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Are Selfies Spreading Lice Among Teens

Are Selfies Spreading Lice Among Teens?

According to an article in the New York Daily News, the popularity of  “selfie” photos is having an unintended consequence: a rise in cases of head lice among teens.  “People are doing selfies like every day, as opposed to going to photo booths of years ago. So you’re probably having much more contact with other people’s heads,” Dr. Sharon Rink.

The problem comes when kids taking selfies put their heads together in order to fit multiple faces in the picture. Head-to-head contact is a primary source of the spread of head lice, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“When your head touches someone else’s for a selfie, lice can crawl into your hair from their head, using their nasty claws to grab onto your hair strands,” Claire Roberts, the CEO of Lice Clinics of America told Women’s Health.

Ways Head Lice Spreads Among Teens

Lice don’t fly or jump, the only way that they can spread is by physical contact with another human’s head. The CDC says that, “Head-to-head contact with a person who already has head lice” is the most common way of contracting the bugs. Contracting lice can also happen when kids sit close together in a car, when they sleep in close proximity, or when they share hair utensils and accessories.

Lice outbreaks typically slow as children get older, as teens don’t do as much sharing of clothing or sleep close together like younger children do. The selfie phenomenon is totally changing this.

“Teenagers don’t usually get lice because they’re not sharing hats and things like that,” Dr. Rink said. “And lice can’t jump, so the only way they can transmit lice is touching their heads together, and that’s happening with these selfies.”

“The primary way you can get head lice is when heads come in direct contact with the head of an infested person,” Roberts said. “Head-to-head contact like that doesn’t always mean that the infestation will spread, but it gives lice an opportunity to move from the hair of the infested person to your hair.”

In addition to avoiding head-to-head contact, other ways to prevent the spread of lice include washing and sterilizing combs and brushes that may have been shared. Any clothing that has a chance of carrying lice should be placed in a dryer on high heat for at least 20 minutes.

Is there an Effective Lice Treatment for Teens

Lice Clinics of America is the largest network of lice treatment centres in the world, offering a 90-minute treatment with its proprietary AirAllé medical device. The AirAllé is an FDA-cleared clinically proven device that kills live lice and 99.2 percent of eggs through dehydration.

There are currently more than 230 clinics in the Lice Clinics of America network. Our clinics have collectively treated over 200,000 cases of head lice. Our network is expanding each month allowing for closer options for busy parents who tire of weeks-long battles with lice using traditional pesticide-based treatments due to developing immunity to the chemicals used by the most popular lice products. Most lice in the United States and many other countries are now resistant to the most common over-the-counter products, according to a study in the Journal of Medical Entomology.


When your child is confronted with head lice, the first thing you should say is, “You didn’t do anything wrong.” (You should say this to yourself as well!)

It’s true.

If your child comes home from school and says that another kid in school has lice, you should say the same thing. That child (and its parents) didn’t do anything wrong.

Its a myth that lice happens due to poor hygiene has been chipped away at for years, but the myth and the stigma that follows it are still well alive. Kids get lice from hair-to-hair contact with other kids. Fact.  There are always things you can do to help prevent lice from landing on your child’s head & they are —keep long hair pulled tight perhaps in plaits; discourage sharing hats, brushes and anything else that touches hair—but no amount of hair-washing will prevent a live louse from crawling from one kid’s head to another if they get the opportunity.

Unfortunately, “you didn’t do anything wrong” may not be the message your child has already received at school.  Teachers and other children may have reacted with fear or alarm that can be interpreted as blame or judgment.

Tell your child that “catching” head lice is same catching a cold. You get it from someone else, who got it from someone before that. No one did anything wrong. There is no morality involved.

You can also tell your child that head lice aren’t dangerous and just like their cold, they will go away with the right treatment.

No big deal. While you’re treating it, you’ll have to be careful not to let is spread to others.

You can also make a lice infestation a learning experience. Tell your child that lice have been “bugging” people for thousands of years (see our post of facebook, A Brief History of Lice).  Cleopatra had a lice comb in her tomb!  Lice have influenced our vocabulary: A “louse” (singular for lice) is someone who behaves badly fro example “lousy” is defined as “very poor or bad;” a nitwit is someone or something stupid; and a nitpicker is someone who is overly critical. And remember, every time you decide to go through something “with a fine-toothed comb,” you are referring to lice treatment! Interesting eh!

Know that you are not alone.  Fortunately, they (Lice) are getting easier to treat with the advent of the AirAllé medical device. Offered by Lice Clinics of Ireland-Westmeath, AirAllé is an FDA-cleared medical device that kills live lice and eggs in a single treatment that takes about 90 minutes. Know that there is a safe, fast and effective solution available can go a long ways to reducing fear and stress.

How Lice Survive…

When a family is infested with head lice, the tendency to panic. Dealing with head lice is be frightening and stressful, usually because people don’t tend to talk about head lice until they are dealing with them, which is when they are frantic and frustrated.

Understanding how head lice survive can help reduce this fear and anxiety associated with an outbreak.

Lice are parasitic insects.  This means that lice survive by having some kind of host to provide an environment where they can survive and multiply. Head lice have evolved with humans for hundreds of thousands of years, forming a parasitic relationship with us to the point that the only environment lice can live is on a human scalp with hair. Your hair is their home, and your scalp is where they get food. They have developed six claws designed specifically to attach to human hairs close to the scalp where the lice can sip blood.

Life of a Louse

The life of a louse starts as an egg or nit. A Female lice can lay up to 6-8 eggs every day.  The nit is a tiny yellow speck about 1 millimeter long with a glue-like surface. Nits are very difficult to see and remove (hence the term “nitpicker” which describes someone with extreme attention to detail). Nits hatch after 7-10 days and begin life as immature nymphs. After about 10 days, they grow to full size.

Woman wondering how lice survive

You Are Not Alone

Lice are not dangerous but they are contagious. Your child should be treated quickly, effectively and safely to avoid spreading lice to other friends, family members and classmates. The Parents’ Corner is a compendium of articles and resources to help parents and caregivers deal with the challenges of treating head lice.

Traditional lice resources typically assume that parents fully understand the treatment options and facts about lice. The Parent’s Corner provides information that addresses the all unique questions and challenges regarding safely and effectively treating lice, Once and For All.

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