Are ‘Selfies’ Spreading Lice?

Friends taking selfie

With back to school around the corner, parents and teachers with younger kids are on high alert for lice. But lately, doctors say they’re seeing more teenagers contracting the bugs.

Jeff Cushman, a pharmacist, says, “It’s usually school aged children is what i see most often come in for lice treatment, and we usually see it start up about this time of year.”

But what’s been confusing Pediatrician Dr. Sharon Rink is that she’s seeing a surge of teens with itchy scalps, something she says she never saw five years ago.

Rink says, “Teenagers don’t usually get lice because they’re not sharing hats and things like that. And lice can’t jump, so the only way they can transmit lice is touching their heads together, and that’s happening with all these photos.”

Not just any type of photos: specifically “selfies,” as teens cram their heads together to fit in the shot.

“People are doing ‘selfies’ like every day, as opposed to going to photo booths years and years ago,” says Rink. “So you’re probably having much more contact with other people’s heads.”

She says you should keep a little distance between you and your friends heads when taking a selfie, just in case one of them has lice.

“If you have an extremely itchy scalp and you’re a teenager, you might want to get checked out for lice instead of chalking it up to dandruff.”

At the pharmacy, Cushman says he usually advises his customers to tell neighbors and friends when their child has lice. But now he adds, “Probably wouldn’t hurt to look at some recent photos, some of those ‘selfies’ to see who they’ve been in contact with too.”

Doctors even have a name for it now: ‘social media lice.’

It’s a snapshot of the overall lice problem, but one that could spread as fast as the selfie craze itself.


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