Title: Myths & Facts…About Head Lice.
Author: McKay, Shelley J.*
Source: Nursing; Jun 99, Vol. 29 Issue 6, p30, 1/2p
Document Type: Article
Subject Terms: *PEDICULOSIS
Abstract: Presents information and misconceptions on head lice and its infestation. Includes the preference of head lice to infect clean heads; Hair-to-hair contact causing the condition; Health risks due to head lice.
Database: Academic Search Premier
* * *
Myths & Facts …About Head Lice


Community Health Staff Nurse. Shiprock, N.M.

MYTH: Head lice infestation (pediculosis) is most likely to occur among people with poor hygiene.

FACT: People who have long, unkempt hair and dirty scalps are no more vulnerable to pediculosis than anyone else. Head lice (Pediculus humanus capitis) don’t discriminate on the basis of hygiene or socioeconomic status; they happily infest anyone with enough hair and blood to support them. In fact, they prefer a clean environment to a dirty one.

MYTH: Head lice spread by leaping and flying.

FACT: Head lice can’t leap or fly. They move from person to person by direct head-to-head (or hair-to-hair) contact and via combs, hats, headbands, or other items that have come into contact with infested hair. Tell your patient not to share these items with others.

MYTH: Although annoying, head lice pose no health threat.

FACT: Head lice aren’t disease vectors, but the scratching they induce can cause such secondary infections as furunculosis, cellulitis, pyoderma, and impetigo. In contrast, body lice (Pediculus humanus corporis) can serve as vectors for epidemic typhus, trench fever, and relapsing fever. Both species can cause skin reactions, especially in sensitized patients.

MYTH: Head lice are difficult to control because they’ve developed immunity to the pediculicides on the market.

FACT: Although some studies support this thesis, resistance to pediculicides isn’t significant enough to disable available pediculicides. The most commonly used medications, such as lindane (Kwell), permethrin (Nix), and pyrethrum (Rid) are still effective weapons in the war between lice and men.

(Note: This was true in 1999 when this article was written; However, current research does in fact support this thesis as researchers have been documenting an increase in resistance to the conventional pediculicides in recent years. See Managing Head Lice in an Era of Increasing Resistance to Insecticides for further information. —Rainforest Essentials)

MYTH: A single treatnent with a pediculicide shampoo promptly eradicates head lice.

FACT: Read product labels carefully; most specify more than one treatment. And consider shampooing just one part of a multi-phased campaign. You must also comb eggs out of the hair and eliminate sources of possible reinfestation by delousing combs, clothing, furniture, and toys. It’s not necessary to fumigate the entire house, but delousing those items that came in contact with the head is imperative.

*The author cited above is not in any way affiliated with Rainforest Essentials. Their citation is offered solely for informational purposes and not to be construed as an endorsement of Lice Off!™ in particular or any of our products in general.