Are selfies causing head lice among teen girls?

Shereen Dindar
Shine On
February 26, 2014
head lice
Anecdotal evidence suggests more teen girls are seeking lice treatment as a direct result of selfies. (Thinkstock)

You may think that cozying up with your pals to snap a selfie is fun, but the possibility of head lice could be lurking.

Anecdotal evidence from lice treatment centres suggests that more adolescent girls are seeking lice treatment as a direct result of selfies.

"We have definitely seen an increase in the number of teen girls that we are treating over the last few years," Shawnda Walker, owner of Toronto-based NitWits, tells Yahoo Canada Shine.

Walker explains that 98 per cent of head lice cases result from direct head-to-head contact. Only a tiny number of people get lice from sharing products such as hairbrushes or hair ties.

"But it's not just selfies that are to blame," she says. "Looking at photos or iPads together is a huge part of how teenage girls behave and their heads are right beside each other."

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Walker says she hasn't seen an increase in the number of teen boys seeking treatment in recent years because lice are repelled by their testosterone. Lice infestations are also significantly less common among boys and men because their skulls are thicker and lice prefer thinner skulls, she says.

Marcy McQuillan, the owner of two lice treatment centres in California, says she has also seen an uptick in business among the teen demographic over the last few years – a tenfold increase to be exact.

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"I've seen a huge increase of lice in teens this year," McQuillan tells SFist. "Typically it's younger children I treat, because they're at higher risk for head-to-head contact. But now, teens are sticking their heads together every day to take cell phone pics."

What are your thoughts on the seeming connection between selfies and head lice?

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