Health

There's A Rise In Head Lice Cases Because Of A Common Christmas Tradition

It's the most wonderful time of year for most people, but for some, they'll be too busy combing their hair lice. I wish this was a joke.

With Christmas being around the corner, experts are warning people to be vigilant because there tends to be an abnormal rise in the number of head lice infections around this time of year.

In case you aren't sure, head lice are very small, wingless insects that live on the human scalp. They lay their eggs on the surface and feed off of their host's blood. Lice infections are very common among children, especially those who attend daycare or school.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that 6 to 12 million children aged between three and 11 are affected by lice every year.

The insect spreads through hair-to-hair contact or by sharing personal items like hats, earphones, and brushes. Now, experts are warning against another way lice can spread over the holidays.

The Ottawa Lice Squad recently shared a post on Facebook warning people about how easily lice can spread around Christmastime.

"The holidays are a time of celebration and unity!" read  the post. "We embrace our friends and family for smiling group photos and impromptu selfies. But holding our loved ones close can introduce a risk: head lice!"

Turns out, taking group photos facilitates the spread of the pesky insect. A louse can easily crawl from one head to another when you lean in to take a snap with a friend or family member.

"An entire family can find themselves infested after an evening of merry fun," the post continued. "Another way that lice can spread this season is by sharing a bed or personal items (like combs, brushes, or hats) during a sleep over. The togetherness of cousins and pals makes the holidays special, but it also can be a gamble!"

Along with the warning message, the Lice Squad shared some tips to ensure your family remains lice-free this season.

The holidays are a time of celebration and unity! We embrace our friends and family for smiling group photos and...

Posted by Ottawa Lice Squad on Wednesday, December 6, 2017

They suggest doing a scalp check before your child hosts or attends a sleep over or party. Also, "talk with other parents before the event and encourage them to do the same." Discourage them from sharing personal items.

It is highly recommended that you "talk with your kids about selfie safety," and "explain to them head-to-head contact can expose them to lice." Remind them to keep their heads at a distance when taking photos, a practice that adults should also turn into a habit.

Other experts are also sending out warnings about lice being present in Christmas trees.

"Bark lice on Christmas trees is a very common problem that is maybe not given as much attention due to its seasonal nature," according to a blog post on Clear Lice's website. When you keep close to the tree, the insect could make its way onto your scalp.

Nit Hunters

An itchy scalp is the most common sign of head lice. You can determine whether your head is infected by looking for lice eggs, which are "white-ish grey, tan or yellow ovals about the size of a grain of sand," according to CPS.

Lice can be treated by drugstore insecticides, and any items that have been in contact with an infected person's head should be washed in hot water and put in the dryer for at least 15 minutes.

Keep in mind that a lice infection can happen to anyone, and it doesn't mean that you're not clean.

Have you ever had a lice infection?

Awa has been writing for Shared for 3 years. She is a serial snacker who unapologetically loves celebrity gossip. Drop her a line at awa@shared.com.