The origin of the widely accepted “knowledge” that head lice like to live in dirty hair can be traced all the way back to middle school. While there is truth in saying that lice are more frequent among children, sadly they also often prove to be a way to poke fun at the many unfortunate ones that find themselves scratching their day away. But do head lice prefer to live in dirty hair or clean hair? This debate has been going on for decades now. Have we found the answer yet?
What are Head Lice?
Everyone has heard about head lice before. Whether they have themselves been victim of those tiny wingless insects or have known someone when they were younger to have them, head lice are a common misfortune shared by people from the four corners of the globe. They tend to propagate more quickly and easily among children since head-to-head contact happens on an almost daily basis in schools or daycare centers. Head lice are about the size of a sesame seed, and though they do not carry any disease, they have been causing problems to humans for thousands and thousands of years. In fact, almost every civilization in history has tried to get rid of head lice – but sadly to no avail.
Do Head Lice Prefer to Live in Dirty or Clean Hair?
The myth that head lice prefer dirty hair over clean hair is false. In clean hair, lice have less difficulty feeding and laying their eggs. Dirty hair makes it harder for them to do this since oils and dirt keeps coming in the way. Furthermore, lice feed themselves with blood. Since they like to bite the blood fresh from their victim’s scalp, oil and debris in the hair make it harder for them to feed. Some people, however, argue that head lice do not care whether or not the hair is clean or dirty and that they will lay their eggs wherever they can. One thing is for sure though: head lice do not prefer dirty hair over clean hair.
Other Facts about Head Lice
The myth that head lice thrive in dirty hair rather than clean hair has been dispelled. Scientists have found that head lice either do not have a preference or prefer clean hair since they have an easier time laying their eggs and feeding in clean hair. What they also found is that head lice are more common in long hair. Interestingly enough, head lice infestations are also two to four times more common in girls that in boys – perhaps because of the long hair factor. Girls are also known to have more head-to-head-contact than boys. Scientists have also discovered that head lice do not always make infected people’s head itchy and that the best way to see if children have lice is to look through the hair.
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Head lice have been around for a very, very long time. They have plagued us for millenniums and even today we do not have any clue on how we could potentially get rid of them. While those tiny insects may keep pestering us until the end of time, at least we know that they do not carry any disease – and that no, head lice do not prefer dirty hair over clean hair.