The head louse, a common parasite responsible for head lice infestations, is a term many Canadians are familiar with and potentially have had experience with, particularly Canadians who are parents with school-aged children. However, irrespective of the broad awareness around head lice, many myths still persist relating to infestations, management and treatments. Here are some of the more common myths and the facts around head lice:
Head lice can jump from one host to another: This is false. Head lice can only be transferred through direct contact from one person to another. As such, it is strongly recommended that children do not share any personal items such as hats, combs or jackets, with their peers as the direct contact can cause the transference of lice. Moreover, when a lice infestation occurs, it is recommended to thoroughly clean all bed sheets and pillow covers and to proactively check any siblings that share the same bed with the child, to ensure no transference has occurred.
People who come from dirty or low socioeconomic homes are more likely to get lice: This, as well, is false. There is no difference, from a statistical perspective, around lice infestations based on cleanliness, socioeconomic status, ethnicity or gender. Because of the high incidence of peer contact, there is a spike in lice infestations during the early back to school months.
Lice can cause disease: While lice can come with significant emotional distress due to the stigmas associated with having lice, as well as symptoms such as itching of the scalp and red papules around the head and neck area, lice cannot transfer disease to their host.
Pesticides are necessary to treat lice: This used to be true, but is not anymore. Pesticides once were considered the gold standard for treating head lice infestations. However, a recent study demonstrated that 97.1 per cent of lice are resistant to traditional pesticide based treatments. Moreover, the dangers associated with putting pesticides on an individual’s scalp, combined with the lack of effectiveness, now make non-pesticide based treatments the preferred method of head lice management.
Head lice treatments need to stay in the hair for a long time to be effective: This is false. Treatment duration for non-pesticide based therapies can range from as short as only 10 minutes to as long as overnight (approximately 8 hours). The duration of treatment is specific to the treatment itself and all may be effective if used as directed.
If you are concerned that you or someone in your family has head lice, consult your pharmacist for the treatment and management regimen that is best suited for you.