First, Identify the Problem…

Head Lice Cartoon

Head Lice Cartoon from BusinessWeek Illustration: Kelsey Dake

One of the concerns over head lice programs that dismiss students from school is the false positive. A school employee finds something that resembles a louse or nit and misidentifies it. This can set off a cascade of unnecessary treatments and interventions. A recent note in Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology reinforces this point.

A woman had been self-treating for head lice for 4 months, but the head lice and itching did not go away. Thinking that she had a case of insecticide resistant head lice, she collected insects with adhesive tape and took them to a physician. Upon inspection under low magnification, the samples resembled immature lice. Upon closer inspection, at higher magnification, it became obivous that the insects were not head lice, but a species of collembola (springtail). The doctor instructed the patient to cease head lice treatments and instead remove damp items and standing water from her residence.

Maria Rita Nasca, Francesco Lacarrubba, Giuseppe Micali. Collembola vs head lice: A puzzling case solved by videodermoscopy. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. Volume 72, Issue 1, Supplement 1, January 2015, Pages S76-S77

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.
This entry was posted in by jjneal, Health, Taxonomy. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to First, Identify the Problem…

  1. anastaciast says:

    Nice picture. What is your stance on removing children from school when they have active head lice? Some schools are allowing children to stay in school.

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