you get the idea.

Over the last five years, we have become very familiar with these French creepy crawlies which infiltrate the unsuspecting heads of French children over and over and over again. It’s a common problem here in the land of cheese and wine, and it never seems to end.

In fact, it’s so common that French hairdressers routinely check their clients for lice before they cut their hair.

Once, while I was enjoying a relaxing day at the salon, a wedding party dressed to the nines arrived for a set of updos worthy of the occasion. I watched as the elegant-looking sister-of-the-bride sat down in the chair and prepared to be pampered. But, first things first…before the coiffing could continue, the cooties must be chased.

The stylist began rifling through the woman’s curly locks. The bride’s sister raised her eyebrows in surprise and said with a smile, “I haven’t had lice since I was a child many years ago.”

The unapologetically unfazed stylist shrugged her shoulders and began to tease her client’s tresses into a ‘do fit for the noteworthy nuptials.

But we’ve had many experiences much closer to home. Once my daughter, Elle, had a friend sleeping over. While they were playing, the friend mentioned that her mother had found some eggs in her hair earlier that day. Elle discreetly came to tell me the bad news.

Luckily, I always have supplies on hand. That evening’s activities included the girls watching a movie while I coated the friend’s hair with an overnight treatment. While I worked, I overheard the following conversation:

“You know,” Elle observed, “In the US you can’t go to school until your lice are gone. They have a nurse who checks and everything.”

“Wow,” the friend replied, “If that happened here, I wouldn’t be able to go to school for like 3 months.”

While the friend’s mother had the pleasure of combing out the nits the following day, I washed all our linens to try to stem the spread of the voracious vermin. It was a losing battle. Elle was already infected.

We’ve had moments like this time and time again. Every female living in our house has been a victim at least once–that includes two exchange students. Even I, who managed to escape the persistent parasites during my childhood, have been exposed.

I realize that in the grand scheme of things this really isn’t that serious, it’s just inconvenient. But, when we decided to move to Europe, I never imagined this would be an issue.

However, I will say one good thing has come out of this… I am now an expert at permanent lice removal. I have a surefire method for permanent delousing.

I developed this method during our last vacation when we ended up with unexpected guests just before departing for a week-long walking tour in the German countryside. We treated before leaving, but it’s nearly impossible to get all the nits in one go, so you either have to come daily or treat again a week later.

That being said, I provided everyone with their own, personalized nit comb to use on the journey so we could continue the treatment. However, the girls didn’t realize the importance of the accessories and left them home. When the itching reappeared, I was desperate for a remedy that wouldn’t require me to go to a pharmacy in the German countryside and try to explain my problem, so I went to Google instead.

After digging around for a while, I discovered a study about the efficacy of killing lice with a hairdryer. It looked pretty easy, so I tried it. We were cured!

So here’s my final treatment recommendation: Use the lice treatment of your choice, just to kill existing critters. Then, use a nit comb to remove as many nits as possible. Finally, using a round brush and a blow dryer, fry the suckers. You’ll be lice free…until the next exposure.

The real expat life.

Photo by Karina Carvalho

Published by


When in doubt, dance!

One thought on “Oh POUX!—You’ve Got Cooties

  1. I love it! I remember when Lyra had it the first time, ugh! I hated feeling grossed out by my own kids. Vacuumed everything imaginable. After treating we blow dry too! I keep looking for something here to have on hand and all I find are nasty chemicals. Must say I love the french stuff. It’s an oil that suffocates the critters right before your eyes. Can’t find anything like it here, maybe I should have someone send me some! Love you and your writing!!!!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s