Last summer Burt got ringworm and scabies at the same time.
When he told me I just laughed at the absurd punkness of it. I’ve never had scabies, but I feel like it’s one of those supremely punk problems. Like on tour when we rolled into town and find the house we were playing emptied of furniture.
“We burned the couches last night”
We all nodded our heads solemnly. Unconsciously beginning to scratch our arms, or rubbing the edge of one shoe against the other leg. We hugged our friends, but carefully, remembering every time our skin met their skin, trying not to think about it… but thinking of it all the same.
Then we drank around the blackened remnants of the bonfire, and later sleep fitfully in the bare rooms with grime outlines where the couches used to be.
Every tour it was a different house, but the rituals were the same.
I’ve had and heard about my fair share of tour ailments, both illness and injury, but none so sadly out of control and preventable as Burt’s.
Burt is not the cleanliest of dudes. His once white shirts are the color of smog, and his previously black clothes have all turned a sickly olive or a rich reddened brown. But in general he takes care of himself. His is not a self-destructive neglect, but a general aversion to clothes washing or owning enough clothes to have to decide what to wear. I like to call him a house crusty, or apartment hobo.
Even being as grimy a dude as I know him to be, it still seemed crazily impossible to get both ringworm and scabies at the same time. I made him walk me through it, step by itchy step.
In his estimation the problems began before he ever left on tour.
“Getting ready to leave. I had so much to do. I wasn’t showering. I wore the same underpants for a week and a half. I’m sure that was a bit of a factor.”
He didn’t worry about the itching at first. Like I explained, he’s a generally grimy dude, so he’s used to some itching.
“Everybody itches. It didn’t seem like a big deal. But it got worse. I woke up at night and couldn’t go back to sleep. I’d just scratch and scratch”
It was two weeks of constant itching before he couldn’t take it anymore. The turning point came when it made it’s way onto his “junk.”
He’d woken up at 5am and tried showering to help ease the itching. But it didn’t work. He called around to find a free clinic, but no one could see him. So, he had the band take him to the emergency room.
“I said, ‘it itches’ and she had me drop trou. She glanced me over and said. ‘You probably just have jock itch.” (Aka. Ringworm. Aka Tinea Cruris. Aka punk itch)
‘She prescribed pills and ointment and told me to wash thoroughly twice a day. So, I had to try to shower twice a day at weird punk houses, and sadly the next string of houses we stayed at only had tubs. I spent a lot of awkward time crouched over in these tubs washing my groin. It fucking sucked, but we did get to make a lot of ‘there’s a fungus among us’ jokes.”
The additional thing Burt had to do to get rid of the itching for good? Boil his underpants. Which seemed easy enough to arrange since they were staying with good friends. But when Burt asked if he could do some panty boiling on their stove the answer was an unequivocal “No way!”
He grimed through another night in his ringworm underpants, and the next day, in the next city, he decided to go for it and boil them while his hosts were away at work.
“I only had a small pot, so I had to boil all my underpants and a couple shirts in batches. My clothes hadn’t been washed in… well, ranging from two weeks to a year. I didn’t add more water between batches so the water got all low and black. I singed some of the clothes a little bit”
No one came home from work to find Burt making dirt soup and burning his clothes on their stove. He got it done, and presumably killed the fungi living there.
Two weeks later and he had finished the anti-ringworm regimen. During that time he had gathered a vast array of anti-ringworm accessories: special soap, a loofah, tea tree oil, and some boxers. But he was still itching. Bad. Some of the redness had gone away, and it seemed to have retreated, but it was not getting less itchy. Luckily, they had a few days off in his hometown so he could see a doctor he knew and get things sorted out properly
“I went in and said ‘hello sir, I’m having a problem with my penis.’ He examines me and says ‘let’s just think about this.’ We spent a while comparing my junk to pictures and realized it looked just like scabies. We deduced I had killed the ringworm, but had let the scabies take over.
Burt was given a cream to apply over his whole body, and leave on overnight. Unlike the old days of being forced to use the harsh foul smelling Lindane, he was prescribed a mild scentless cream called premethrine. He was warned that even with the treatment done he would itch for another month, but he would no longer be contagious.
“I want to clear up some misapprehensions it seems most people have about scabies. It’s not that bad, and it’s harder to pass on than everyone seems to think. According to my doctor you have to ‘share clothes or naked hug someone’ to pass it. I spent eight weeks in a hot van with my band, and no one else got it.
“I’ve changed my habits a little. I mean, we all want to be crustier than the next dude, but I change and wash my underwear more often now. I’m also more likely to go to the doctor now; these are the kinds of things that I always struggled to take care of with a home remedy. I’m all about home remedies, but I think this is a situation where you want to have ‘the man’ give you a chemical.
For home remedies Burt says the tea tree oil helped alleviate some of the symptoms, but it didn’t come close to any kind of cure.
“Couple tips for those with scabies: hot showers are no good! It encourages them to thrive. As for killing them on your clothes, boiling works… but you should iron them too to be extra sure. And crusty dudes particularly – change your underpants dude, please.”
Both Ringworm and scabies are things the punks seem particularly prone to. We live and tour in filth, shower less frequently, wear tight pants, and tend to wait for our ailments to cross the last possible line before we seek treatment.
The kicker? Right before Burt left on tour, he told a friend about his slight itchiness. They said. “dude you probably have ringworm, take care of that shit before it gets out of hand.”
Dear the punks: Listen to your friends, change your underpants, quit putting off taking care of shit you are hoping will just go away but know won’t, and please take care of yourself so next summer I won’t show up to your empty house wondering if I should risk hugging you.
It is now perfectly safe to naked hug Burt, but for at least a few people who read this-the following will be true: he boiled his ringworm scabies underpants on your stove, in your only pot.