Selfies could spread head lice

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Johannesburg - Physical contact during group ‘selfie’ photos may lead to an increase in the spread of head lice, according to a pharmacist.

Selfies - which involve taking photographs of oneself using a smartphone or webcam - have taken off as a global craze.

In 2013, the Oxford English Dictionary named ‘selfie’ as word of the year. And in late 2014, selfie sticks were snapped up during festive season shopping sprees.

But pharmacist Giulia Criscuolo has warned that head-to-head contact during selfies, especially among children and teens, could increase lice infestations.

Head lice are small, wingless parasites which live on human hair and feed on blood drawn from the scalp, causing itching and sometimes infection. Infestation is typically spread through head-to-head contact as well as through sharing hats, towels, brushes and pillows

"Children often sit close together, sometimes touching heads when using new technology or taking group selfies,” said Criscuolo.

“They need to be aware that this may contribute to the spread of lice, particularly during an outbreak," added Criscuolo.

Meanwhile, health experts also warn that other technology such as iPads, tablets and video games are also characterised by close physical contact among children and teens which may also contribute to spreading head lice.

Tips on preventing lice

Criscuolo suggests the following tips to prevent head lice this school term:

- Teach your child not to share hats, brushes, hair accessories or to bump heads with friends while using phones or other technology.

- If you child's hair is long, pull it back into a bun or ponytail to keep it close to the scalp.

- Examine your child's head and hair for ten minutes every week under good lighting.

- If your child has lice, do not send them to school and alert their teachers immediately.

- To treat lice, use a non toxic anti-lice shampoo which contain nature-based active ingredients, including the MelAza extract, derived from a patented neem seed extract, used in India to treat head lice for thousands of years.

- To avoid lice, try a preventative spray. Sprayed onto hair, hats, collars and shoulders, it may keep your child lice-free for several hours.

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