Rumour: Head lice only like clean hair
False Head lice like all sorts of hair – dirty or clean. Interestingly, the rumour used to be that head lice only liked dirty hair. It seems the myth might have been changed so at least people with head lice could claim they had wonderfully clean hair.
Rumour: Head lice don’t like short hair
False Those pesky lice just aren’t this fussy. They actually like to live close to the hair shaft near your scalp, so short hair is just as comfy for them. However, if you’ve ever tried to get rid of head lice from a long, tangly mane of hair you’ll know that long hair makes it harder for you to comb out all of the lice. And of course, you only need to leave one pregnant female or two loved-up lice and there’ll be babies before you know it.
Rumour: Nits are not actually head lice
True Nits are the eggs from which the head lice emerge – they are sometimes mistaken for dried scalp/dandruff in a child’s hair, but the difference is they can’t be easily brushed off the hair. Head lice are grey or brown and grow to between 2-4mm when adult – the females are bigger than the males.
Rumour: Head lice jump from head to head
False Head lice can’t jump – they can only walk. However, they do seem to have an amazing ability to spread from one child to another, probably because children often put their heads together. If your child has long hair, try to keep it tied up, especially at school or nursery.
Rumour: Super lice are evolving that can’t be killed by treatments
Mostly false While some lice are indeed developing resistance to insecticide treatments used heavily over the past few years, there are now a number of non-pesticide based treatments which work mechanically so the lice can’t become resistant to them. Many non-pesticide treatments can be found over the counter at your local pharmacy or online.
Rumour: Children sent home from nursery or school if they have lice
False This may have been true many years ago, but now there’s a more subtle approach by schools. If head lice or nits are found, your child will be sent home with a letter explaining the findings and telling you how to get rid of the infestation. If you find your child has lice, you may want to let your child’s teacher know, so they can warn the other parents or you may just want to let your child’s closest friends know. Or else you may just want to keep mum. Of course, the most important thing to do is treat your child and remove the lice.
Rumour: Lice glue their eggs to your hair
True! They may be small (about the size of a sesame seed) but they’re very clever. Lice produce a substance that sticks their eggs to hair, making them extra difficult to pick out. You’ll need a special nit comb to removed them. Live lice are also very good at hanging on to hair – don’t think firing water through a strong shower head will blast them off, oh no.
Rumour: Adults can’t get lice
False Oh, if only that were true… but it’s not. Headlice just aren’t that fussy. It’s a clever parent who can carefully manoeuvre their loving child into a non hair-touching position when their little lice-carrier nestles up – but it’s worth it.
Rumour: You can catch head lice from your pets
False Head lice only feed off humans, they can’t live on dogs, cats or even furry soft toys. Neither can you give head lice to your pets – so if you see them scratching away, they’ve probably got fleas. And that’s another story…
Rumour: Head lice can be caught from bedding, furnishings and hats
Mostly false Head lice can survive for around 24 hours after falling off (or casually walking off) a human head. This means that if you do have the pleasure of losing the odd one or two in a hat or on your pillow, it’s likely to be dead or at least very weak by the time it next comes in contact with another human head. However, if children are swapping hats or sitting on a sofa together, then obviously the lice may move heads successfully. Interestingly, a study in Australia looked at a group of 1000 children and found a total of 4,500 lice in their hair, but not a single louse in their school caps.
Rumour: You can spot children with head lice as they’ll be scratching their heads
False This is not a foolproof way of knowing your child has lice. Some children – but not all – do start scratching their head but this is because their skin reacts either to the head lice bites or the sticky glue they use to attach the eggs (see above). However, by the time they’re scratching they may have had lice for some time. Meanwhile, other children don’t feel a thing. The best way to find out if your child has lice is do regular checks – preferably a quick comb through once a week.
3 things you probably didn’t know about head lice
1 Lice have been around a long, long time. Some mummified remains of Ancient Egyptians showed evidence of lice having lived in their hair.
2 Celebs can get them too! It was rumoured that Jedward had managed to bring head lice into the house they shared with their fellow X Factor contestants.
3 There’s a Bring Back Nitty Nora campaign It seems lots of parents would like to see the return of Nitty Nora, the Bug Explorer, into schools. A number felt so strongly they set up a petition on the Number 10 website.
Click here to discuss head lice and find out what other mums think of them and how they deal with an infestation