Tiziana Rossi, a member of the
parent-run "lice brigade" at Roslyn elementary, checks
over daughter Audrey Lukban, 7, at the Westmount school,
where students' heads are inspected every Friday.
Researchers say strains of lice become resistant to
treatment shampoos, which use pesticides.
CREDIT: MARCOS TOWNSEND, THE
For one tense moment, Tiziana Rossi sucked in her breath as
she inspected a strand of her daughter's hair.
Rossi had noticed a few white specks on 7-year-old Audrey
Lukban's dark tresses. She tapped at the specks with a wooden
They fell off, and Rossi exhaled.
"She's fine. I panicked for a minute," Rossi recounted
"The trick is: If you try to move it and it falls off, then
it's dandruff or some fluff. If it does not fall off, it's the
The beast, in this case, is the louse.
It's the tiny insect that can cause monstrous headaches for
parents and schools.
At Roslyn elementary school in Westmount, Rossi and other
members of the parent-run "lice brigade" check students' heads
on Fridays to prevent the pest from spreading.
Although the Montreal regional health board doesn't keep
statistics on head lice, nurses from two CLSCs said they've
been swamped in the last two years with what seems to be a
growing number of cases.
This year, a few schools have already reported three lice
outbreaks since September.
"From my experience, it seems that there's more," said
Pauline Martin, a nurse from the CLSC N.D.G./Montreal West who
works at Willingdon School in Notre Dame de Grâce. "The lice
seem to be resistant to the treatment."
Since the early 1990s, researchers have noted that strains
of lice become resistant to treatment shampoos, which use
On its Web site, the U.S.-based National Pediculosis
Association says it receives daily calls from people "using
'everything on the drugstore shelf,' only to continue finding
adult-sized crawling lice."
The association advocates removing lice and nits
Three years ago, Roslyn parents decided to combat lice
before they could spread. They set up a team of volunteers
under the guidance of parent Nicole Laflamme Robinson - "the
Each Friday, brigade volunteers visit the classrooms and
check the heads of all the students. If a child is found to
have lice, his or her parents have the weekend to remove
On Monday, when the afflicted student returns to school, a
lice-brigade volunteer checks to ensure the treatment has
Because all students are checked, the system removes the
stigma often attached to lice.
"We speak openly about it," Laflamme Robinson said.
"Anybody can get it. It has nothing to do with social
Since Audrey had a lice problem during the summer, Rossi
said, she has appreciated the importance of checking
"It really helps," she said. "Detection and prevention are
much better than freaking out."
On the Net: www.headlice.org