Updated on June 25, 2020
By Lice Technician Kelli Ogle
Many people know that, by far, the most common way to pick up a case of head lice is from head to head contact. There are, however, other ways to contract a case, albeit significantly less likely.
Chances are, you or your child have had head lice at least once. Children are often more likely to get lice because it is spread mostly by head to head contact. Adults usually do not get close to other adult’s heads, but they do tend to get close to their children’s heads. Nine times out of ten, that is how adults end up contracting head lice.
Luckily for parents, lice are not immortal creatures. They can only live off of the human head for about 24 hours. Once off the head and away from their food source (our blood), they start to move very slowly, and eventually die. It is actually pretty uncommon to get head lice other than through head to head contact.
You should, however, be aware of other sources that you may not have thought of so you can stay cautious when in these situations.
1. HOTEL ROOMS
Be careful when staying and sleeping in beds that are not your own. You can usually tell if the linens have been properly cleaned, so make sure to check those before climbing into the bed. Lice can only survive off their human host for about a day, however, if an infested person sat on the chair in the hotel room a few hours before you check in, it is possible for a louse (bug) to be on the chair. That bug will be ready and eager to climb on to any human it can before it dies of starvation. Lice feed from the scalp three times daily so that louse will be a hungry fellow!
2. GYM EQUIPMENT
Pretty uncommon conduit, yes, but it would not hurt to carry a few Clorox wipes with you and just wipe down the things that you use. If a louse got jiggled out of the hair and onto a treadmill, exercise bike, or any other piece of equipment, you will be at risk. Please note that lice eggs (nits), generally do not fall out of the hair because they are glued on. If they do, they cannot reattach.
3. PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION
You either sit next to people, sit in a seat that someone was just in, or are forced to stand close to others sandwiched in a subway car next to a lot of other people. Try to avoid head to head contact at all cost. Obviously, the most likely scenario of picking up a case is if the person sitting or standing next to you is infested. Far less likely is that a person left behind a louse in the seat and that louse then makes its way to your head.
4. MOVIE OR SHOW THEATER SEATS
Seats in a theatre are close together and all it takes is a few minutes for a louse to climb onto your head from the person right next to you. You may be so absorbed in the show that you don’t even feel the bug climb in. Any place where a lot of people gather and sit still for hours on end is ripe for the conveyance of lice.
5. STORES/TRYING ON CLOTHES
If someone with lice tries on a shirt, sweater, or coat and doesn’t purchase it, and then you try on the same item, you may be susceptible. Again, the bug has to be hanging around on the sweater for you to be vulnerable, but if you pull a sweater over your head, it is certainly possible to knock a louse off the scalp and onto the sweater.
6. HAIR STYLIST
Make sure that your stylist uses clean tools. You don’t want him or her passing a bug from a comb onto your head. In addition, hairdressers come in close contact to your hair. We once treated a family and the mom was a hair dresser who had one of the worst cases we have seen. I hate to think how many people she may have passed lice to.
7. RIDE SHARING/CARPOOLING
If you are crowded into a car, be careful. As with the scenarios above, you will be setting yourself up to be a victim of lice if you sit next to an infested person. Also, check the seat before you sit down. If the driver’s kids have lice, they may have left a little gift for you!
Remember lice only live off the head for about a day. It is always good, though, to stay a step ahead and be aware! If you do find that your family has a lice infestation, bring in the lice experts. Call LiceDoctors at 718-559-6983 to come to your Staten Island home, day or evening, seven days a week, including holidays. No need to suffer alone when help is a phone call away.