Leslie Ruggiero understood the inevitability of students spreading head lice in her former role as an elementary and special needs teacher. When she became a private chef to a high-profile couple who sought at-home treatment for their children in 2011, she saw a business opportunity. Ruggiero and co-owner Deborah Brooks, both of Marlborough, opened Lice Treatment Center Metrowest in October 2016 to serve families, schools, and camps throughout the region. It's a franchise of the pediatrician-owned and operated parent company Lice Treatment Center of Monroe, Conn., which has locations in 18 states and sells its all-natural lice treatment and repellent products nationwide. Ruggiero had this to say:
Q. When should people call for your services?
A. As soon as they hear head lice is going around, but most calls we get are from parents saying, "I tried to treat my child myself and now I'm desperate." It's important to contact a professional right away because it takes a trained eye to diagnose.
Q. What are the symptoms?
A. By the time you notice a child itching, or see red sores on their scalp, the infestation has been going on a while. You can be pretty sure you're looking at a nit [egg] and not dandruff if fingernails are required to pick it off the strand of hair. The live bugs are extremely good at hiding, and usually aren't visible to the naked eye.
Q. What is the treatment?
A. Lice is very common, but families are still in a panic. We go as soon as we get the call, set up a station with tools that are individually sanitized and wrapped, and do a dry check. As soon as we establish that yes, this is lice, we use all-natural, pediatrician-formulated shampoo, conditioner, and organic oils and then painstakingly and strategically comb and pick off every nit. It's important to treat every member of the household, and we follow up to make sure everyone is doing well.
Q. How much does it cost?
A. An average appointment for a family of four lasts one and a half to two hours. Depending on how far we're traveling, we charge $150 for the first hour and $125 for every additional hour. Included in that cost is $60 worth of after-care products.
Q. Do you enjoy this line of work?
A. It's truly one of the most rewarding things I've ever done. We walk into a household where people are completely frustrated and bewildered, talk them off the ledge, and solve the problem so it isn't scary and doesn't hurt. When we're done, we hug and laugh and say we hope we never see each other again.
For more information, call 781-523-4033 or visit licetreatmentmetrowest.com.