18: Butterflies

by Jane Carnall

Why do all the children have shaved heads?

You see those butterfly-like insects?

Yeah, they’re pretty.

They lay eggs in tiny holes all over your scalp under your hair. There may be a little bleeding, but unless you regularly keep your head shaved, you won't notice until your head starts itching -- about ten days after you've been infested. As soon as you feel the itching, shave your hair. Then don't touch your scalp. It will keep itching for another 48 to 96 hours before the itch gets really intense and you start seeing the first bubbles. The insects hatch under your skin, and when they get too large for the holes their mother made for them, they grow what we call "bubbles" -- white and softish, at first. They grow fast. If you leave them be, within 48 to 96 hours -- depending on how much sunlight they get - the bubbles harden into a yellowish scar-like tissue and explode, releasing the insect. Within 120 hours of the first bubble appearing, all the insects will be gone, and your head will be a mess - you'll be scarred and bald for the rest of your life. But -- don't try to do this for yourself, mind -- if you have a doctor or a nurse or even just an experienced friend with a sharp knife handy, as each insect ripens, if the bubble is cut into when the insect is ready to fly but not yet mature -- that's when the bubble starts to harden up -- the insect flies loose and the bubble just collapses. Within a few days, you'll never know the bubble was there. You won't scar, and you can grow your hair again. You need to wait till the insect is loose for two reasons. One is that if you do it any earlier, the insect will die, and you will get an infection that can actually kill you. The other is that if you wait till the insects are mature, a mature insect will never lay eggs in your head again. There's a kind of protein marker they release.

What if you don’t have anyone around to do that for you?

Well, if you leave the eggs till they hatch, they won't kill you, unless you're allergic. If you are, you need to get scalped right away. Anyway, that's why all the children here shave their heads. You should, too. Better silly than sorry, that's what we say.


Yeah, how long have been here now, anyway?

Ten days...

(422 words, 18 minutes)

25 August 2001

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