Top ten head lice myths, and why parents are calling for tougher action 6

hedrin_bottle.jpgChristine Brown, nurse consultant and adviser to Primary Care Trusts in relation to policy for dealing with head lice, has compiled the Top Ten Head Lice Myths:

Myth 1: Head lice jump from one head to another

Reality: Head lice can only be passed by direct head to head contact when they walk from one head to another – they cannot jump or fly!

Myth 2: “Head lice can be caught by sharing things like hairbrushes, towels or bedding

Reality: Head lice only survive on heads, dying quickly away from their heat and food source. Any lice found on hairbrushes, towels etc. will be either dead or dying and so unable to infest a new host.

Myth 3: Lice like to live in clean hair

Reality: This myth started out as “lice only live in dirty hair” but has changed over the years. Lice have no preference whether hair is clean or dirty as long as they can get to their dinner.

Myth 4: Pets can carry head lice

Reality: Head lice are a purely human parasite. They cannot infect cats, dogs, or other pets

Myth 5: Head lice can swim

Reality: In water, lice close down their bodily functions and cling on tight. They would die eventually but people couldn’t stay underwater for long enough for this to happen.

Myth 6: The best way to prevent your child from getting lice is to shave their head

Reality: Lice live close to the scalp and are very small which means they can live on even the shortest hair. In fact, lice will find it easier to move from one closely cropped head to another as they have less distance to travel up the hair shaft. Never shave your child’s hair as a way of dealing with head lice; it only makes the child feel ashamed and you guilty.

Myth 7: Break their leg, they can’t lay eggs

Reality: It takes a lot of force to remove a leg from a louse and more importantly, it makes no difference to the female’s ability to lay eggs. What you need to do is remove them from the head. Therefore, a better phrase would be ‘”off the head, as good as dead”.

Myth 8: Only children get head lice

Reality: Head lice live just as well on adult heads as on children’s, so they can be easily spread between people of all ages.

Myth 9: “If one child in a school has them, there’s going to be an epidemic!

Reality: Head lice can only be passed from direct head to head contact – which is why they usually spread between good friends and family. If a child has head lice there’s no reason for them to be kept away from school for fear of starting an epidemic. Parents should simply tell their child not to ‘bump heads’ with their friends until their treatment is over.

Myth 10: Schools still check children for head lice so parents don’t have to

Reality: There are no more ‘nit nurses’ in schools. But parents and carers really are the best people to check their family’s hair for lice – once a week is ideal and the whole family should be checked, including adults.

Parents getting tough

When questioned, three-quarters of parents said they wanted tougher penalties for those parents or
guardians who take little or no action to combat head lice.

A quarter of those polled by leading head lice treatment Hedrin would welcome the introduction of fines for parents who don’t check their child’s hair regularly. Over a third (35%) would like children with head lice to be excluded from school until they have gone, whilst 18% feel the child should be allowed to continue at school but be kept in quarantine until the head lice have been dealt with.

In addition, one in five believe that parents who don’t deal with their child’s head lice should be named and shamed by the school, whilst 8% would like to take the dramatic step of naming and shaming them in the local media.

I understand parents’ frustration and desire to apportion blame, but quarantining children, and naming and shaming parents, is not the way to go about it. That simply increases the risk of bullying, teasing, and exclusion. Education is a far better method of proactively controlling the situation.

6 thoughts on “Top ten head lice myths, and why parents are calling for tougher action

  • 3Crows

    I think your advice about head shaving is a bit presumptuous. I just shaved mine and my two year old’s heads, and neither of us is ashamed or guilty. It is now about 1/8 inch long and I have probably removed 95% of the nits. Now I can used natural remedies with increased success.

  • Andy

    Hi 3Crows,

    Thanks for commenting.

    The advice is “Never shave your child’s hair as a way of dealing with head lice” – in other words, there’s nothing wrong with shaving a child’s head in itself, but if the only reason to do so is to try and eliminate head lice, then it’s not a great idea.

    I’m sure the original author wasn’t suggesting that shaving a child’s hair really short is wrong in itself. The idea of the tips is to dispel some myths about how head lice live and can be spread.

    I’m pleased that things are working out for you and your child, and that you can use more natural methods to deal with any lice.

  • Dennis

    My Family recently had a case of head lice to deal with, we bought some natural pesticide free products called “LiceKiller”. We even bought the environment kit to treat our home so we didn’t get a re-infestation. We purchased the product from Access Nutraceuticals. Here is their website be sure to check it out. “LiceKiller

  • shaving lice treatment

    Wow! I am 100% with you on the shaving the hair off thing…we were THISCLOSE to doing that w/ our daugters hair when she got lice. It was horrible. We tried so many things. UGH! Glad its over, that is for sure. worked for us, but we tried EVERYTHING…rid, nix, mayo, oils.

    I also recommend you do the nitpicking too, get the rest of the eggs out, make sure they dont ever hatch, thats important, and we keep her hair in braids now to keep from re-infecting w/ it again.

    The schools are getting swamped w/ lice outbreaks. THere were 85 in the last few months at our school.

    Great info, thanks!

  • Aura

    I would welcome a law which fines parents for not sorting out their kids hair. Some parents I know personally can’t be bothered, and that winds me up, Because their children infect others and it’s a real nightmare to deal with and then when it;s dealt with, they get infected again!

    Also make Headrine a bit cheaper as it’s a bit expensive where I come from.

  • Charly

    There is a comb called NittyGritty – this is unbeatable, when used on wet hair (particularly with conditioner on hair it removes 50%+ more lice and nits than any other comb! (I’ve tried most in 27 years of parenting). I can also use it on my child’s hair when the hair is dry as an ‘extra’ on the days when hair isn’t being washed.

    I don’t use any chemicals or essential oils just very regular combing.

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