Posted on May 12, 2018

As a lice technician I often hear all sorts of mistruths about the way one can contract head lice and remedies to repel them.  These so called “myths” can cause a person to be leary about telling friends and family they’ve contracted lice.

I often get teenage girls who do not want to let their friends know they have a lice infestation.  They feel they’re friends will think they are not clean or their home is dirty.  I’ve been told especially by teenage girls their friends will shy away from them even after they’ve told them they’ve been treated.  Whenever you contract lice it is important to notify people you’ve been in close contact with.  I’ve had instances where I’ve given a lice treatment to  a client and gotten them totally “lice free,” only to get a phone call a month later that they’ve been re-infested.  What normally happens is the fear of being stigmatized, prevents them from notifying that friend or family member.  They often come in contact with that same person(who might not know he or she has lice)again and get re-infested.   Because everyone doesn’t itch or have an allergic reaction (thus the itching) after contracting lice, they may never know they have it unless someone tells them they should get checked.  Sadly, I’ve seen this happen numerous times among teens and small children.  This back and forth re-infestation can be emotionally draining and costly.  It can easily be remedied by just informing those you’ve come in contact with.  Most will be grateful you did.

Another myth is that lice infestation only effects people of lower classes.  There should not be any sort of label attached to a lice infestation.  It can and has happened to people from all walks of life.  Lice infestation does not discriminate. It is an “equal opportunity problem” that has nothing to do with the amount of money you have or where you live.  Social class or economic status is not a preventative for lice.

Another myth I often hear is “lice are attracted to dirty hair”.  Having lice has nothing to do with whether you wash your hair or not.  I’ve checked people with hair that’s not so clean and found nothing.  On the other end of the spectrum while checking a client with squeaky clean hair I’ve found lice.  Having lice has nothing to do with hygiene.  As long as you have hair on your head and blood flowing you are susceptible to lice.  The lice do not care whether a person has squeaky-clean hair or dirty hair

Certain hair products can make it difficult for lice to latch onto the hair.   Hair sprays, coconut oil, peppermint oil, gels, actually coat the hair shaft and are good repellents for lice.  It is also a good idea for girls to keep their hair up.  Lice like “hanging hair,”  it is actually a “ladder for lice.”  A tight bun or braid is a good way to prevent a lice infestation.

There is the misconception that African American hair is resistant to head liceLice do not care whether hair is smooth or coarse, thin or thick. Lice affix themselves to a strand of hair as a way to get up to the scalp to access their food supply: human blood.

Contrary to what some people think, the myth that lice can jump or fly from head to head is not true.  You must be in direct head to head contact with a person having lice.  Another way to contract lice is by sharing combs, brushes, hats, helmets, etc.  I also recommend  when children have sleepovers, that they lay opposite each other.  They should also keep their hair up.  Also do not share combs and brushes.

Dispelling the myths hopefully will help people to be comfortable and upfront about notifying a friend or family member to get a lice check.