If you have questions about head lice, you’re not alone. Most people dread head lice and have major concerns about catching it, yet they’re not aware of the facts about this condition. Misconceptions about head lice only make things worse when you’re trying to figure out what you really need to know to prevent and effectively treat it.
Without a proper head lice education, it’s easy to get the wrong impression and take the wrong action against this bothersome condition. Even worse is not taking any action at all because you don’t understand this condition or you’re misinformed about what to do. Your best bet for combatting lice, treating it effectively, and keeping it out of your home is understanding the truth about lice and getting answers to your questions about head lice.
This article covers some of the most common questions that people have about head lice and provides the facts and answers that you need to know.
1 – Does having head lice cause hair loss?
Head lice are small insects that live on the scalp and feed off human blood. Lice are a nuisance to anyone who has an infestation, and many people wonder if head lice can cause long term damage to their hair or their health.
While head lice can cause itching or a tingling sensation on the scalp, or in some cases, a red, bumpy rash, they do not cause hair loss. Lice do not cause any serious health issues or long term effects, other than discomfort at the time of the infestation and, in some cases, anxiety about having lice living on your head.
Treating head lice involves carefully combing the hair with a very fine tooth comb, and this treatment can cause what seems like a higher amount of hair loss than you’d see with normal brushing, but rest assured that the lice themselves are not causing any hair loss. Once combing treatments have stopped, you should experience only a normal amount of daily hair loss.
2 – Can lice spread to other parts of your body?
There are several types of lice that affect different parts of the body. As the name indicates, head lice are found only on the scalp and in the hair on the head. This type of lice feeds only on blood from the scalp.
Body lice typically live in seams of clothing or bedding and travel to the body to feed on areas like the underarms, neck, and waist. Body lice cannot spread to the head, although they may also affect the groin area.
3 – What is the worst case scenario for head lice?
Head lice is highly contagious and is easily spread through head to head contact or sharing hats, helmets, scarves, hair brushes, or hair accessories. Early detection is critical in preventing a widespread lice infestation that affects the people in your household or other children in a classroom.
When it comes to head lice, the worst case scenario is a rampant outbreak. When many children in a classroom are infected, it can be difficult to put a stop to the spread of lice because each child will receive different treatments at home, to varying degrees of success. Alternatively, head lice may spread throughout your household, making it hard to clear up one person’s head while preventing the spread to the rest of your family members.
In some people, head lice can cause a red, bumpy rash at the back of the neck or around the ears, but this is not a dangerous symptom. While having lice is itchy and uncomfortable, and may cause anxiety in some people, the worst case scenario is one of frustration and hassle in getting it under control so it stops spreading to others.
4 – Do head lice carry disease?
As mentioned, head lice is a nuisance that can be an inconvenience for parents, but it’s not a health risk. This is because lice do not carry or transmit disease from one person to another.
Many people mistake lice for fleas, which can carry disease and pass it on from victim to victim, but this is not the case with head lice.
While many people mistakenly believe that head lice mostly occurs in “dirty” people, this is also not true. This misconception can also lead to the belief that these “unclean” people pass illness on to others through the spread of lice, but this is also a myth. The simple truth is that you are not at risk for disease or illness if you or your child has head lice.
5 – Is shaving your head an effective lice treatment?
Lice can live in extremely short hair, even hair that is as little as ¼” long. Head lice feed on blood from the scalp, not from the hair itself, so the hair doesn’t need to be long in order to foster a lice infestation. Lice lay eggs in the hair shaft, but this happens right near the scalp and the eggs are so small that they do not need a long strand of hair to thrive.
Frequent shampooing is also not an effective lice treatment as lice are not affected by how clean the hair is. No matter how frequently you wash your hair or how short your hair is, you can still catch and transmit lice.
Lice cannot live on a completely bald head, but shaving your child’s head, or your own, down to the skin is an extreme measure. There are many other types of lice treatments available, making this an unnecessary precaution in treating or preventing lice.
6 – Can adults get head lice?
While school-aged children are more likely to get lice than adults are, no one is immune. It’s reported that between 6 and 12 million children between the ages of 3 – 12 are affected in the United States each year, but it can easily spread to other members of the family, including parents or adult caregivers.
While school teachers and daycare providers spend more time around children than some adults do, it’s possible for anyone to get lice, even if you are not frequently in contact with children. Lice is highly contagious and can easily spread through head to head contact or through sharing clothing, hats, scarves, or helmets with others. Unfortunately, adults can become infested too, especially if they live in a household where lice is present in other family members.
7 – Can you get lice from pets?
Fleas can be transmitted from animals to people, but lice cannot. In fact, pets do not get human head lice at all. This means that your pets cannot spread lice to you or your children, and similarly, you cannot pass it onto them.
Many people falsely believe that you’re more likely to get lice if you live in a “dirty” home or one where animals are present, but this is a misconception. The truth is, no matter how clean your home is, or whether it’s pet-free, you can still get head lice because it is transmitted from person to person regardless of their hygiene.
8 – Can you get head lice more than once?
It’s a common misconception that if you have lice once you cannot get it again. In truth, you can become infested with lice repeatedly, especially if members of the same family or other children in a classroom have lice. Because head lice is so contagious, it can easily be passed back and forth from person to person, no matter how many times you’ve had it in the past.
The good news is that if you’ve had lice before, you’re likely well aware of the telltale signs and can identify them right away. You will also be familiar with your treatment options and can begin treating your head lice right away. This means that if you are infested with head lice again, you can take action quickly to curb it before it becomes widespread on your own head or has a chance to spread to other people.
There are many myths surrounding head lice that lead to questions, and people are often embarrassed to ask about lice. With the right education on the facts about head lice, you can rest assured that you’ll be able to quickly identify and treat head lice, without false information or misunderstanding the situation.
In The End…
Lice is a common problem and there is no shame in having head lice. The most important thing is to understand the truth about head lice so you can take action quickly and prevent spreading it to others. Keeping lice under control takes diligence and work on the part of parents and caregivers, but it’s well worth it in keeping lice at bay and out of your home.