Having lice is something that no one wants to deal with. Not only is it uncomfortable, but it can be a hassle to deal with. Having head lice is not a new issue – it’s something that people have been dealing with for centuries, but many people are still misinformed about the facts about lice.
Old wives tales and urban myths create misconceptions and without proper knowledge, head lice can be impossible to treat. This article will examine some of the most common myths around head lice and give you the facts that you need to know.
Head Lice Myths Uncovered
Myth #1 – Head lice jump from person to person
Many people incorrectly believe that head lice are spread by these tiny insects jumping or flying from one person’s head or clothing onto another’s. Lice do not have wings and are unable to jump, making it impossible to catch lice in this way.
Instead, lice are transmitted through head to head contact or sharing hats, scarves, clothing, hair accessories, bed sheets, helmets, hair brushes, and rugs. Lying with or leaning against someone with lice allows the tiny insects to scurry from one person to the next, as they are able to move very quickly.
School-aged children are particularly susceptible to lice as they are more likely to share clothing or crawl on rugs at school or daycare. Head lice is a highly contagious condition because of their fast-moving speed and their desire to feed on human blood from the scalp. For this reason, parents and children should be cautious in recognizing the signs of lice, not sharing clothing items or hats, and treating lice right away if there is an infestation in your family.
Myth #2 – Only dirty people get lice
It’s a common misconception that only people with poor hygiene or are “dirty” get head lice. The truth is that anyone can catch head lice, even if you shower daily, wash your clothing frequently, and keep a spotless home.
Head lice aren’t a product of unclean hair or surroundings, as lice feed on human blood and they are not concerned about a person’s hygiene routine.
When it comes to lice, no one is immune. While children are more likely to catch lice from other children at school or daycare, it can easily spread to other members of the family. Having long hair also increases your chances of spreading or catching lice if you share hair accessories or have your hair touching others, but it doesn’t matter how frequently you wash your hair and head lice can still easily affect people with shorter hair.
Myth #3 – Having lice can make you sick
Many people falsely believe that head lice carry disease and that they spread these diseases to the people whose blood they feed on. While they are bothersome, lice do not carry and spread disease or make people ill.
While there are many misconceptions about lice, how they move from person to person, and the type of people they affect, learning the facts about lice helps you to better understand and treat this condition.
Lice can make you feel uncomfortable, itchy, tingly, restless and even cause an irritable rash in some people, but they cannot make you sick. While lice are contagious and can easily spread from person to person, it’s not possible for them to carry disease and transmit it to others.
Myth #4 – If you leave lice alone, they will go away on their own
Left untreated, head lice is a condition that will only get worse. Lice continue to lay eggs on the hair shaft as they feed on blood from the scalp and as these eggs hatch, lice multiply and continue the cycle repeatedly.
Another risk of leaving lice untreated is that it creates an opportunity for them to spread to other family members, friends, or classmates. Lice can run rampant in a classroom or entire school if you don’t treat it, so it’s important for parents to be vigilant in watching for lice and treating it right away. They should also have their spouse or a friend check their head for lice to ensure that all family members get treated if needed.
The Facts About Head Lice
Fact #1 – Lice can only live for 24 hours off the human head
If you or your child has a case of head lice, it’s important to treat it right away, and part of your treatment routine should include laundry. Wash any bed linens, sweaters, shirts, and towels that you or your child have worn in the last 24 hours. Pillows, stuffed animals, and hats can be placed in the dryer on high heat to kill lice if it’s not possible to wash these items.
It’s important to note, however, that you don’t need to launder everything in your home. For example, if your child hasn’t worn a sweater in six months and it hasn’t been in contact with affected items, there’s no need to wash it. This is because lice only live for about 24 hours when off the head.
If a louse makes its way onto a hat, piece of clothing, or hair accessory that goes unused for longer than 24 hours, it will die and will not be able to cause an infestation the next time you use or handle that item.
This is good news for reducing the amount of laundry you’ll need to do and giving you the peace of mind that unused items are not affected.
Fact #2 – Head lice can reoccur
Many people believe that if you have head lice once, you can’t get it again or that you’re immune to a recurrence. Unfortunately, this is not the case. As lice are highly contagious and can easily spread from person to person, you can become infested with head lice repeatedly.
The most important way to keep lice from becoming a regular occurrence in your life is to know the first signs of lice and check your child and have someone check your own head on a regular basis. This allows you to treat small outbreaks quickly before they become widespread or spread to other friends and family members.
While it’s frustrating to deal with multiple lice infestations in your home, it’s important to remember that lice are not dangerous but more of a nuisance than anything else. If you or your child have already had head lice before, you’ll be able to spot the telltale signs of an infestation early on and take action right away. This will allow you to catch lice quickly and keep it from becoming a major hassle in your household.
Fact #3 – Adults can get lice too
It’s inaccurate that only children get head lice, even though they are more likely to catch it during activities like carpet time at daycare or by sharing hats, clothing items, hair brushes, and stuffed toys. The truth is, people of any age can get head lice, especially if you’re around other people who have an infestation.
If your child has lice, or if you’re a school teacher or daycare provider with an outbreak of head lice in your classroom, it’s critical that you get checked for lice yourself to stop it from spreading further.
Many schools have a policy that requires parents to report if their child has head lice and keep them home from school until they’ve been treated, but adults are still susceptible even with these measures in place.
Fact #4 – You can watch for head lice by understanding the symptoms
While lice may sneak up on your family or classroom, you can be vigilant in making sure to catch lice at the first signs, before it has a chance to become a widespread problem or significant infestation.
Some of the symptoms of lice include an itchy or tingly scalp, a red bumpy rash around the back of the neck and ears, or flakes near the scalp (which are discarded lice egg cases) that are difficult to remove.
Lice are most active at night, which may cause your child to scratch throughout the night and make them more tired and irritable than usual. You may see them scratching their head in their sleep and this should be cause for concern and give you reason to check their head thoroughly.
If you catch lice early on by recognizing these symptoms and treating it right away, you can prevent lice from becoming an issue in your household.
Proper Education Will Help Your Children
While there are many misconceptions about lice, how they move from person to person, and the type of people they affect, learning the facts about lice helps you to better understand and treat this condition. It’s important to educate yourself, and others that may be exposed, on the truth about lice, the early symptoms, and treatment methods. Learning about the myths will also help you from being fooled by inaccurate information.
If you suspect that either you or your child has lice, it’s important to check right away and understand the facts so that you can take the appropriate action and know what information is true or false. When properly educated on head lice, you can treat it effectively and stop the spread of lice in your home.