Ask Miriam | It’s Not Nice to Talk About Lice


Dear Miriam,

My family is on its way to visit our extended family for the 4th. Last week, my daughter came home from camp with lice. We hired someone to comb through her hair to get rid of the lice, and I trust that she did a good job (she better have, for how much it cost), but I still wonder if we should tell our family. I don’t think there’s much of a risk of spreading the lice, but I do worry that if my daughter tells any relatives, it’ll seem like we were keeping this from them. What do you think?




Dear Nitpicking,

A few years ago, I answered a question from someone who came down with a stomach bug before hosting a big family gathering. I suggested a low-key heads-up to guests before they arrived, plus obsessive hand-washing. Even after three more years of dealing with childhood illnesses in my own family, I have to say, my answer holds up and is a pretty reasonable and practical approach for dealing with some of the unpleasantness that comes along with kids.

Your daughter got lice, you took care of it, and all is well. I mean, aside from the ordeal involved for all of you, the stress before a big trip, the expense, the laundry… The risk with a stomach bug or even a common cold is lingering symptoms and contagions.

With lice, though, since you paid a trusted professional to get rid of the nasty little critters (and their eggs, shudder), there should be no lingering effects. You’re under no obligation to tell anyone and, in fact, doing so might create unnecessary additional stress. You might get reactions from relatives who don’t understand that they’re not at risk, or criticism from relatives who think you paid too much or, totally unrealistically, that you should have been able to prevent it in the first place.

The question of your daughter, though, is a different one. She might say something about lice, which you have no control over, but she also may something else that is considered inappropriate, because that’s what kids do. Depending on her general temperament, you could say, “Some people don’t like to hear about lice, so there’s no need to talk about it since we got it taken care of.”

Or if that’s likely to set up a bunch of questions and to make it more exciting to tell, don’t say anything at all. However, if she’s likely to be upset if she does tell and gets unkind responses, then again, it’s worth some amount of preparation. That way, she’ll know it’s not a dirty secret, and certainly nothing that she did wrong, but she’ll also know that talking about it might not be fun for anyone.

If it comes up in conversation and you get unpleasant reactions, just keep your cool and deflect any comments with humor and confidence. It’s not the best set up to a vacation, but I’m sure everyone will make it through, hopefully with minimal itching.

Be well,



  1. Dear Nitpicking,

    I can totally relate to your story. Both my daughters and myself had lice and it cost me $700 at a removal center. And, lets not mention the aftermath of the cleaning, washing, drying and on and on. Just awful!

    I too wasn’t sure about what to say or who to tell. And, honestly I was so embarrassed. Lice has such a horrible stigma attached to it.

    I totally agree with the way Miriam is suggesting on how to handle the situation. The lice removal centers have good statistics when it comes to getting you pest free. So honestly don’t worry…

    One tip if I may offer. Keep your daughters hair up. I would suggest a bun, a pony tail with braids. No loose hair!… And remind your daughter the importance of avoiding hair to hair contact. That’s how she got it!


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