Lice creepy, not health hazard

Providence What's Going Around Dermatologist Fill shot glass with sunscreen

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Say “head lice” to people and their head itches just thinking about them. But lice are not a health hazard.

Head lice do not spread any contagious diseases so they are not considered a health hazard,” said Dr. Vanessa Vanderpool with Providence Medical Group, “but they are a nuisance and contagious to people.”

Many summer camps in the Portland metro area have been dealing with lice outbreaks and doctors have been getting many calls.

Dr. Vanderpool said almost always head lice is only contagious if there is hair-to-hair or head-to-head contact. Lice cannot hop or fly onto someone else’s head.

“Any physical activity where someone’s going to be touching hair, head-to-head contact, whether it’s sports, play things like that, they can spread from one person to another,” she said.

A specialized comb used to help remove lice from hair (File photo)

A specialized comb used to help remove lice from hair (File photo)

Check the hot spots on the head for lice — behind the ears and on the back of the head, doctors say. Beyond bugs, parents should look for eggs — little white specs — that, unlike dandruff, don’t easily come off.

Shampoos available at a drugstore can be used for treatment. Many come with combs to remove the eggs.

“Generally I would opt first for over-the-counter treatment and then retreating in seven to nine days,” she said.

The over-the-counter shampoos only kill the lice. Some prescription shampoos can kill the lice and eggs, but they contain strong chemicals.

Vacuuming and washing bedding in hot water is recommended, but Dr. Vanderpoool said it’s not likely lice will spread once they’re not in your hair.

“They don’t live very long once they fall off the head and don’t have access to our warm bodies and blood supply, so they’re not very often spread that way.”

Some businesses like Portland-based Lice Knowing You specialize in lice removal.

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