Expert says you're sharing more than a moment with your 'selfie' because head lice could tag along

Taking and posting “selfies,” you may think you’re sharing a moment but professionals are now saying you could actually be sharing lice.

Dr. Christine Alexander is the Chairperson of Family Medicine at Cleveland's Metrohealth Medical Center.

“I think it's kind of funny to think about it and what a sign of the times. We have all this technology and now we're doing all these interesting things,” Alexander said.

“When you think about head lice, head lice can spread from one person to the next and there's a lot of myths out there about head lice, how they fly and jump, and they don't. They're really small, they're like the size of a sesame seed and they crawl really fast, so that's why if there's close contact. They can crawl really fast from one person to another or could crawl onto furniture and then onto a person to another or could crawl onto furniture or onto a person.”

“I suppose with people doing those self-portraits and putting heads together, it’s very feasible the lice could spread easily that way,” said Alexander adding, she hasn’t actually seen this reported yet at Metroheath.  So where did this all come from?

CNET said the lice-sharing “selfie” info came from the owner of a lice hair treatment company out of California.

We contacted the owner of Nitless Noggins Treatment Center, Marcy McQuillan,” who said over the phone, “I was finding that while I’ve been in business the last few years, we noticed an increase in the Middle School, High School, college kids coming in and our technicians here, we were all saying after the girls are sitting in our chair with this beautiful long hair and we’re asking if you know, are they taking ‘selfies’ and are you taking group shots-selfies and looking at Youtube with your friends …and they all say, ‘yes.”

The problem, McQuillan said, is this group is least likely to report lice or seek treatment because of embarrassment and the stigma that contracting head lice means you’re unclean.

Alexander also said “uncleanliness” is a common stigma but warned if left untreated, head lice could be a very big and expensive problem.

For treatment, Alexander said, “There are different products on the market but basically it’s a cream that kills off the lice.  The difficulty is it will kill off mainly the active lice, but the lice will lay the eggs in the hair shaft and so you have to really keep treating and keep treating and keep treating because those eggs won’t hatch, you know, like a week later and then you have to treat those.  So it can be a very long process and sometimes you really have to go through you house and spray down your furniture, wash all of the bedding in hot water, wash all of the cloths in hot water and it could be really challenging to get rid of it.”

McQuillan said traditionally it was the kindergarten and elementary students that had the most reported lice cases.  On the phone Wednesday, she described a 45% jump in cases involving teens, college students.

One thing Alexander said people are not really aware of is, lice feed off of human blood.  She also emphasized most home remedies do not work.  She said it’s best to seek advice from a doctor or treatment professional so things do not get worse.

For more information on lice, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/lice/

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