By Angel Nuñez
Head lice , also called cooties today, is one of those things for which one would seldom go to the doctor even today so inevitably parents found what to do many years ago in San Pedro. Let me first say that it was considered a terrible thing to have head lice. It was considered as nasty, as having parents who were careless and uncaring. It was considered contagious, and it really was/is, so much so that nobody in your classroom wanted to sit beside you.
I am just plain curious. Are cooties something that infects only poor children, the underprivileged, and those who live in dire conditions of neglect and unhealthy environment? Certainly not! Head lice only had to infect one person and those who have contact with you would soon be experiencing the itching and rashes that can result from them.
First Remedy: Don’t laugh but rather feel some pity for these poor kids, but the extreme remedy that one or two parents took was to shave the child’s head. (girl or boy) Wouldn’t be too bad today when it is a fashion to shave one’s head, but many years ago in San Pedro, that was considered an atrocious thing to do, but if that got rid of the pediculosis capitis, well so be it. This awful name, pediculosis capitis, is the awful scientific name for this awful pest, the head lice.
So now let’s move on to the first best method to remove all head lice- ‘marfil ‘or a head lice comb. It is a very finely tooted comb that was used to rake the head/hair to remove them one by one or three by three depending on the intensity of the infection. This process was not painful, but after a while it was and it was long and tedious. I caught it at least once and I remember crying as my sister Annie Eiley combed my head with the marfil. “Angel, you better get rid of these animals or else, nobody will want to sit beside you at school,” my sister suggested to scare me.
A lot of parents used the extermination method, more or less as we would use an insecticide to get rid of all kinds of insects, mosquitoes, flies, roaches etc. Therefore they would rub the head with kerosene, yes kerosene, until it was fully moist. Not oblivious of the fact that kerosene was sort of a harmful chemical, some parents opted to use Dettol, a brand name of a disinfectant. Dettol was used to disinfect hospitals and homes, the floors and walls of bathrooms as well as the basins and toilet bowls. Imagine walking about with smell of Dettol coming from your head.
A similar version of kerosene and Dettol applied on the head to exterminate, eradicate, suffocate, annihilate, and asphyxiate those poor creatures has been used more recently by some parents by literally spraying Sheltox and mosquito repellent (OFF) on the head of children. For increased effectiveness, a piece of cellophane is wrapped around the head of the poor victim.
Any other methods you have heard of? No please, I think I have heard enough of these prehistoric methods to get rid of these tiny head lice which can cause monstrous discomforts and monumental embarrassment.
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