At our lice treatment centers, customers come in daily with questions like, “My pharmacist told me lice can jump six feet. Is that true?” Or “I read on the internet that you can kill lice with mouthwash.” Or “My hairdresser said if I use plenty of gel, mousse, and hair spray I won’t get lice.” There are so many myths about lice circulating on and off the internet. And trust us, we’ve heard every one of those myths, hundreds of times. So we decided to pen an article about the common misconceptions about head lice to help shed light on the truth about lice.
It was hard to narrow this list down to just 10, since there are so many. But we didn’t want to make a document the length of War and Peace, so here are 10 of the most common misconceptions (in random order) about these crawling critters.
Let the myth-busting commence!
In This Article:
- Lice Myth #1: Only Young Children Can Get Lice
- Lice Myth #2: Lice Prefer Certain Hair Textures, Colors, or Lengths
- Lice Myth #3: You Can Get Lice From Your Pet or From Camping In The Woods
- Lice Myth #4 – Using Hair Styling Products and Lice “Repellents” Protect You From Lice
- Lice Myth #5 - Lice Can Jump or Fly
- Lice Myth #6 – Chlorine In The Pool Will Kill Lice
- Lice Myth #7 – Lice Hide In Cracks and Crevices (Like Bed Bugs)
- Lice Myth #8 – Boys With Short Buzz Cuts Won’t Get Lice
- Lice Myth #9 - Children With Lice Should Be Quarantined
- Lice Myth #10 - Home Remedies Are Effective Lice Treatments
- Bonus Lice Myths We Just Couldn’t Help But Bust!
- One Last Fun Fact
Lice Myth #1 - Only Young Children Get Lice
It's true that head lice are most commonly reported in elementary-age children; this may be because younger kids tend to interact and play in closer proximity with each other, which makes it easier for the lice to transfer from head to head. However, kids aren’t the only ones who can get head lice.Anyone is susceptible to getting head lice. If someone in the house has lice, everyone should be checked, too.Lice are looking for only one thing - a warm head and scalp to feed from.
In our lice centers, we treat plenty of high school kids, college kids, and adults with lice.It’s not unusual for us to treat grandparents who tell us this is the first time in their life they’ve gotten lice! That’s because it’s not your age that is the main factor determining if you get lice, it’s your body chemistry. This is similar to mosquitos. Have you ever noticed how there can be two people standing next to each other outside and while one person is getting bombarded with mosquito bites the other person barely has any? This is because mosquitos are attracted to certain body chemistries more than others. It’s the same thing with lice. We treat many families that have a child with lice who sleeps in the same bed with a sibling or with his parents, night after night, and no one else except that one child gets lice. It’s because the lice, for some reason, are attracted to that child’s body chemistry but no one else’s in that family.
Lice Myth #2 – Lice Prefer Certain Hair Textures, Colors, or Lengths
Lice are not preferential when it comes to scalps. Lice see a head and think, “That could be my new home!” They don’t care if hair is long, short, dyed, natural, curly, straight, thick or thin. All hair is conducive to habitat formation for head lice.
It doesn’t matter what nationality a person is or what hair type they have; lice are equal opportunity bloodsuckers. If hair is dirty or clean, lice don’t care one way or another. For lice, home isn’t where the heart is; home is where the hair is.With that said though, if your hair is EXTREMELY greasy, it is more difficult for the lice to get a firm hold on your hair shaft. But your hair can’t be just a little oily to deter lice. It has to be loaded with oil. So as we say to customers in our office, “If you don’t wash your hair for months and you let it get extremely greasy, you probably won’t have lice…and you also won’t have friends!”
Lice Myth #3 – You Can Get Lice From Your Pet or From Camping In The Woods
It is impossible to get lice from animals. Human head lice can only survive on human blood. Unlike ticks, you can not get head lice from being outside. Lice do not survive in nature. Lice like warmth and they like blood, but only if it belongs to a human being. Lice can travel onto your pet, just like they would onto a piece of furniture. But because they can’t survive on an animal’s blood, they will not live more than three days on your pet. If you snuggle with your pet, it is possible to have the lice transfer to your pet, then back onto you, as long as it is within three days. If your pet gets flea treatments (like Frontline, etc.) that should kill any lice that may have transferred onto your dog or cat, so you don’t need to worry. If your pet does not get flea treatments, you can spray them with our Lice Choice Household Spray (cover their eyes) to take care of any lice that transferred onto him. It is non-toxic and safe for pets.
Lice Myth #4 – Using Hair Styling Products and Lice “Repellents” Protect You From Lice
Many of our customers that come in for treatments will say, “I don’t understand how I got lice because I use so much gel, mousse, and hair spray. My hairdresser told me that would keep me from getting lice.” It would be great if that worked but, unfortunately, it’s not that easy to deter lice.
