While having lice is no fun – not even a little bit – there are some cool and interesting facts about these little insects, and their pesky habit of moving into a home on your head, that you’ve probably never heard before. Most of the information that you read about lice is worrisome, or just plain gross, and it’s enough to have you itching even if your head is lice-free. But lice aren’t just creepy; they’re also kind of fascinating when you go back in time, take a walk down memory lane, and learn some crazy facts about lice throughout history.
10 Surprising Lice Facts
#1 – Even cavemen get the blues
Head lice isn’t just a problem that we face today. In fact, people have been getting lice since prehistoric times. Lice are extremely resilient little creatures that have managed to stand the test of time – we’re talking thousands of years. While body lice have been itching homo sapiens since the dawn on the dinosaur, head lice separated from body lice and became their own special thing about 100,000 years ago.
If you think back to any period in modern history, whether it’s the middle ages or the days of the pilgrims, there was always someone there, scratching their heads along with Marie Antoinette, Napoleon, and Christopher Columbus. Lice have lived through it all, from world wars to today’s’ viral videos, and they don’t seem to be going anywhere any time soon.
#2 – Lice treatments can be good enough to eat
Not all lice treatments are made from chemicals and sold at your local pharmacy. Many people choose natural methods of lice removal (which have not necessarily been proven to be effective at killing lice and their eggs). Some of these treatments come straight from the kitchen: olive oil, coconut oil, mayonnaise, and even pork fat.
Before you whip that up into a salad dressing or get a craving for a bacon sandwich, consider that people in the middle ages combined pork fat with aloe and lead to treat head lice. Even without the lead, the thought of slathering your head in pork fat probably isn’t up there on your list of fun ways to spend an afternoon.
#3 – Size matters
How big is a louse? What about a nit? Consider a few comparisons here: an adult louse is about the size of a sesame seed while a nit is just a tiny speck – smaller than a poppy seed.
Contrary to popular belief, lice aren’t able to jump from one person’s head to another. Instead, they scurry. If you think about how minuscule they are, and how short of a time you might have your head next to someone else’s, you’d have to think that those little guys can move pretty quickly.
#4 – Sneak attackers
Lice are like the spies we see in the movies – dressed in clandestine clothing and hiding out in dark corners. It’s extremely difficult to catch an adult louse in the act of feeding because they move so quickly, love the dark, and are very small.
They might be considered the world’s smallest ninja/vampires the way the zip around your scalp, feed on your blood, and creep onto another person’s head without being detected.
Because lice are so tricky to spot, you don’t always know right away that you have an infestation. You’ll likely experience the telltale itching and tingling symptoms, but this often doesn’t start until four to six weeks after the lice set up camp on your head. By that time, you’re likely dealing with multiple lice and their tiny babies – not quite the adorable family you always dreamt of having.
#5 – Lice combs need a tech update
The first fine-tooth combs were made somewhere between 9,500 – 12,500 BC and were made of ivory or bone. While lice combs are now made of metal teeth with a plastic or rubbery handle, little has changed in the overall design.
If you’re shopping for a lice comb (lucky you), keep in mind that the finer the teeth are, the better. Some lice combs these days are poorly designed with large gaps between the teeth. Since their whole point is to pick up microscopic nits from the scalp and hair shaft, it’s fair to say that an update on some of these combs might be in order. Also note: watch out for the gimmicky vibrating combs!
#6 – It could be worse – you could be a penguin
There are several types of lice that people can get: head lice, pubic lice, and body lice. That might send you itching and running to the shower (which isn’t an effective treatment, by the way), but just think – it could be a lot worse.
Penguins, as cute as they are, are not as fortunate as we are with just three types of lice. Instead, these poor creatures have a whopping 15 different types of lice to contend with. Just when you think that’s bad, remember that they can’t exactly walk into a pharmacy and pick up a lice removal kit either – they’re stuck scratching for the rest of their lives.
Before you panic over the penguins, let’s take a moment to discuss the fact that people cannot get lice from animals. Also, you’re probably not spending that much time hanging out with penguins anyway.
#7 – For richer or poorer
Lice are inclusive little creatures, and they give everyone a fair shot. They don’t discriminate against who they choose to be their host. While African-Americans are less likely to get lice than people of other races, they generally aren’t too picky about whose head they’ll scurry onto.
This means that everyone should be concerned about lice: men and women, the rich and the poor, the urban folk and the rural-dwellers alike. When it comes to a louse’s opinion, age is nothing but a number as they happily enjoy scalp blood from people of all ages.
This means that everyone from royals, presidents, and global leaders to the kids at your local school all need to think twice when they feel that telltale itching and tingling sensation creeping across their heads because a lice infestation can happen to anyone.
#8 – It’s a bird! It’s a plane! Actually It’s Superlice!
This might seem like sci-fi territory, but recent years have made way for a new strain of super lice – those that are resistant to even the toughest over the counter lice removal solutions.
If you think that the louse of yesteryear is the same as today’s modern adult lice crew, you’re wrong. Just like humans have changed from wearing hoop skirts and top hats to skinny jeans and sneakers, lice have evolved too. Cockroaches are similar, adapting over time to become resilient in the face of poison.
Change is good, except in this case.
#9 – Kids say the darndest things
And adults do too. The number of myths and misconceptions flying around about lice, how they’re transmitted, and how to treat them is astonishing. Thank goodness for scientific research that has set the record straight on the difference between fact and fiction, or we’d all be stuck scratching.
Some of the most common myths are some we’ve already covered, like that lice jump from head to head or that your pet pooch can give you lice. Others include silly notions like the idea that men can’t get lice, that lice only like “dirty” people or people who don’t wash their hair often enough, that lice can survive and are lurking around your home.
A proper lice education is essential in understanding how you get lice and how to treat and prevent it. Don’t believe everything you hear.
#10 – Celebrities – they’re just like us!
Fame can do a lot for you – like get you into the hottest clubs and afford you access to the coolest cars, but it can’t safeguard you against lice.
Without naming names, (other than supermodel Heidi Klum who admitted to having a bout of lice during an interview with Ellen DeGeneres) it’s been rumored that everyone from heartthrob actors to pop icons have had their struggle with lice in their families and even on their own rich, famous, and beautiful heads.
There you have it – 10 Quirky Facts About Lice
Along with some myths, misconceptions, and some straight-up information that everyone needs to know. From cavemen to penguins and Hollywood A-listers – we’re all at risk of getting lice.
The important takeaway from this list of bizarre facts is that lice may be common and resilient, but an infestation is also completely treatable at home. Lice don’t spread disease, so there’s no need for alarm, other than the icky feeling they give you.
If you or your child have lice, remain calm and remember the facts so that you can effectively check your family, treat it, and prevent future outbreaks in your home. Becoming properly educated on the signs and symptoms of lice, how it’s spread, and how to take action against it will be your best defense against lice for you and your family.