Rae Ellen Bichell / KHN
The Marker family opened their door on a recent evening in Parker, Cologne, to a woman dressed in purple, with a military attitude toward cleanliness.
Linda Holmes, who has worked as a technician with LiceDoctors for five years, came straight from her day job at a hospital after she received a call from a sender that the Marker family needs her ASAP.
According to those in the world of professional niche, lice the much despised chapel, returned.
“It’s definitely coming back,” said Kelli Boswell, owner of Lice & Easy, a store where people in the Denver area can be disappointed, a process that can range from minutes to hours depending on the method and the infestation. “It’s a sign that things are getting back to normal.”
Colds and more serious bugs like respiratory syncytial virus or RSV have also returned. That may leave some wondering: With all COVID preventative measures in place, how do children share these issues?
Like the coronavirus, all of these bugs depend on human sociability. Unfortunately, the measures that many reopened schools have taken to prevent the delivery of COVID-19 – masks, hand washing, vaccination – do little to prevent the spread of the lice. However, physical spacing, such as spacing desktops 3 feet apart, should help if it actually happens.
Lice are, in theory, more difficult to spread than the SARS-CoV-2 virus because proximity alone is not enough: They usually need head-to-head contact. If a child gets lice, it probably means that that child has spent some quality time close enough to another child for the parasite to move. (Researchers tend to agree that transmission by inanimate objects such as combs and hats is minimal.)
The head coach is not known for his strength or athletic prowess. It is basically the couch of pests. Adults cannot survive more than one or two days without eating blood. Their eggs cannot hatch without the heat of a human head, and will die within about a week if not in those comfortable conditions. The bugs can’t jump or fly – just crawl. The only thing for the head is its highly specialized claws, developed to grip human hair.
Unlike the body lice, the head does not know how to spread disease. Infestation indicates nothing about a person’s hygiene. (In fact, folklore says that bugs prefer clean hair because it is more catchy.) And despite common misconceptions, they can colonize people of all ages, races, and ethnicities.
COVID locks were not excellent from a lice world dominance standpoint. But animals have been associated with us for tens of thousands of years. A little confinement will not end the romance.
Federico Galassi, a researcher at Argentina’s Pest and Insecticide Research Center, found that strict, early COVID locking, in fact, caused a decrease in lice among children in Buenos Aires, but the bugs did not come close to being removed. His study found obesity fell from about 70% to about 44%.
And one thing is clear: When people closed their doors and crouched in early locks, the lice were crouched right there with us. When SaLeah Snelling reopened the doors of her Lice Clinics of America salon in Boise, Idaho, in May, she said, “the cases of lice were heavier than we’ve ever seen.” And there were not only one or two people in the household with lice, but the whole household.
Now, says Galassi and U.S. lice, infestation rates have returned to pre-locked standards, despite school protections COVID-19.
Nix, a brand of anti-praise products, is releasing a map that claims lice are bad now in Houston, most of Alabama and New Mexico, plus Tulsa, Oklahoma. The map directs people to places that carry its products, as many parents use a DIY approach after they spy on the animal on a child’s head.
Rae Ellen Bichell / KHN
Richard Pollack, chief scientific officer with kind-hearted pest identification service IdentifyUS, said most claims of lice prevalence are “marketing nonsense” by a largely unregulated industry focused on apparent infestations that often turn out to be just dandruff, glitter, hair spray, grass. -inhabiting spring-tailed insects, harmless fungus or even cookie crumbs.
It is possible that the recent growth of business for professional frustration suggests that people are now comfortable seeking help outside the home rather than that it is a sign of an increase in the bugs.
While little research exists to confirm whether there is a real increase in lice, Boswell, Pollack and even the National Association of School Nurses agree that the bugs are unlikely to spread in the classroom because school broadcasting is considered rare. Instead, Boswell said, it’s more likely that while other activities resumed – sleep parties, play dates, summer camp, family reunions – the bugs thrived again.
Pollack once wrote in a presentation slide: “The lice indicate that the child has friends.”
Preschool kids tend to get the infestations the most “because they’re more cuddly,” said Julia Wilson, co-owner of Rocky Mountain Lice Removal in Lafayette, Colorado. But she has also noticed an increase among teenagers, which she attributes to them taking selfies with friends.
“You say to them, ‘Did you touch heads?’ and the teen is like “No, never,” Wilson said. “And then all of a sudden, they literally take a selfie with their friends.”
The Marker family is not sure where the lice of third-grader Huntley originated. Maybe a close friend or her dance team? The Markers spent more than $ 200 to check on the four-person household – eyebrows and Dad’s beard included. Her dad and her preschool brother were free of nests. But Holmes found some niches on Huntley’s mom, Paris.
“You can just burn my whole head now,” Paris said.
After combining each head carefully, Holmes ended the session by hugging her clients goodbye, proof that she trusts her work.
KHN (Kaiser Health News) are editorially independent programs of KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation).