Monday, June 11, 2012

Do Trojans come in a 4T?

As I pulled back the sheets and readied my flashlight to peer into the gently spread cheeks of my sleeping five year old's backside, I wondered if she'd end up on the therapist's couch, recalling this monthly ritual as an aberrant invasion instead of the vain attempts of her panicked mother to remove the pinworms from her ass.

Yes, you read that correctly. I said  "pinworms from her ass".

I am no pervert, just a desperate parent who happened to see a white wiggling worm the size of a staple swimming in the toilet earlier that day: there was movement in her movement. Sounds like it should be the beginning of a Ricky Martin chart buster, but what it really means is that a bunch of parasites were doing the Merengue in my daughter's colon:

Mother doesn't take kindly to freeloaders.

Not to mention that I had successfully removed a combined total of nine enormous live adult lice from the heads of my offspring the previous evening. I know.We are disgustingly human, and I'd even venture to call us Third World if political correctness hadn't just descended upon our social circle in all of its humorless glory.

All I can say is that I simply didn't notice.  To my bewilderment, I-the self proclaimed "Lice Lady"-had completely missed a post Spring Break full blown Deep Water Horizon style explosion of lice on Little's personal melon sized head AND a month's worth of friendly enough looking worms in her pea sized tush-AT THE SAME TIME. I suspect that the lice came from a movie excursion with friends, some of whom had the same level of infestation as we did, and the pinworms, well, they take a month to notice, so that could have been from anywhere. The poor kid was under siege and, despite my penchant for squinting and clenching my jaw, I'm no Steven Segal.

The truly confounding thing is that I have actually been paying pretty close attention. Somehow, my much bragged about, as-religious-as-I-ever-hope-to-become, weekly lice prevention comb throughs that produced nothing in the last year but some mysterious red fuzz, an aching shoulder and two irate children with amazing, shiny, unsnarled hair had failed. The war on bugs-much like the war on drugs-was a total waste of time, money and resources. And the pinworms are impossible to detect unless your child is digging in their itchy butt, which mine wasn't.


I lay awake that night, itching everywhere and listening to the frogs croaking in the yard next door. I  wondered if they might be ankle deep in our house by morning, followed by locusts, a pride of lions and a face full of boils. Passover had recently passed over, and I was beginning to wonder who I'd offended and how? Perhaps, as a precautionary measure, I should have used His name in vain a whole lot less? Or was it the potty mouth? The uninspired matzo ball soup straight from the box for the first Shabbat dinner we have ever hosted in the six and half years we have been "Jew-ish"? I am certainly no Job, so what was the deal?

Before I drifted off amid wafts of the tea tree oil emanating from my slicked back bun, I 'd surrendered to the fact that I would need to give a professional with a punny name the equivalent of a luxury car payment to come de-louse us: who would it be? The Hair Fairies, The Lousy Nitpickers, The Hair Whisperers, Lice Schmice or the  Lice Lifters? The business of lice removal is evidently hilarious, really expensive and will never want for clientele. I resigned myself to the unpleasant truth that I would spend the next twenty four hours doing massive amounts of laundry, changing bedding, bagging beloved stuffed animals(one of which is the size of a Smart Car) and scratching at phantom itches. I would NOT be snickering at "Fifty Shades of Grey" in the privacy of my empty house, exercising, contemplating the layout for Big's Lorax themed birthday party or shopping for organic vegetables at the Farmer's Market. Nope. I'd be running interference between the The Squabblers  - home from school with a case of Acute Gross-itis.

I also had the uncomfortable task of notifying the school and both children's nearest and dearest so that they, too, could peer into their children's sleeping anuses and squirmy scalps and discover for themselves if they'd unwittingly joined my nit and worm filled club. I emailed quippy, contrite factual accounts of the unpleasant discoveries I had made in the last twelve hours and hoped that they wouldn't be waiting at the gates of the school with HazMat suits  and pitchforks to run us off to the Silkwood Spa.

