“Catching Cooties”


My siblings and I had much fun playing Cootie. This game was ideal for our age range, since it only involved rolling one die and assembling the cootie. Each body part corresponded to a number, such as 6 for the legs. The game could go on quite a while since each bug needed six legs. But there was no need to argue over rules, a common disturbance for the four of us!

Amusingly enough, we had no idea that cootie was a real word until a lice outbreak took over our elementary school. This outraged my suburban school community which identified lice with the unwashed poor. Grievously the cure at the time was to dust each of our heads with DDT. Yes, really. DDT on our little heads. Sure it killed the lice but who knows what other damage it wreaked.

That summer we spent with my very proper grandmother. Playing Scrabble I put down the word “nit.” Horrified, she asked me how I even knew that word. I told her about our lice outbreak. She stared in disbelief, then told me I should rearrange the letters to spell “tin” and let it go at that.

Now that bedbugs, lice and scabies proliferate everywhere perhaps the stigma has been reduced. But I still shudder remembering that head dusting.

16 thoughts on ““Catching Cooties”

  1. I never had the Cootie game, but I remember seeing it as a kid. I was lucky enough to never get them in real life either. My kids did, though, and we used Vaseline in their hair, which I’m sure was a lot safer than DDT.


  2. Oh my God DDT !! I remember in the early nineties when both my children got chicken pox and even their head was covered with those boils and on top of that lice. I could not even comb their hair. It was a bad time.


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