Approximately 80 percent of schools have at least one head lice outbreak each year causing 6 to 12 million cases of head lice annually. A case of head lice often leads to concern and embarrassment for the affected families, who are left confused about the cause, effects and treatments for head lice. Separating head lice myth from fact will help you understand and deal with outbreaks and keep your child lice free this school year.
MYTH: If you get head lice, you have bad hygiene.
FACT: Lice can infest anyone’s hair. In fact, lice prefer clean hair.
MYTH: Head lice can jump from one head to another.
FACT: Lice do not hop, jump or fly and can only be spread through direct head to head contact or through sharing belongings. Tell your child not to share personal items such as hats, towels, brushes, helmets and hair ties.
MYTH: Lice can be spread through family pets.
FACT: Head lice are a human to human infestation and cannot be passed from human to pet or pet to human.
MYTH: Lice are dangerous and carry disease.
FACT: Lice will cause itching and a rash, but there are very few serious health risks associated with head lice.
MYTH: Using mayonnaise and a shower cap will kill lice.
FACT: Mayonnaise will not kill or prevent lice and nits (eggs). Special lice shampoo and a lice comb is the most effective way to kill head lice and remove nits.
MYTH: Petroleum jelly or Vaseline® will kill lice.
FACT: Petroleum jelly or Vaseline® will smother lice but will not kill the nits. This leaves the hair full of jelly or Vaseline® (which is extremely difficult to remove) and when the nits hatch the lice will return. To remove nits, you must use a fine tooth lice comb.
MYTH: Once you kill the lice you are done.
FACT: Lice can reappear within 7 to 10 days if even one nit is missed. You must make sure all the lice and nits are removed to prevent reinfestation.
Knowing the facts about head lice can help you quickly and effectively manage existing outbreaks and prevent future infestation. For more information or if you have any questions, contact the Lexington Clinic Pediatrics Department at 859.258.4000.