Tony the Tick and other creatures my children have brought home

head-check

Don’t read this if you are thinking about having children. Seriously.

My daughter had long, thick hair. She didn’t like having it tied up. The first time I noticed the creepy crawlies in it, she was about five and I spent two hours combing through it section by section with natural oil. The second time, not long after, I slathered it with ‘kill everything’ shampoo and dealt with those fuckers nice and quick. We were clear for several years and I’d forgotten about that particular delight when we went to the hairdresser. Yes, you know what’s coming. ‘Could I have a quiet word, please.’ I followed the hairdresser across the salon and she pointed to my daughter’s head. ‘We have a policy not to cut hair with nits in it,’ she bellowed over the noise of the blow-dryers, which of course fell silent at that moment.

An advantage of boys: mostly short hair and less prone to sitting head to head with their class-mates. But they like to roll about wrestling each other… outside … on grass … in summer … on our regular holidays in Fort William, aka Tick City. A few years back, weather conditions had brought about a proliferation of the little critters and we had nightly tick checks, removing at least one every night of the trip. I thought I had been thorough but a few days after our return I noticed the folded over part of one of the boy’s ears was red. Closer inspection revealed the star of the attached video clip. I removed it with tweezers and we put Tony the Tick in box, fascinated that he was still alive. He crawled about for three days before he died. That seems cruel – we starved him to death. But that’s what we did. Nobody was willing to feed him.

The most recent kind of creature bought home by one of my children was the worst. I’m not sure I can even write about it.

{Steeling myself to go on} Worms. There, I said it.

I had heard of threadworms but didn’t know much about them. At this point I had been a parent for 16 years and nobody had mentioned them to me. I took my son to the doctor because he was complaining about an itchy bottom at night and the doctor advised me to check his nether regions with a torch when he was sleeping. I know! This is the kind of thing they should be telling teenagers to prevent unplanned pregnancies – the true horror of having children. You see, in case you don’t know, female threadworms emerge from their host’s intestines at night to lay invisible eggs just outside the anus. Nice one, Mrs Threadworm.

I left the doctor feeling certain that couldn’t possibly be the problem, but sure enough, that night, I saw it – a tiny white thread-like worm.

I cried.

We got medicine (available over the counter) for the whole family and were assured it was a common affliction. The leaflet said it was estimated that a third of all under-tens in the UK are infected at any one point in time. Holy shit! But every family is so horrified they are keeping it to themselves, ensconced in a bubble of parasite shame. I phoned the school to let them know and I wasn’t the only parent who had reported it. A letter was issued to all parents not long after. Phew; we weren’t alone. I washed all sheets every day for a fortnight (that was a killer) and we all scrubbed our hands so often our skin started to crack.

Since then, I’ve been cautiously mentioning it to people, and have discovered how common threadworms are – and thankfully easy to treat.

So, always remember to wash your hands. And don’t scratch yer bum! [sorry]

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