Love taking selfies? It may spread head lice

People may be spreading head lice by snapping selfies with friends. (Shutterstock)
People may be spreading head lice by snapping selfies with friends. (Shutterstock)

While you are busy snapping away a group selfie, could lice be crawling into your hair?

There is concern that physical contact in group photos may lead to an increase in the spread of head lice as the selfie craze continues to sweep social circles.

Other technology such as iPads, tablets and video games are also characterised by close physical contact which may contribute to the spread of head lice.

Read: What are body lice?

"Head lice are small, wingless parasites which live on human hair and feed on blood drawn from the scalp, causing itching and sometimes infection," according to pharmacist Giulia Criscuolo.

"Infestation is most frequent in children and teens and is spread through head-to-head contact as well as through sharing hats, towels, brushes and pillows," she said in a press release.

Criscuolo also cautioned that children should be careful of head-to-head contact at school.

Read: 20 head lice myths debunked

“Children often sit close together, sometimes touching heads when using new technology or taking group selfies. They need to be aware that this may contribute to the spread of lice, particularly during an outbreak.”

Criscuolo suggests the following tips for parents:

- Teach your child not to share hats, brushes, hair accessories or to bump heads with friends while using cell 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 10 minutes every week under good lighting

Getting lice-free

- 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
- To avoid lice, try a preventative spray used on hair, hats, collars and shoulders

To eliminate all lice and successfully prevent re-infection, wash all clothing, towels and bed linen in hot, soapy water, and dry them in a hot dryer.

Read: Everything you need to know about head lice 

Last year, Marcy McQuillan, a lice treatment expert in California also said that spreading lice may be caused by all the head-bumping during selfie snaps.

Going head to head

However, some medical professionals are not convinced because lice cannot jump or fly, but crawl from head to head.

The idea that group selfies may be causing lice infestation is a marketing ploy, according to Dr Richard J. Pollack, a teacher at the Harvard School of Public Health.

As many as six million to 12 million people worldwide get head lice every year, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Preschool and elementary-age children, aged three to 10, and their families are infested most often.

A study by PubMed Central, a US-based medical archive, shows that infestations rates are about 58% in Africa. 

Read more: 

Wet combing best for spotting lice 

Causes of head lice  

Hair-raising facts about lice 

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