How do people catch lice?


Leave a Reply

Thursday, 29 September 2016 12:40

Lice are surrounded by plenty of myths. To conduct effective treatment, these myths should be busted. Let’s look at the most popular myths and debunk them!

Myth #1: Head Lice Appear Because Of Poor Hygiene, If You Don’t Wash Your Hair For Too Long

Truth: despite the popular belief, head lice do not appear spontaneously, i.e. from dirt, they can only be transferred from another infected person. It is believed that they would rather settle not in the dirty but clean (!), long and straight hair, the roots of which have any grease, dust and skin flakes washed away grease making it easier for them to cling.

However, other types of human lice are pickier and appear due to poor personal hygiene. This is the case of body lice and their appearance due to rare underwear change.

Myth #2: The Infection Occurs When a Louse Jumps From One Head To Another

Truth: lice can neither jump nor fly, they crawl. Unlike the fleas, their prehensile paws are intended only to cling to human hair, and they are not fit for jumping. Besides, lice have a sufficiently massive body and no wings. They crawl though really fast and deftly. As the University of Nebraska-Lincoln scientists established, «They can crawl quickly through the hair at a rate of 9 inches per minute".

Moreover, there are several ways of getting infected with lice:

  1. Adult lice usually just crawl from one infected person to the head of another, i.e. lice are transmitted with "head-to-head" contact. Lice can manage to quietly crawl even while you kiss or a hug a carrier.

  2. Rarely lice eggs can be transmitted through sharing personal objects, such as combs, elastic bands, towels, pillow cases etc.

  3. Nits can be found in the garments. Do not wear someone else's clothes and hats; you could end up being infected!

You can catch lice from anyone who is infected, but the more lice a person has, the more dangerous the contact is. Chance of infecting peaks when a person has adult lice as the larvae never leave their host. If you’re forced to share room with someone who apparently has something crawling through their hair, try to stay away from them.

Myth #3: Only Kids Have Lice

Truth: anyone can catch lice regardless of their age, gender or social rank. Kids become the victims of lice more often simply because they spend much time playing in groups in kindergarten and other places. They are less picky when it comes to choosing friends and are less observant. The same goes for their own perception: if they get fleas it is unlikely that they will immediately realize that there is a reason for their head to itch severely. Fleas can be transmitted not only through the head-to-head contact, but also with plush toys.

Adults can get infected in any public place, be it a theater, a café, a cinema, a bus, a plane etc. it can happen even at work if you are forced to contact lots people or at home if your own kids have lice.

Myth #4: Head Lice Are a Threat Even Outside the Head

Truth: at any stage the lice are extremely dependant on the human head heat and on human blood, so they can’t breed without humans and will die soon. Still, there is certain danger.

Here is what happens when you remove the lice from your head:

  • The nits die (life ends there) within a few hours after removal, because in order to develop and hatch they need heat from the head.

  • Nymphs and adult lice die within 2 days after removal at most. The former need fresh blood for timely molts (approximately every 3 days) and the latter require it for life and breeding (5 times a day)

Still there is the infection danger within these 2 days, for instance, if you wear someone else’s hat where there are lice. Another scenario could be sleeping on a patient’s pillow as the lice can crawl on your head from the creases of the pillow case.

Myth #5: You Can Catch Lice in the Swimming Pool

Truth: it is impossible. Lice are known to survive underwater for several hours, but they can’t be transmitted when you share the pool with an infected person. Lice grip onto the hair too tightly (both adults and nits) and don’t let go of the hair when you dive. Sharing pool towels is a different story, though. This scenario allows transferring lice. To learn about getting rid of lice, read our article about head lice treatment.