As for the specific lice “repellent” products on the market, there are more than we can count. They all claim to repel lice from ever wanting to go onto your head because the lice supposedly won’t like the smell of the rosemary, tea tree, coconut, peppermint, or eucalyptus (pick one!). The fact is, there’s no scientific evidence or studies to prove that any of these so-called repellents actually work. So there is no way to know how effective they truly are. We can only tell you that they are far from 100% effective, based on the thousands of people who told us they were using those “repellents” when they came to us for lice treatments. It certainly won’t hurt to add these “repellents” to your arsenal of lice prevention methods, but they may or may not help. So don’t get a false sense of security that you are protected from lice if you’re using one of those products.
The good news is, our Lice Choice Head Lice Treatment Spray can be used as a daily lice preventative, (different from a “repellent”). If you spray our solution on your hair every day and a louse crawls onto your head, our spray will break down the exoskeleton of the bug to nip it fast before it escalates into a full blown infestation. Our spray is non-toxic and gentle enough to use every day. It is not oil based, so it won’t leave your hair looking greasy. And because it barely has a scent, no one will know you have a lice product on your hair.
Lice Myth #5 - Lice Can Jump or Fly
This is one of our favorite myths because it’s genetically impossible! It’s even quite obvious when you search for an image of a louse. You’ll immediately notice that lice are missing key biological components that would allow jumping and flying to be possible - wings and hind legs!
Lice are wingless parasites with six tiny legs that all have a small claw affixed to the end. However, none of these legs have joints that would allow them to jump and take off. Lice can crawl – that's it. How fast can they crawl, you ask? Lice can move as quickly as 23 cm per minute.
Since head lice can’t jump or fly, lice are transmitted by close personal contact, mainly head-to-head contact. In some cases, lice can also be transmitted when those who are lice-infested share clothing, headphones, helmets, combs, hats, and hair ties with others.
Lice Myth #6 – Chlorine In The Pool Will Kill Lice
Swimming in the pool and dunking your head under water in chlorine will not kill lice, sorry!When they get wet, lice can hold their breath, freeze in place, and go into a state of suspended animation for several hours.A shout out to Ian Burgess, head of the Medical Entomology Centre, who was the man behind revealing the difficulty of drowning lice due to their ability to control their breathing holes. The only way to drown lice would be to keep your head completely submerged in water for at least four hours, which is supported by a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in saying:
Head lice can revive even after being drenched in insecticide or other agents... Lice can live for prolonged periods without oxygen, exhibiting no respiratory or muscle movements and appearing to be dead. This explains the belief held by many laypersons that petroleum jelly, mayonnaise, hair pomades, vinegar, olive oil, and tree resin applied to the hair will 'smother' lice to death. In fact, these substances merely slow the movement of lice. An adult louse placed in petroleum jelly for 1 hour and then rinsed will regain full motor function within minutes.10 Head lice inundated with pyrethroid shampoo for an hour and then rinsed with water also have been shown to survive. Once exposed to pyrethroids, lice develop pyrethroid resistance, making these agents virtually useless in some parts of the world.
- Dr. Craig G. Burkhart, Mayo Clinic (2004)
Lice Myth #7 – Lice Hide In Cracks and Crevices (Like Bed Bugs)
Unlike bed bugs, lice do not live in cracks in the walls or electrical outlets. And they do not travel through walls to adjoining spaces. So if you live in an apartment and you have a common wall with your neighbor, the lice will not spread to your neighbor through the walls.
Fortunately, lice stay on the surfaces where there is human contact;they do not burrow down into mattresses or box springs. With bedding, you only have to be concerned about treating the fitted sheet, top sheet, blanket, and pillow case. And lice can not hold on to smooth surfaces like wood, tile, plastic or leather. The bugs need a fiber to clamp onto. The best way to treat your bedding, fabric furniture, coats, hats, and stuffed animals is with Lice Choice Household Spray. Its non-toxic, pesticide-free formula is safe for household pets.And since it does not have an offensive odor or fumes, there’s no need to vacate your home after spraying it. Don’t waste your money on exterminators and pesticide-based products! Not only are they toxic, but they are not effective against lice, since lice have developed a resistance to pesticides after years of exposure.
Lice Myth #8 – Boys With Short Buzz Cuts Won’t Get Lice
Yes, it is true that girls with long hair seem to get lice more, simply because their hair is an easier target for the bugs to grab on to. But ANY amount of hair, no matter how short, is a potential campground for lice. We treat loads of boys at our clinic who have extremely short hair and who have large amounts of lice and nits that went undetected for weeks. Their parents are usually shocked at how it could have gone on for so long without them spotting it, even in situations where they were actively looking for it. So if you’re one of those parents, don’t beat yourself up! Lice are sneaky and are great at hiding.While you’re separating the hair and looking on one side, the bugs are running and hiding on the other side. It’s like a game of cat and mouse. And as for the nits (eggs) that are glued to the hair shaft and can’t run from you, they often blend right in with the hair color, which keeps them camouflaged and hard to spot. Plus, nits are extremely tiny, which adds to the difficulty of seeing them.
