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Just Why Do Lice Spread So Quickly in the Home?

Just Why Do Lice Spread So Quickly in the Home?
Updated on 
February 22, 2020

If one person in a family gets head lice, chances are at least one other person has it. Any time you hug a person who has lice, you are at risk of contracting a case.

Here at LiceDoctors, one of our major goals is education. As a technician who treats hundreds of individuals a year, one thing I see first hand is just how easily the head lice seem to make their way through even a large family. Most people who haven’t dealt with a lice outbreak in their family firsthand are always surprised. But just like a cold or flu, lice spread extremely quickly and to make matters worse, in some cases, they can be present in the hair but not leave a tell tale sign for weeks. You see, not everyone itches in the beginning.

How Do Lice Spread?

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When you get a female louse in the hair, it can lay up to 6-10 eggs a day. Those eggs need several days to hatch and they aren’t really active during the first week post hatching. So you may have lice for a few weeks before you start to itch.

The most common way to transfer lice is by head to head contact such as cuddling with your loved ones during movie time or simply lying in your child’s bed talking to her about her day at school or that upcoming math test. During a simple hug good night, the bugs will run from one head to the next. Sitting close on the couch or in the back seat of the car, again, is a way many cases spread. Of course, rough housing between siblings provides a perfect opportunity to spread lice.

I treated a household once where I saw the most elaborate dress up setting I’ve ever seen, complete with a rack of dresses, hats and boas, and at least 15 different wigs. That is another delivery method (now I don’t want to be the guy who scares playtime out of the house for children, so make sure to read our other articles on simple ways to repel lice with our chemical-free products and easy ways to inspect for lice.) Passing lice through clothes is much less common than through head to head contact, though.

Parents Can Also Get Lice

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Parents are also susceptible to outbreaks through wrestling or cuddling with the children, and then there is bedtime. My son is notorious for crawling in our bed during a thunderstorm or after a bad dream or maybe when he doesn’t feel well. Lice are very sensitive to light, so once the lights go off, like during bedtime, the lice start to slowly wander off the first person to find a brand new host to live on. If mom or dad are nearby the lice are happy to take up residence on heir heads. While it is true that at least 6-12 million cases of lice are found each year among school aged children, you can be sure that many of the parents of those children are victims of head lice, as well.

Look for Lice Symptoms

Symptoms of lice generally include scratching and a rash.

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This is not necessarily true, but more often than not, a person with head lice will feel itchy. The itchiness is caused by an allergy to the saliva secreted by the bugs when they feed from human blood. If you see a family member scratching, by all means check the hair and the neck at the base of the hair. Like mosquito bites, lice bites may be red and raised. When the person scratches, he or she will cause a reddish rash.

Lice Don’t Care if Your House is Clean or Dirty

An important thing to remember is that the cleanliness of the house or person is irrelevant to lice.

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Associating lice with bad hygiene is nothing more than a silly stigma that leads to shame in persons who contract lice. You may have the cleanest house on the block, and your kids can still get lice. A case of lice is not because you did something wrong as a mother or father, and it isn’t because your son or daughter doesn’t bathe properly. I always make sure my clients know this so there is no unnecessary guilt when lice travel home with you or your child. Lice live on the head, not in the house. In fact, lice prefer clean hair to dirty hair because they can grab ahold of freshly washed hair better than they can hold onto oily hair.

This is an important safety tip: Do not spray lice repellent or toxins in your home for either lice prevention or lice elimination. It is not effective and it may be dangerous.

Fumigant sprays and fogs can be toxic if inhaled or absorbed through the skin and they are not necessary to control head lice. ... Use of insecticide sprays or fogs is NOT recommended. Fumigant spray and fogs can be toxic if inhaled or absorbed through the skin and they are not necessary to control head lice. Routine house cleaning, including vacuuming of carpeting, rugs, furniture, car seats, and other fabric covered items, as well as laundering of linens and clothing worn or used by the infested person is sufficient. Only items that have been in contact with the head of the infested person in the 48 hours before treatment need be considered for cleaning.” CDC FAQ Lice Treatment

If you find that a family member has head lice, it is important that you get the family checked. Keep in mind that lice are very contagious. Call 865-643-8382 for lice treatment in Oak Ridge, Karns, or Powell today at your convenience in your home. You will feel a big sense of relief as soon as your LiceDoctors lice specialist rings your bell. That’s a promise!

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