Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Creepy Crawlies

A friend of mine recently found out that her little girl had nits. Yes, nits. The things that come before lice. So she paid the local Lice Lady (which I didn't know existed) to come and give her daughter (and her siblings) extensive (and expensive) lice treatment. And then she took every article of clothing and bedding and washed it in hot hot HOT water. And threw out the hairbrushes and replaced them. And then threw out those hairbrushes and replaced them. And bug-bombed the house. And bug-bombed the car. Twice. And vaccumed and sprayed abrasive cleaning products all over every piece of furniture that couldn't be thoroughly washed. And put all the stuffed animals that couldn't be washed in bags to suffocate any critters that might be hanging on. And had her husband check her head every night before going to bed.

She was at the laundromat, walking up and down the aisle to feed quarters to the 16 dryers she was using when she realized maybe she had gone crazy. And she told me this story and I laughed.

And then last week at clinical it turned out that we may or may not have been exposed to lice. Lice, that is, AND SCABIES. And since there is actually a bit of downtime at clinicals we all were looking up exactly what that might mean and exaclty what we might have to do.

Some things I learned:

- Head lice can change to become the color of the host's hair.

- Females can lay 6-10 nits per day. Which, while not an overwhelming number, is WAY TOO MANY.

- There is also a type of lice called Body Lice who like to live in clothes and just crawl back onto the person when they want to feed. To me this seems worse, since they're not just localized on your head, they're on your body. Or not! They already had lunch so they're partying in your shirt. Try and catch 'em now!

- Scabies- mites that burrow under your skin- need close physical contact to be spread. But! They can also be spread through a handshake. Or, say, using the toilet after someone who has them.

- Also, there is a type called Norwegian Scabies. The difference between those and regular scabies? Pretty much just sheer numbers-- if you get infected with regular scabies you have about 10-20 bugs on any given day. But with Norwegian scabies you get thousands to MILLIONS. Which makes your skin thick and crusty, hence their other name Crusted Scabies.

Lice and scabies, though not fatal, cause extreme itchiness. Interestingly, thinking one might have caught lice and/or scabies can also cause extreme itchiness! My hairs would tickle the back of my neck and I would leap out of my chair and swat at my head. Which made me look like an awesome, really together, professional nursing student. I had an intense case of the heebie jeebies. I know, I know. I'm in nursing school- I just need to get over it. I've had experiences with plenty of other infectious diseases but for some reason the lice and scabies creeped me out the most. Most diseases are caused by tiny buggly wugglies that somehow get in you and mess shit up. But if they are bacteria or viruses they're attacking your cells and whatnot, it seems much less concrete and more a collection of symptoms rather than an actual organism. But if they are actual bugs..... THAT YOU CAN SEE? GAAH!

So I went home, threw my clothes in the washer on HOT. And then took the hottest shower I have ever taken in my life. It was scalding. I would put my head under the water and try to count to at least 10 before moving away or slightly decreasing the heat. On my head I used hand soap, shampoo, two kinds of body wash, and bubble bath.

I thought that if one abrasive ingredient in my soap didn't kill the vermin, then another surely would. Or else I just wiped out the ones that are sensitive to soaps and heat and left behind the resistant ones who will now mate and form an army of lice-scabies-super-bugs....