On Battling Piojos (a.k.a. Lice)

By Gina Spigarelli

I began to question why my previously trusty brand of shampoo had started to severely dry out my scalp. I switched brands. The itching increased. Time passed. I scratched. One day, while styling my hair, I saw him: black, beetle-sized and scurrying across my forehead in a frenzy. ¨Hello, little bug,¨ I said as I flicked him out the window. And then it hit me… he had come from my hair. With reality and fear dawning, I parted my locks. I vomited. There they were, a colony of millions of piojos throwing a party on my scalp. The new realization of my situation amplified the previously obnoxious itching into una locura. I ran and collected all of my neighbors, who sat on the patio with me looking like jungle monkeys, plucking and flicking the little critters from my head.

Lice are amazing little blood-suckers. Found all over the world, the common medical treatments are becoming less effective. They are mutating and preparing to take on the town. Lice can lay many eggs at one time, hold their breath underwater (hence no washing them out of your hair) and remain dormant for days without human contact (they’ll be waiting in your sheets when you get back from the lake). Here in Guatemala, locals will advise you on any number of remedies from mayonnaise to Vaseline. Lice and nit (egg) combs are easily available in markets and nearly all pharmacies carry the leading brands of treatment shampoos.

My case was extreme and multigenerational. I had let the army build up and it was to be a valiant battle to take them all out. I endured days of shampooing and nights of nit-combing, excessive laundry bills and fumigation tactics. After all the live bugs had fallen, I had their memory imprinted on my scalp in the form of irritating, scabbing bites. Good times. Once I’d conquered them all, I took a deep breath and thanked my hair for hanging in there. Some words of wisdom: when it comes to these pests, the trick is to catch them early and fight them fiercely. If you work a high-risk job (especially with children) or if you frequent hostels, I suggest taking the time to look through your locks from time to time. If all else fails, there is always the lice-proof remedy: baldness. Your head itches already, doesn’t it?

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