Children with active social lives are the most likely demographic to contract head lice. With over 20 years of experience in treating head lice, LiceDoctors owner and industry pioneer Wendy Beck understands why. The reason for this stems from how head lice are transmitted. Beck estimates that at least 95% of head lice are transmitted through head to head contact. Lice move from one head to another so it makes sense that children who are social and are in close contact with other children would be the most likely candidates to get head lice.
In addition, Beck observes that because children today are, in general, more affectionate with their friends than in previous generations, head lice have ample opportunity to spread. "As a mom of a daughter, I have been struck with how affectionate girls are today with their friends. Each encounter with a friend is as if they haven't seen each other for years with big hugs all around. This is one piece of the puzzle as to why head lice have been on the rise over the past several years."
Beck states, "When we grew up, we saw our friends and said "hi" and then hung out with them. Girls today are so much more demonstrative than we were. In the lice world, we see this increase in demonstrative behavior as a conduit for lice. Of course, every hug does not transfer lice but today's world of increased shows of affection sure gives lice more opportunity to go from head to head."
In addition, Beck says that the rise in number of girls playing competitive team sports has also an impact on the incidence of head lice. "Just watch girls playing a competitive game of softball. Every run is a cause for hugs among team members."
Add to the mix the relatively new phenomenon of group "selfies", in which friends place their heads together to take photos and you get the picture: "Socially active kids are more likely to get head lice because of their exposure to other kids who may be carriers.", says Beck.
According to Beck, "These societal shifts combine with a reduction in efficacy of chemical lice shampoos and a trend of schools allowing students with lice and/or nits to remain in class, and what you have is a picture of lice as a common-place phenomenon among U.S. families today."
Beck's longevity in the lice treatment field, over 20 years, has led her to be an active voice for lice education. She advocates for schools to provide parents with education on lice identification, life cycle, transmission, and lice treatment. "Parents can not control societal trends of their daughters and friends (nor would we want to), but it is important for families to know that the only way they can counter these trends lice-wise is to physically extract every egg from the hair. Unfortunately, that can be easier said than done as the nit-picker needs to be able to see and recognize nits in the hair, some of which are quite small. Then he or she needs to be able extract the glued-on eggs. If a couple of nits are left in to hatch, the case starts up again. This is why education is imperative."
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