More Kids Are Getting Head Lice … Because of Smartphones?

More Kids Are Getting Head Lice … Because of Smartphones?

Younger and younger children are being handed smartphones by their parents; and for many children, access to 24/7 technology has resulted in attention and sleep problems and family arguments. Now it appears that smartphones are bringing a fresh misery to parents and children everywhere: head lice. [1]

Researchers recently studied over 200 school-age children and found that those who owned a smartphone or tablet were twice as likely to be infested with lice. This is because the phones encourage children to gather in groups – the perfect opportunity for the bugs to make a beeline from scalp to scalp.

Only 29.5% of children who did not have a mobile device experienced head lice, compared to 62.5% of smartphone- and tablet-owning kids.

Nearly half of the participants had been chomped on by head lice in the previous five years, up to 22 times more than the previous numbers: 2-8%.

Unlike with earlier studies, the researchers didn’t find a specific link between increased cases of head lice and selfies.

Dr. Tess McPherson, of Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“Compared to previous estimates of head lice incidence our figures were much higher, showing that almost half of children have had them in the last five years, which may not come as a surprise to parents.

We also noted that children with smartphones or tablets were more likely to get head lice, which is interesting but we can only guess that this is due to the way that young people gather around them, though there could be other reasons.

Selfie culture gets its fair share of negative press so it’s worth noting that despite previous speculation it seems that selfies can’t specifically be blamed for helping the spread of head lice at this stage.” [1]

What’s more, previous estimates of how many children in the U.K. have experienced head lice “may be conservative.”

Those who were most affected by lice were girls with siblings aged 6-9. [2]

The team of scientists also found that 45% of the children in the study had been infested with head lice in the last five years, a longer period than covered by earlier research. [1]

Matthew Gass, of the British Association of Dermatologists, said:

“Head lice are a pain to deal with, both for children and their parents.

Speaking from experience, they are intractable misery bugs that take far more time and effort to remove than is reasonable.

Not to mention the obligatory quarantine period that they necessitate. That’s why a better understanding of how these pests are transmitted is useful.

Prevention is always better than a cure, particularly if the cure means wrenching your poor daughter’s hair with a fine-toothed nit comb, or relying on over-the-counter remedies that head lice are increasingly resistant to.

We’re not saying that smartphones are causing children to get head lice, but that there is a link, so if there’s an outbreak at home or at school, consider how electronic devices might cause children to congregate, allowing head lice to spread.” [1]

Contrary to popular belief, head lice don’t care about the cleanliness or length of hair. They’re not usually spread via combs, hats or pillows, and lice cannot be caught from animals. Head lice can’t swim, jump or fly, and people typically become infested with them when the insects crawl directly from one person’s hair onto another’s. [2]

Read: Natural Solutions for Head Lice

Another factor in the growing spread of lice not mentioned in the study: resistance to the pesticides most commonly used to eradicate them.

The findings of the study were presented at the British Association of Dermatologists annual conference in Liverpool.


[1] The Telegraph

[2] The Sun