I felt lucky that this wasn't the pre-email experience of the-usually-reserved-for-college, dreaded courtesy phone call:

" Hey!____(insert name of fraternity member/afterschool playmate's parent)Just wanted to say thanks! Had such a great time hanging out with you the other night/day. Uh, here's the thing,though, after I got home, I started scratching my (insert body part) and I think I might have (adults-insert acronym for mortifying live creature driven disease or lifelong infertility/birth defect inducing disease; kids- insert lice, pinworms or ringworm). Heh, heh,yeah,  it isn't that big of a deal, very common, but I felt like I should tell you so you can go get checked. Yeah, I guess it is really contagious! Who knew?? And hey, what was that recipe you used for that cheese dip? it was delish......hello? Hello?"


The next few weeks at school was a hypochondriacal slow motion horror flick montage. We were clean, cured,significantly poorer and the picture of hygiene, surrounded by people still possibly crawling with ...well, you know. Big would run up to a friend on the play yard and they'd embrace, their heads mashing together, hairs entwining. Instead of "awwwing" like I should have, I restrained myself from ripping them apart , shaking them senseless, yelling "DON'T YOU KNOW THERE ARE LICE EVERYWHERE??!!!!". Anytime either  child so much as touched their face, I'd resist the urge to slap their hand away and tie it behind their back for eternity. Instead, I'd issue a friendly reminder about our recent run in with pestilence: pinworms are passed quite handily from dirty nails to clean unsuspecting mouths. And they are everywhere.......

According to my afternoon of  internet research, the two most common non-life threatening childhood diseases (let's call them KSTDs) that begin as soon as your kid starts going to any sort of daycare, school or group childcare situation are lice and pinworms. Lice has 6 to 12 million reported cases treated each year (imagine all the unreported cases), and the only statistic I could find on pinworms was 11.4 percent of the total population or roughly 35,000,000 people. I am unsure how many of those are kids, but it doesn't really matter because both are the  "pay it forward" kind of KSTDs- if one person has it, almost everyone gets it eventually.

That's a lot of gross to contend with each year, and, inexplicably, science has yet to catch up. There are old the school shampoos, like RID, that claim to get rid of the little buggers for good. But it isn't that simple, which is why there is so much recurrence. There used be commercials for RID(which is now considered toxic by most people) in the mid eighties with actors wearing Sally Jesse Raphael style glasses saying things like "I'll die if the neighbors find out" and "But she's always been such a clean child".
Typically American in its shame and ignorance, this commercial fails to mention that lice is an equal opportunity invader. It doesn't care what you drive or how many second homes on Cape Cod you have. Anyone can get them, and  the only surefire removal method is old school meticulous combing with a fine toothed metal comb for a couple of weeks.  It is as tedious as one can imagine, but it does work, while the shampoos really don't on their own. 

Here is an updated American commercial :

While it is not particularly informative, or realistic-a string of bleeped curse words would be better than the aneurism that she seems to be having- we have come a long way as far as stigma. We have yet to catch up with our lice carrying contemporaries in countries like India and Canada. Their ads feature kids scratching their heads and show images of bugs in the their hair:

.

Now, despite the likelihood that the oil they are selling is probably made from some dreadful Monsanto created FDA rejected formula that renders these kids infertile on contact(or hopefully makes their brains grow really, really big, accounting for the surge in Indian productivity in the last decade), clearly this is a culture that is unafraid of this particular reality. Even I, a thrice lice veteran, jumped a little when they all fell out of her hair. As repugnant as they are, the sooner we embrace the fact that  these harmless yet disgusting critters are here to stay, the sooner we can deal with them.
Pinworms do not discriminate either-they love everyone's colon equally.Where are the ads for pinworm medicine? Why no "I've fallen and I can't get up" style commercial featuring a mother almost suffocating under the bedsheets while she attempts to hold the flashlight between her teeth and spread her child's ass cheeks at the same time to look for pinworms? Yes, it may be a felony to film such a scene, but pinworms are an easy fix. It's over the counter and tastes like a bad banana milkshake. I ordered a case and plan on treating us on a regular basis, just to be sure.
In this "age of information", what we really need is actual, applicable information.  We need to educate each other by talking about it, sharing information and commiserating. And someone needs to invent a body condom......