Most parents ask me why there are so many outbreaks of lice in the community now versus when they were kids.
Few parents remember having lice themselves, never mind having the sweeping epidemics that have plagued classrooms across the country in recent years.
The Dreaded “Super-Louse”
Media sources have touted the rise of the “Super-Louse” as one cause. Back in the middle of the last century, a cycle of treatment usually resulted in eradication of lice from the child’s head. These days, just as likely as not, the child will still have live lice after using a drugstore pesticide treatment. Repeated exposure to pesticides over decades of use has created pesticide-resistant lice.
Well-meaning parents send their children back to school after “treating” at home, assuming that the shampoo killed the lot of little buggers on their child. Shockingly, I’ve combed dozens of live lice out of heads that have been “treated at home” just minutes or hours before.
Olive Oil, Mayonnaise, Herbs: Delicious Sandwich Spread or Effective Lice Treatment?
Online, we all have access to “what worked for me!” in lice treatment anecdotes. DIY’ers advocate using mayonnaise, mouthwash, olive oil, peanut butter, and even Vaseline for lice treatment. While these “treatments” have been mostly debunked, moms and dads desperate for a solution will try anything once confronted with lice on their little darling’s head.
The trend of avoiding pesticides in favor of all-natural treatments has also fueled the popularity of home remedies to treat lice. However, these treatments have such a high failure rate that the infested child remains contagious even after being “treated”. Schools often have no way to verify that the lice are truly defeated. Thus the child continues to infest other children over and over in the classroom, and the infestation spreads from grade to grade.
One Direction-Inspired Hair
Current styles also contribute to the huge lice populations here in California. Girls through high school grow their hair extra-extra-long. Boys no longer buzz their hair at the start of summer, a move that used to nip lice infestations in the bud. Now, parents are reluctant to cut even their boys’ hair short, which lowers the success rates of treatment even more.
Girls with hair much longer than shoulder length – the current Hollywood and reality show star ideal – have dramatically higher failure rate across all treatment methods. The popularity of scarves, hats, and huge “Beats”-style headphones all contribute to lice finding cozy nooks in which to hide. Thus the lice are spread through children even in the middle and high school years, when previously lice infestation rates would start to decline dramatically.
Would you cut your child’s hair off if he or she got lice?
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