COLUMN: Selfie photo encourages unwanted friends to join in

With selfies being all the rage these days, many often assume it's just photos and experiences they're sharing with others.

This is a bit of a head scratcher, and one you wouldn’t put your heads together to figure out.

“Selfie lice” have crawled onto the list of things parents need to worry about as kids head back to school this week.

It all started when a doctor in the U.S. blamed selfies for a surge in the cases of head lice among teens.

The idea is that teens posing for selfies press their heads together and, in doing so, are sharing their head lice along with the photo — hence the term selfie lice. A louse could crawl from one head to the other faster than kids can say “cheese.”

There’s no need to panic, says Dr. Dee Hoyano, medical officer with Island Health.

Hoyano says most lice outbreaks occur in elementary- and daycare-age children, but cautions any age group can get lice.

“It’s less common [for teens and adults] in the sense that a lot of the behaviours that allow for transmitting are less common as you get older,” she says.

“Teenagers don’t usually get lice because they’re not sharing hats and things like that.”

Hoyano says transmitting lice while taking a selfie is technically possible, but since lice cannot fly or jump, they’d have to crawl, and that can take a while, so you’d probably have to be head-to-head with your pal for longer than a few seconds.

But here’s the bad news. Super mutant lice do exist.

A recent study showed that some lice have high resistance to pyrethroids, the active ingredient to in many over-the-counter treatments.

There are two ways to get rid of the creepy crawlies, Hoyano says, either with chemicals or physical treatment.

Both work, she says, but you have to be thorough.

Chemical treatments need to be applied correctly and then reapplied in some case to ensure all the adult lice are killed.

Manual removal of lice can be more effective and doesn’t cost a whole lot either. But it’s time consuming.

You need to purchase a professional-grade lice comb and get into the habit of routinely checking your child’s hair. That way you be proactive and stay ahead of the game.

Hoyano recommends that if you are having problems dealing with a lice infestation, you may want to discuss it with a pharmacist, who could offer different solutions to the problem.

If you do that, you don’t need to worry about those, selfies, ipads, hats or scarves.

And the itching frenzy will end.

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Kevin Laird is editor of the Sooke News Mirror. He can reached by email at klaird@blackpress.ca or by phone at 250-642-5752.