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Clean Curls tackles lice one head at a time

Kathy Enger, co-owner of Clean Curls in St. Charles, removes lice eggs Monday from the hair of 4-year-old Hope Taritas of Bartlett.
Kathy Enger, co-owner of Clean Curls in St. Charles, removes lice eggs Monday from the hair of 4-year-old Hope Taritas of Bartlett.

ST. CHARLES – Kathy Enger has been through lice.

She spent hundreds of dollars on special vacuum cleaners and bagged all of her children’s toys. She also spent hours culling the Internet for information about how to get rid of the tiny bugs that have been around for centuries.

“I felt there was no place to go,” she said. “I didn’t really know what to do. There was so much misinformation.”

Her experience of trying to get rid of lice was the driving force behind the business she and Kathleen Bruns opened July in St. Charles, called Clean Curls.

Both women are certified in the Shepherd Method, which is a way of removing lice strand by strand. They also use nontoxic products to help with removal.

Because she said she ran into so much misinformation on the Internet, Enger said an important part of the business is educating families on how to prevent the spread of lice. Although she cleaned her home top to bottom, she found out through training that it wasn’t necessary.

“Lice doesn’t overtake your home,” Enger said.

She encourages parents to think about where their children have been in the past 24 hours and concentrate on lice-removal tactics in those areas, including washing bedsheets and bath towels or vacuuming a play room. She said throwing a bed sheet over a couch for 24 hours is another effective way to get rid of lice.

Enger also suggests putting combs and brushes in a bag and sticking them in a freezer overnight.

She said only half the population itches from having lice. Parents can tell the difference between lice and dandruff by trying to flick the flake out of the hair. If a thumbnail is needed to pull it out, that’s an indication that the child has nits, or lice eggs.

Enger said another myth about lice is that someone has dirty hair or dirty living conditions, which isn’t true. Everyone can get it, she said.

“They prefer clean hair,” Enger said. “It’s just the luck of the draw who gets them and who doesn’t.”

Holly Taritas of Bartlett said she never expected her 4-year-old daughter to get lice. The news stopped her family in their tracks, and her daughter missed out on school activities as a result.

Taritas tried to get rid of them herself and went through the house bagging toys and washing everyone’s clothing. But two weeks later, the lice came back.

“I was a crazy mom,” she said.

Frustrated, Taritas called Clean Curls after coming across the business on the Internet. After a recent visit, she said she hopes the lice are gone for good.

Enger said the best defense against lice is to do regular checks.

“We really feel that every family should have a lice comb,” she said, adding that it should be on every child’s back-to-school list.

Juanita Gryfinski, a certified school nurse and department chair for health services at St. Charles School District 303, said children cannot, by law, be forced to stay home from school if they have lice. She said parents are notified about lice in school if there are more than two to three cases in a class.

But it’s likely that children didn’t get lice while in school, she said.

Gryfinski said a 2008 study showed only 0.3 percent of lice cases in the St. Charles district were contracted while a child is at school. Gryfinski said preventing the spread of lice starts at home.

“I think the hardest part is for parents to stay vigilant,” she said.

Lice usually are spread while children are at sleepovers, she said, adding it’s more common among younger children because they tend to hug one another and have more head-to-head contact.

Enger said lice can’t fly or jump. They typically won’t leave a blood source unless they’re sure they have another blood source waiting. She said that makes them less likely to be transferred from child to child through something like a hat or a comb.

“It’s not the environment, it’s the head-to-head contact,” she said.

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