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New business guarantees successful treatment of head lice in children

A tiny parasite can have a huge effect on a family, bringing school and work routines to a screeching halt while costing hundreds of dollars to treat. Now, one new business aims to remove the stigma of a child being diagnosed with head lice infection.

Strand By Strand, a professionally certified lice treatment center in Kansas City, Mo., has only been in existence for a couple of months, but owner Raquel Garcia says she already sees a great need for such a service in the Kansas City metro area. The name is a reference to the ‘strand-by-strand’ examination approach that she and her staff members take in treating lice in children. Her treatment kills not only the lice themselves, but the bugs’ tiny eggs, which can be difficult and time-consuming to remove for the novice.

“We offer education in the community. We go to schools, community centers, daycare centers, and we do identify lice (infestation),” says Garcia, who adds that such businesses exist in KC-area suburbs, but that none exist in Kansas City proper.

Those parents who believe their child has a head lice infestation can come to Strand By Strand for a $25 head check. Once diagnosed, the child and his or her parents can return for a treatment to remove both the lice themselves and their eggs. The entire process takes roughly an hour and a half, Garcia says, and if parents choose to bring their child in for the treatment, Garcia will waive the initial $25 head check fee. The child must come in for two follow-up visits to ensure treatment was successful; both follow-up visits are free. Altogether, Garcia says parents can expect to pay between $125 and $200 total.

Besides offering all of the conveniences of home – free WiFi, snacks and beverages, and a collection of movies to watch – Garcia says the center employs bilingual staff members who can easily communicate with Spanish-speaking clients. That’s especially important, she notes, because of how Hispanic children seem to be treated when diagnosed with head lice next to their Caucasian peers.

“This isn’t a dirty-person type of disease. It’s not about hygiene,” Garcia says, adding that as a nurse, she saw a pattern of only certain children being sent home from school after being inspected by staff. “I found that the parents felt singled out, that it was only the Hispanic kids being sent home. They weren’t being educated with that letter that schools send home. They didn’t know what their options were.”

Garcia says that the center’s staff members go out into the community and dispel some of the myths that seem to spread faster than the little bugs themselves. For instance, Garcia notes, over-the-counter lice treatment products might treat the bugs themselves, but not the entire problem.

“Those products only treat the surface problem,” she says. “They kill the bugs, but they don’t kill the eggs. Those eggs are cemented onto root of the hair strand, and the only way to get them out is to pick them out with your fingernail.”

Garcia also says a myth surrounding lice is that everyone will experience an itching sensation as a symptom (only those who are allergic to the saliva of the bug will itch, she notes). Another myth, that lice can jump or fly from one head onto another, has been debunked, and that lice can only crawl from one surface to another. In addition, many believe that lice only attack certain people. That, she says, simply isn’t true.

“Lice do not discriminate,” she says. “They love clean hair because it’s easier to cling to. … The private schools that are among the most affluent in the city, they have many reported cases every year. … Lice just want blood, and they don’t care whose blood it is.”

One of the biggest myths that Garcia debunks, however, is that parents have to wash all of their children’s clothing, bed sheets, toys, and other possessions. This is not a necessary step, she says, though most parents incorrectly perceive it as one of the first and most important actions to take in the delousing process.

Parents also will be heartened to hear that children who receive treatment at Strand By Strand will be sent home with a letter allowing them to return to school the very next day after treatment. That means no missed time in the classroom for the kid, and no additional missed work days for the parent, Garcia notes.

“To parents, it’s the end of the world when they get that letter from school,” she explains. “That means missed school days, that means missed work days. The products aren’t cheap, and there’s a financial burden. It’s also (emotionally) traumatizing to the child.”

Garcia knows all about the stressors that accompany lice infestation – after all, she spent several days and hundreds of dollars cleaning her possessions while combatting the problem in one of her own children.

“My daughter had had it twice. The first time, it took me a whole week and made me feel completely frustrated with it as a nurse and as a mother,” Garcia recalls. “I couldn’t find the time to tackle it on a day-to-day basis.”

And then, she adds, there were the financial burdens.

“I easily spent $150 at the laundromat, because we had blankets and stuffed animals that wouldn’t fit in our washer and dryer. (We cleaned numerous other items), and we spent nearly $400,” Garcia says, adding that, again, there is no need for parents to wash and aggressively sterilize their children’s clothing and possessions.

Response to the business’ techniques and methods have been favorable, with one parent, only identified as ‘Jessica,’ praising Garcia’s staff from the start to the end of the treatment process.

“We had the fortune of getting the help of Strand by Strand to help us with some pesty lice. I was at my wit’s end with what seemed never-ending lice,” says Jessica, mother of two children, in a review of the business. “I had stripped all my bedding to wash in hot water, I had spent at least $50 in different lice removal products and was even contemplating shaving my head and my kids’ heads. Then the clouds parted, and I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. Within 24 hours after contacting Strand By Strand, not only were we all itch free and lice free, we were smelling peppermint fresh. So, if I’m ever in a lice-filled situation again, I know who I could count on to help me get rid of them -- Strand By Strand.”

Strand By Strand is there to ensure the delousing process is easy, convenient (removal services are offered 365 days a year so kids don’t have to miss school and parents don’t have to miss work), and private (Garcia says the business is located in a private location, and staff do not share any information about clients on social media).

“We know this is a traumatic experience, so we try to help the child and the parents through the entire process,” Garcia says. “This is an everyday thing. It happens to millions of people every day, all over the world.”

For more information and pricing, visit www.strandbystrand.org, call (833) 466-5423, or visit the organization on Facebook at www.facebook.com/strandbystrandkc.