Finding out that your child has head lice is undoubtedly an upsetting moment. You might think that it is your fault because your house isn’t clean or that your child is sick. However, this is not the case.
Head lice, or Pediculus humanus capitis, are parasitic insects that live on human heads, and more specifically, live in hair. They are incredibly common, especially in young children. It is more likely than not that at some point your child will contract lice while in school.
Unfortunately, this can spread to the other people living at home with the child. While it is an annoyance, it is not a major health hazard, but is absolutely something you need to treat right away with a lice treatment product.
However, do you know what the actual common head lice causes are? In fact, there are numerous causes, and some are more common than others. Here are five causes that you might not be aware of.
- Direct Head to Head Contact
This is the easiest, most common way that someone can contract head lice. As you now know, head lice live in hair. Therefore, the easiest way to get head lice is to come in contact with it with your own hair. Head to head contact is especially common among children, especially due to certain activities including recess, naptime, or attending sleepovers, which is why this occurs most frequently among this age group. Head lice cannot jump or fly, so it is direct contact that is typically needed in order for them to transfer from one person to another.
Keep in mind that lice do not have a preference on the type of hair they attach themselves to. Again, contracting lice does not mean you, or your child, has poor hygiene. Therefore, it doesn’t make a difference if a child has clean hair or greasy hair – hair is hair! Because it can attach itself to anyone, this is why it is not unusual for the family of an impacted child to contract lice as well. Make sure if your child does get lice to treat it immediately and inspect all other family members as well.
2. Sharing Clothing
While less common, it is still possible to contract head lice from sharing clothing with someone who has had lice. Most obviously, sharing a hat, earmuffs, or headbands is most dangerous, as they are in direct contact with a person’s head. However, it is possible that you could even get it from sharing things like coats and sweaters. This is why contracting head lice can feel like such a pain. Not only do you have to worry about treating the head lice on the person who has it, but you also have to be incredibly diligent about washing all clothing items that your child has used.
While teaching your child to share is a great trait, keep in mind you might want to instruct them to not borrow clothing items from friends of theirs in case their friend gets head lice. Even though it is a small chance, the possibility is still there that you can contract head lice in this manner.
3. Sharing Grooming Items
Similar to the previous cause, this is another way you can contract head lice. While rare, it is possible to get lice from sharing grooming items with someone who has lice, such as their hairbrush or comb. Again, this is far less common than direct head to head contact, but it is still something you should keep in mind once you are aware someone has head lice.
When someone in your house has it, it is in your best interest to make a thorough list of everything they wear and use in order to clean everything effectively to eliminate the risk anyone else will get it. Remove all the hair from a hairbrush, or consider getting a new one altogether, and definitely do not share a brush with someone that you know has recently had head lice.
4. Lying on Certain Furniture
Certain fabric items where a person with head lice lays their head can end up being an area where other people can get it as well. This includes bedding, pillows, couches, and rugs. Again, this easily explains why it is so common for children to get head lice. If your child has naptime at school or attends a sleepover, they are surely laying their head down in these sorts of areas where lice may be. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to prevent this from happening- you don’t want to take away naptime or never allow your child to sleep over at their friend’s house!
Instead, if your child does get head lice, be sure to wash their bedding and vacuum and clean up around the house to eliminate the risk that lice are present. Without their food source (which is blood from your scalp), head lice will die. However, they may remain alive for 1-3 days and therefore can still be a risk even if they are not on someone’s scalp.
5. Playing with Stuffed Animals
Finally, one head lice cause that people rarely mention or consider is from a stuffed animal. If a child sleeps with one and holds it close to them, it likely comes in contact with their head and their hair. Therefore, there is the chance that lice can be present on the stuffed animal and could potentially be passed to someone else. This is a rare possibility, but nonetheless is something to keep in mind and is something most parents might not think to wash. If your child has head lice, wash their stuffed animals in addition to their clothing and bedding. Better safe than sorry!
Head lice can come from a variety of sources, and the best thing you can do is be aware of all of these causes in order to best be prepared in the event that you or your child do get it. It’s never fun, but you can get through it as painlessly as possible by knowing what to look out for.