Thursday, May 17, 2012

Head Lice From a Public Headrest

Most of us know how dirty and germ-laden public toilets are. We either hover or cover right? But how many people know that you can, without a doubt, get head lice from a public headrest? That’s right; it’s not an urban legend. Here’s one woman’s story:

 No Little Kids, So How Did She Get Lice?

When my friend, Diane, (not her real name) confided in me recently, that she had somehow gotten head lice, she was, to say the least, extremely embarrassed and mortified. She had no clue how it happened. She’s a middle-aged woman, all her children are grown and on their own, and she doesn’t work with, or spend time with small children. Where in the world could she have gotten lice?

Her Head Lice Symptoms Went Misdiagnosed

Unbelievably, Diane had these little critters living on her scalp for approximately two months. That’s when she remembered first noticing the intense itching. All the symptoms went misdiagnosed. Although it was summertime, she thought the itchy head was just caused by a dry scalp and the neck rash was simply from the heat. But, when hydrocortisone cream and dandruff shampoo proved ineffective, she was baffled. Finally, the way Diane found out what was really going on is pretty awful and I have her express permission to share it with readers. She wants to make other people aware that this can happen easier than one might think.

The Hair Color Killed Most of the Lice

After coloring her hair, as she does every two months or so, she was horrified to see bugs crawling on her white T-shirt. She said her first reaction was to grab a pair of scissors and begin chopping. Fortunately, she didn’t because that’s not necessary. After calming down, she went on the internet and found out everything she could about these disgusting little blood suckers and how to get rid of them. 

The hair color had gotten rid of most of the live lice. There’s some conflicting information as to why hair color is effective in getting rid of head lice. Some experts think it’s the chemicals that actually kill them. Some feel that it’s the way hair color “bulks up” the individual hair shafts and makes it impossible for lice to hold on. If you’ve ever tried combing or picking lice and nits (lice eggs) from hair you’ll know what I mean. Nits have a sticky substance that allows them to stick like glue to the hair. Full-grown lice have powerful, little “claws” that help them hold on to your hair for dear life.

An Alternative to Nit Picking

Just to be sure, Diane applied lice shampoo to her hair. Picking the individual nits proved to be a daunting task so she opted to slather hair conditioner in her hair while showering and combing through her hair with a metal lice comb – don’t bother using those flimsy plastic combs, they really don’t work. The hair conditioner makes the hair slippery, making a comb glide right through and also loosens the sticky substance from the nits. This method is a very effective alternative to nit picking.

Ridding the Home of Lice

Next came the overwhelming task of stripping the bed, washing everything in hot water, bagging up throw pillows and vacuuming every inch of her house. Some people opt for using a lice spray on large household items such as mattresses and furniture. Don’t overlook your car either. Adult lice can survive for up to 48 hours after leaving a host (your scalp).

Lice Love Clean Hair

Miraculously, her husband was completely lice free. Or maybe not so miraculously – medical experts believe that when lice are happy on someone’s head (they love very clean hair, no blow-drying, and no hair products) they stay put. That alone should dispel the myth that only people who don’t practice proper personal hygiene get lice.

Selsun Blue and Blow-Drying Hair to Kill Lice

Diane was diligent in combing out her hair for about two weeks or more afterwards. She also used Selsun Blue as directed (some people think its medical ingredients helps rid hair of lice) and blow-drying her hair after every shampoo (another technique that has conflicting opinions). As Diane said, employing every reasonable technique can’t hurt right?

Getting Lice from a Public Headrest

So, just where did these creepy-crawlies come from? Diane thought back to the day she and her husband had gone to the Omni Theater in Fort Worth. When they arrived, they couldn’t help but notice the crowd of children filing out of the theater. When they purchased their tickets the employee mentioned they were hosting a record number of children from neighboring summer camps on that particular day. Long story short, the theater is dark, showings are one right after the other, and statistically, one of the most common places head lice is spread is at summer camp. Remember, adult lice can survive for up to 48 hours after leaving someone’s head.

How to Avoid Getting Head Lice from a Public Headrest

What can theater goers and airplane passengers (a similar scenario as a theater) do to reduce the risk of getting head lice? Keeping a small, travel-size spray bottle with a mix of tea tree oil and water stored in a purse (particularly when you know you’ll be sitting in a public place) is a great idea. There are also companies that sell headrest slip covers. You can also discretely carry a sweater and drape it over the back of your seat – just don’t forget to shake it out when you leave. Even simply running your hand over the seat can help. If you think these methods are embarrassing or will make you look just a little nutty, consider Diane’s story. Would you rather look silly or would you rather deal with ridding your head of bugs? I’d choose the former myself.

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