Even when you’re sure you don’t have head lice, an inspection for signs of infestation can cause a few butterflies to take flight in your belly. Especially when the owner of The Lice Brigade, Sarah Casello-Rees, tells you at the start that you can have head lice and not even know it.
The intense itching and scratching some people experience is an allergic reaction to the saliva of the louse. So if you’re not allergic, you could have the little critters crawling all over your head and not realize it. Even if they find signs of lice, The Lice Brigade doesn’t just diagnose – they’ll get rid of your lice and their nits (egg sacks) manually, without pediculicides (i.e., chemicals). That’s right, a “nit picker” is an actual job.
And finding qualified nit pickers is the key to growth of the company, which Casello-Rees started in September of this year (2008). Not every candidate who can identify the tiny creatures and their egg sacks is a good fit for The Lice Brigade, says Casello-Rees. Along with the technical skill set, they need to be able to relate to families and their children, who are frequent victims of lice infestation.
Referring to Chantel Greene, a registered nurse who works with The Lice Brigade and who performed the head and beard inspection at The Chronicle, Casello-Rees said, “Not everyone is a Chantel!” Greene didn’t need a smock printed with teddy bears to convince The Chronicle she’d get along with kids just great.
It was the experience of Casello-Rees with her own son and a lice infestation – that repeated itself in the span of a week – that led her to contemplate launching the business venture. “There was nobody there to help me when I needed it,” she said. While there are other companies offering similar services in other markets, “a lot of places aren’t being served.” Casello-Rees, a lifelong Ann Arbor resident and Community High School grad, knows what it’s like to run her own business. She has been doing personal training for 13 years through her business Unique Physique, but that market has become quite competitive, she says. The Lice Brigade is a different way to serve people who have a specific need.
In some cases what the Lice Brigade’s clients need is the peace of mind of a regular confirmation that they’re still lice-free after the initial treatment. They have some clients who continue to take advantage of the $35 follow-up visit (which covers the entire family) on a bi-weekly basis.
The Chronicle breathed a sign of relief when Greene concluded her inspection of hair and beard (they don’t travel farther south on the body than that). Verdict: 100% vermin-free. Hooray. Dandruff was all she found. No need for us to coat our head with olive oil and wear a shower cap over it for eight hours.
That’s part of the pre-visit treatment when there’s an infestation. Incidentally, the oil is for suffocating live lice. What olive oil brings to the process that other oils do not is an enzyme that helps loosen the nits from the hair strands.
As messily unpleasant as that might sound for an individual, the way The Lice Brigade’s website describes the preparation for lice treatment, it almost sounds like it could be an entertaining way to spend an afternoon, even if there’s no lice infestation. In particular, the substitute for shower caps seems to offer some exciting potential: “Wrapping the head in Saran Wrap also works on small heads.”
It also works as just plain fun on larger heads. [Editorial note: Exercise caution in not covering up all of your three breathing holes with plastic wrap. That could lead to an unintended reduction in Chronicle readership.]