Kids are dirty, messy, germ-laden beings. As a parent, you just get used to wiping boogers and bums, to being spit up on and to dealing with puke and blood and — occasionally — pus.
None of this bothers me much anymore. I thought I was immune to being grossed out — until the parasites arrived.
It has taken me, the queen of the parental overshare, almost two years to tell this story. I was too mortified to write about it while it was happening. Afterward, I was paranoid it would reappear if I wrote about it, like some monster waiting to swallow me if I uttered its name.
It started when I noticed a bump on my left hand, the size of a pimple, but hard and slightly red. I showed it to my husband and to a friend, who both shrugged. It would probably go away on its own, we agreed.
But it didn’t.
It slowly started to spread.
At the same time, my youngest developed a rash on his side that looked the same.
I went to the doctor, who was stumped.
Neither one of our rashes was itchy, so he said it was most likely contact dermatitis. He told us to use milder detergent and soap and to keep an eye on it.
By the time it started to itch, it had spread on both of us. It was scabies.
Scabies is a skin parasite. This tiny insect burrows under your skin, occasionally biting you and drinking your blood. It is highly infectious and tends to leave its eggs and mites everywhere as you shed them from your skin.
Once you are scratching, your entire home is usually infested and everyone in the home could be infected.
We immediately treated all seven people in my house with a special lotion with an insecticide in it to kill the bugs.
You have to treat everyone the same night and every inch of skin on the body must be treated. You have to do it at least twice, two weeks apart.
We washed every article of clothing in our home. We shampooed the rugs and all the furniture more than once. We disinfected every hard surface. We sprayed the mattresses with special insecticide.
We dumped the sand out of my toddler’s sandbox.
To add to it all, my little guy’s rash continued to spread. He had an allergic reaction to the scabies lotion and couldn’t be treated with it a second time. Instead, we had to treat him with a compound of sulphur in petroleum jelly every day for months.
Every evening, I gave him a bath and then reapplied the stinking cream to every part of his body, even his hair.
Health experts say scabies is not a health concern for most people, only a nuisance. That may be true in the physical sense, but it doesn’t take into account the effect it can have on your mental health.
I was afraid to touch anyone outside the family, even after treatment, for fear I would infect them, or I would be reinfected. I kept my toddler away from other people as much as I could for the same reasons. I refused to touch public surfaces without gloves or a sleeve wrapped around my hand. I avoided shaking hands in a professional setting.
I was a basket case.
Since the infamous summer of the bugs, I’ve relaxed a lot, but I still check all the kids for strange rashes and itches. My surveillance also includes other creepy-crawlies.
I check the kids for lice every few weeks and have, regrettably, stopped buying second-hand furniture to avoid the possibility of bed bugs. I think I would go truly mad if I had to deal with that.
If you’re dealing with parasites, hang in there. I know it’s gross and expensive and overwhelming. Keep at it, do thorough treatments and cleanup and warn the people around you to check themselves and their kids.
I won’t touch you, but I might drop off cookies or wine. You’re going to need them.