Dear Scott: We just moved here during the summer from Michigan, and I have been reading your columns. We have three children starting school, and I have heard horror stories about head lice. What in the world is this?


Answer: Anyone with kids in the South knows about lice. If you are newcomers from the north with children, and haven’t ever heard of such a thing; head lice is a problem here. Up north, when kids get the cooties, it is a form of social humiliation and is contracted by touching another person with a finger and yelling, “You got cooties.” Down south, you get cooties for real, and it’s a silent process. Before you get freaked out, let’s dispel a few myths, and confirm the facts:


People with head lice are dirty: False. Lice are happiest in clean hair that is easy for it to hang on to. Greasy or hair with gels and paste products in it are not a suitable environment for the bug to attach it or its eggs on the shaft of hair. They seem to be fond of (natural) blondes, too.


Head lice carry diseases: False. Except for rare secondary infections that result from scratching at bites, head lice are harmless and have been regarded by some as a cosmetic rather than a medical problem. Unlike body lice, head lice are not the vectors of any diseases, and it has been suggested that infections are beneficial in helping to foster an immune response against lice, which helps humans in defense against the body louse; Wikipedia.


Head lice can jump from one person to another: False. Direct head-to-head contact, such as sharing a comb or brush, hats, headphones, pillows, etc., is the most common mode of infestation, rather than carpets and sofas; but members of the same household will unknowingly pass them around. If one of your kids have lice, then mom, dad and everyone else do, too, and everyone should treat their heads also. Change the linens, wash all the dirty towels and clothes, clean all brushes and combs, but you probably don’t need to call Servpro to disinfect the whole house. These little critters only last a short time without a host.


A prescription from a doctor is needed for a cure: False. If the scalp looks infected from scratching, you might want to see a doctor, but any drug store has shampoo-in-treatment to kill head lice. Be sure to repeat the treatment in a week. If the box tells you that one treatment is enough, it is not. Doing so will prevent a recurrence of infestation, resulting from contact with something you forgot to clean, or if the product didn’t kill them all – most of the time it does not.


Tip of the week: Be sure no one has head lice before coming into a hair establishment. If detected on a patron, the establishment is required to shut down until the entire place is disinfected.


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