Heading Off Head Lice

If your child comes home from school with lice, you’re not alone. While the process to remove the lice and their eggs (nits) is annoying, it’s nothing to be embarrassed about.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as 12 million children ages 3 to 11 in America are affected by head lice on an annual basis. No one is immune to lice, particularly since the American Academy of Pediatrics reports that most people get head lice from outside of the school environment.

How much do you know about these crawly critters?

Myth #1: Only people who are not clean get head lice.
Fact: Despite popular opinion, head lice can happen to anyone, regardless of hygiene habits or social status. Because head lice are easily transferred through any contact with infected human hair, the condition can be spread by sharing combs, clothing, towels, and hair accessories. Any head-to-head contact increases the chance of getting head lice. Since simple soap and water won’t kill the creatures, your children are susceptible to head lice even if they bathe and shampoo their hair every day.

Myth #2: Head lice carry many kinds of diseases.
Fact: According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, head lice do not transmit any medical conditions to the humans they inhabit. While they don’t cause any long-term problems, the itchiness and discomfort they cause while on the scalp is a source of concern for parents.

Myth #3: Head lice can fly from head to head.
Fact: The primary form of mobility for head lice is crawling. They don’t have wings, so they can’t fly. Head lice also don’t have hind legs, so jumping is out of the question.

Myth #4: Pets and other animals can carry head lice.
Fact: Because they survive on human blood, only humans can get head lice.

Go Ahead and Nitpick

Anti-lice shampoos are available at most local drugstores without a prescription. If the over-the-counter lice insecticides aren’t working, you or your child might have encountered super lice, which are resistant to pyrethroids—the active ingredients in the most popular over-the-counter lice treatments. If this is the case, you might need a prescription lice medication.

Whether you use an over-the-counter lice shampoo or prescription medication that combats super lice, you’ll still need to do the most important step in the lice-removal process—combing out the lice and nits with a fine-tooth comb. Many anti-lice shampoos include a fine-tooth lice comb or you can purchase one from a drugstore or online.

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