No, Your Teen WON'T Get Lice From Taking Selfies

A story went viral on Monday that had parents of teens worrying about something they thought they had outgrown -- fear of head lice. Commonly associated with younger children, a new “study” showed an increase in the amount of teens getting lice, and the blame was squarely pegged on the selfie phenomenon.

The thinking was -- and I totally fell for this too, by the way -- that teens are contracting head lice at unprecedented rates because they’re so busy squeezing their heads together for group selfies to post on Instagram or Snapchat or wherever the hip place to post pics these days is.


The information about the lice infestation apparently came from Marcy McQuillan, who conveniently offers lice removal services in Northern California. She told the SFist:

I’ve seen a huge increase of lice in teens this year. Typically it’s younger children I treat, because they’re at higher risk for head-to-head contact. But now, teens are sticking their heads together every day to take cellphone pics.

But now Dr. Richard J. Pollack, who runs a pest identification business called ItdentifyUS and is a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, says that it’s a “pure and simple” marketing ploy. He said, "Wherever these louse salons open a new branch, there always seems to be an epidemic. It's good for business."

More from The Stir: 6 Ways to Prevent Your Child From Getting Lice Now

Oh. Well that makes sense. Pollack claims that there’s no evidence of a rise in the number of head lice cases in the U.S., amongst teens, younger children, or any other group. He also doesn’t buy into the idea that selfies can cause lice to venture from one head to the next.

Teens almost never have head lice, meaning they are not likely to spread it, even if they are taking a lot of selfies. Lice is most common in children who are in kindergarten to fourth grade. Lice is normally spread through 'direct and prolonged head-to-head contact.' Yes, it's theoretically possible for teens to spread lice by taking a selfie, but it would be an extremely rare occurrence. The idea of it happening enough to be considered a widespread problem is ridiculous.

So there you go. Your teens may be duck-facing away their adolescence on social media, but at least they're not at an increased risk for head lice.

Did you buy into this story at first?


Image via Eric Parker/Flickr

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