So as for the “My son has a buzz cut so I’m not worried about him getting lice” myth…
The only way you can be 100% sure someone will not get lice is to shave their head completely bald. Not short. BALD. Down to the scalp. Most people, understandably, are not willing to go to that extreme, especially if it’s not necessary. And with effective treatment options like Lice Choice, it’s not necessary!
Lice Myth #9 - Children With Lice Should Be Quarantined
When a case of lice is first found at school, it is best for the infected child to be sent home to be treated, so they don’t risk spreading it to other children. As long as you are treating lice effectively, the child will not be contagious after the first treatment, so there is no need to quarantine children with lice. The key word here is EFFECTIVELY.The problem is that most people buy an over-the-counter kit from the pharmacy or use home remedies to treat lice and they think “okay, we’re good!” But they’re not. Over-the-counter and prescription products are no longer effective in killing lice, as these insects have evolved into Super Lice that are resistant to the active ingredients in traditional lice treatment products. The popular over-the-counter kits are now less than 50% effective at eradicating lice!
Also, most people don’t realize they’ve left a lot of nits (eggs) behind, even after hours of combing, because the nits are tiny and often blend in with the hair color. It also doesn’t help that the nit comb in the over-the-counter kits is cheap and ineffective. It is important to re-treat the child multiple times to cycle through all those nits that are in different stages of development, since they were not all laid on the same day. The brand new nits that were just laid are the hardest to comb out. As those nits mature, they become easier to grab, assuming you have the right comb. If you don’t keep re-treating to cycle through ALL the nits, you will never get rid of lice completely and you will feel like a hamster on a wheel who keeps running fast but goes nowhere.
The good news is, Lice Choice is free from pesticides and all the ingredients that Super Lice are resistant to. Lice Choice’s formula is highly effective at killing Super Lice and regular lice alike! So after the very first treatment, your child won’t be contagious and won’t require being quarantined from others. Information published by the National Center for Biotechnology revealed that it is estimated that between 12 million to 24 millionschool days are lost because of lice each year! Moreover, the annual economic loss adds up to 4 to 8 billion US dollars from missed workdays by parents who have to stay home with their children who have contracted lice. By treating lice effectively, with the right product and nit comb, we can keep more kids in school, more parents at work, and get everyone’s lives back to normal faster.
Lice Myth #10 - Home Remedies Are Effective Lice Treatments
One of the most terrifying home remedies we’ve heard of is dousing the head in gasoline to kill lice. This should go without saying, but trying to get rid of lice by putting gasoline on the scalp is dangerous, not to mention ineffective.
Essential oils (tea tree, peppermint, rosemary) are also popular home remedies for treating and preventing lice. However, there has been no clinical evidence actually pointing to essential oils being a successful way of getting rid of lice.
In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly urges parents to not use home remedies such as essential oils to treat and prevent lice, saying:
Although many plants naturally produce insecticides for their own protection that may be synthesized for use by humans, such as pyrethroids, some of these insecticidal chemicals produce toxic effects as well. The safety and efficacy of herbal products are currently not regulated by the FDA, and until more data are available, their use in infants and children should be avoided.We understand that parents want to avoid putting harsh insecticides on their children’s hair and scalp. Children have sensitive skin and slathering pesticides on their skin isn't worth the risk. That's why we have formulated Lice Choice to be organic, natural, non-GMO, non-toxic, and free of all harsh chemicals.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics (2015)
Bonus Lice Myths We Just Couldn’t Help But Bust!
Is there a lice season? No, there is no season for lice. Lice can make their way into your home or onto your head year-round, anywhere in the world!
Does dying or coloring my hair kill lice? The chemicals found in hair coloring solutions do not affect lice whatsoever. Actually, coloring your hair will just stain the nits, so they’ll be harder to detect!
My child doesn’t feel itchy, does that mean he doesn’t have lice? No. While it is usually the case that an itchy scalp is the main symptom of having head lice, that’s not always the truth of the matter. The main reason for itchiness is a small allergic reaction to lice’s saliva, which is injected at the same time as they draw blood from the scalp.
If it’s your child’s first time getting lice, he or she might not develop a sensitivity or have a reaction for between 4 to 6 weeks. That means your child might not feel itchiness, yet he or she would still have lice.
How About One Last Fun Fact?
Nits were actually found on the hair of Egyptian mummies! And even Cleopatra was rumored to have her own fine-toothed lice and nit removal comb. If you want a comb equally stunning and undoubtedly miles more effective, check out our Lice Choice Terminator Nit Comb.