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Phantom Lice Syndrome

woman pulling her hair out and screaming.

Updated on November 6, 2019

Head lice. Just hearing the words makes most people immediately start scratching their heads. And not out of curiosity. It may be psychosomatic, but we all have an involuntary itch response when thinking of lice. But we don’t all have the knowledge or experience to know what is or isn’t head lice. 

When it comes to head lice, knowledge is power. Understanding the biology and life cycle of lice can defeat the fear of them. The first step is to take a calming breath and realize that head lice do not carry any diseases and they are 100% treatable. It is also important to know that:

  • Lice cannot jump or fly.
  • Lice cannot survive off of the human head for more than 36-48 hours.
  • Lice eggs are not communicable, meaning they cannot be transferred from one person to another. Once nits are removed from the head, they cannot re-attach or find a new host.
  • Pets cannot serve as hosts for human head lice.

No one wants head lice, but for some they represent a near phobia (or even a true phobia: Pediculophobia, is the fear of lice). Radiation symbolJust the idea that there are seemingly invisible bugs crawling on them is too horrifying to imagine. But that’s exactly what they do. Imagine. Many people have a mental image of an individual with head lice as being like the Charles Schulz Peanuts character Pig-Pen. That they have an invisible floating cloud surrounding them full of microscopic predatory bugs just waiting to jump or fly or land on them. They think if a person with head lice has walked in a room, then that entire room is radioactive with lice. 

And with all the thinking and imagining, comes the itching.

It is just a physiological fact that the more you itch, the more you scratch – the more you scratch, the more you itch. It’s a vicious cycle.

Here are just a few things that can make your head itch even if you don’t have head lice:

  1. Phantom Lice Syndrome. Just thinking about lice can make you itch, and the more you scratch, the more you itch. And the more you may think you have head lice.woman frowning and scratching at her arm
  2. Weather. Dry cold weather (or dry hot weather) can suck the moisture out of your skin, making you itch. On the other side, hot humid weather can make you sweat which can build up on your scalp and also make you itch.
  3. New Shampoo, conditioner or hair treatments. If you’ve started a new hair care regimen, it’s possible that your skin is simply sensitive to the new products. If you’ve recently had your hair colored or permed or treated, those salon chemicals can have a very drying effect, to say nothing of possible sensitivities. All of these can lead to itching.
  4. New laundry products. Laundry soap or fabric softeners are irritating to many individuals and it’s possible if you’ve changed from your regular products that your clothes or bedding are making you itch.
  5. Treating for head lice. Unfortunately, most of the products that are available over the counter or by prescription are by design and necessity, harsh. These are known to dry out the scalp – which again, makes you itch. Even if you haven’t used any chemical products, just the simple act of excessive physical combing (and rubbing and poking and prodding and pulling) can irritate the scalp, and you guessed it – make you itch.

And remember. If you DO have head lice, rest assured it isn’t crawling bugs that makes you itch, it’s actually an irritation/allergy response to the saliva when the lice bite you. Just like when you get a mosquito bite, it makes an itchy spot, so too lice bites make itchy spots.

If your head is itching and you are afraid you have head lice. If you are worried that everything you see or think you see in your hair might be lice. If you just need to KNOW, you need peace of mind, you need to sleep! Call LiceDoctors and a competent professional will come right away to do a thorough examination and let you know one way or another whether you do or don’t have lice. If your worst fears are realized, your LiceDoctors technician will take care of the lice, removing the bugs and nits by hand and educate you so you KNOW what you need to watch for in the future and how to effectively deal with head lice. Call 800-224-2537 for peace of mind. Because knowing the truth will help you sleep at night again.

woman sleeping peacefully cuddling pillow