Living Without Lice

The increase in cases of head lice, resistance to treatments and having to scramble for alternatives to attending school create headaches in our modern society. What’s a busy family to do? Hire the “Lice Squad”. The pressures on modern families have led to the rise of lice removal services. People who are too “grossed out” by lice or don’t know how to go about getting rid of lice on their own or don’t have time to do it themselves, find these services appealing.

Numerous parts of the US have professional “nit pickers” for hire. These services are experienced in lice removal and even offer package deals for the whole family. When one child brings home lice, it can spread to other members of the family. It is a good idea to inspect and treat everyone infected at the same time. That reduces the risk of reintroducing lice infestations among family members.

Some health care wonks are recommending that pediatricians become more involved with lice treatment. However, pediatricians are busy, and their time is expensive. Professional services may be the answer for people who lack the time and knowledge to get rid of the lice.

Recently, there has been a lot of push back against keeping children out of school if they have been treated for lice. If children truly have no mobile stages of lice, the risk of transmissions is low. Studies have found that lice infestations are mostly transmitted by head to head contact. Hugging and sleep overs are high risk for transmission. Sharing brushes and hats are much lower risk. However, changes in practices that increase the rate of re-infestation would be a headache for everyone.

Another argument against keeping children with lice out of school is that head lice are primarily a nuisance and do not transmit diseases as body lice do. However, this argument may not be entirely true. Recent studies have demonstrated that human head lice and body lice are genetically indistinguishable. A new paradigm suggests that body lice emerge when populations of head lice reach high densities. The body louse form, which is larger, can take a larger blood meal and is better able to inhabit clothing emerges in these dense populations. This new information suggests that controlling and minimizing head lice populations is important to preventing diseases, such as typhus, that can be transmitted by body lice.

Quarantine and eradication are still important tools for maintaining public health. They may be inconvenient and burdensome to individuals. However, these measures also serve to protect the population and in aggregate be less burdensome and inconvenient to the population.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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3 Responses to Living Without Lice

  1. Madison says:

    I find this truly innovative. With the economy in a somewhat bad place, it is quite creative of people to come up with professional head lice services. Many parents are too busy to deal with their children’s head lice, and it they have to stay home from school because of it, their parent would have to stay home, losing a paid day of work, or hire a sitter whom would cost money anyways. It makes most sense to just use that inevitable loss of money on improving the condition of the child. I remember when I had head lice as a child and my father had to spend an entire day washing and combing my long hair. That is a lot of lost time and hiring a professional probably would have been a more efficient way to get rid of head lice.

  2. Pingback: Pubic Lice, Urban Legend | Living With Insects Blog

  3. Pingback: Lice Policies | Living With Insects Blog

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