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Selfies Cause Lice?

Are teenagers spreading lice when they put their heads together to take a perfect selfie?  This is a hot topic trending lately.  I have had emails and texts from parents...

Are teenagers spreading lice when they put their heads together to take a perfect selfie?  This is a hot topic trending lately.  I have had emails and texts from parents who are fighting head lice in their homes and are wondering if this is possible.  I was skeptical that this is how lice is being transmitted among the teen crowd but it is possible.  Laying on the same pillow or sharing hair brushes and headbands are more likely the culprit.

But what can you do if your teen has lice? Try an over-the-counter product which contains permethrin or pyrethrin and follow directions.

Using a hair conditioner before the use of the OTC product can diminish effectiveness, and many products recommend not washing the hair for several days after finishing the application. Re-apply carefully in order to treat hatching lice and lice not killed by the first application. In other words, you must read the package insert! 

Even with parents following the directions to a “T”, there are cases where the lice continue to thrive. This may be due to the fact that the lice have become resistant to the OTC products, and different geographic areas do seem to have different rates of resistant head lice. 

There are now four prescription products that have been approved by the FDA for use when OTC products have not worked. These products are Sklice, Natroba, Ovide and Ulesfia. Each of these products contains a different product that has proven to work against the human louse. These prescription products do differ by application time, FDA labeled age guidelines, precautions for use and cost. There is not one product that is the best one to use.

There has been a study that looked at oral Ivermectin as a therapy for head lice in children over the age of 2. The drug is not FDA labeled for this use. There are guidelines for its use when both OTC and prescription topical agents have failed to eradicate lice.  

There is no need to try all of the crazy stuff like applying mayonnaise on your teen’s head, or blow drying concentrated moisturizers into the hair shaft.  There are several areas of the country where there are businesses that will “nit pick” your child’s heads, but one of my patients spent $500 dollars on this (really), but continued to have problems with lice.

So, if the lice won’t go away, call your doctor before resorting to alternative, unproven therapies. And don't forget to smile in your next selfie.

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About Sue Hubbard, M.D.

Dr. Sue Hubbard is an award winning pediatrician and medical editor for www.kidsdr.com.  She is a native of Washington, D.C. who travelled south to attend the University of Texas at Austin and never left.Read More

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