The most common way for anyone to catch lice is from direct contact with the head of another person who is carrying lice. Adults are much more aware of personal space and therefore less likely to acquire lice. All the same, there are plenty of scenarios in which someone could be at risk.
Children Catch Lice More Often the Adults
Catching lice is a common problem among school age children. They are most susceptible to lice because they spend their days with other small children in places where they are within close proximity to one another. School settings, preschool, daycare, dance classes, gymnastics, and sports competitions or practices are all very common places for children to catch lice. Children are also more likely to sleep over at one another’s houses where they could catch lice from an affected person’s bed, pillow, stuffed animals or blankets. In fact, adults with small children at home are at much higher risk for becoming infected with lice themselves than adults without small children at home. However, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen to other adults.
How Are Adults at Risk?
Next time you are at the movies think of all the people who have shared that particular seat. The soft, cushiony headrest could be a breeding ground for lice. If an infected person rested there for the length of a movie that is plenty of time for a louse or two to find its way inside the fibers of the cushions. Perhaps even an unhatched egg or two was left as strands of hair fell out or swept up against the seatback. Movies theaters are not the only place with seats or chairs in public places. Airplanes, buses, public libraries or other areas where people spend their time sitting in cushioned backed seats are all places to be considered.
Crowded places can put you at risk for catching lice. Ever been in a packed elevator and had a few people standing uncomfortably close to you? What about a mall during a busy season where large crowds are trying to push through onto the sale rack? Amusement parks, stadiums, escalators, pools, or airports are all places crawling with people who might potentially have lice.
Having lice spread by contact with another person’s clothing is a common way adults catch lice. The rule for not sharing coats, jackets, scarves or hoodies shouldn’t just be for children. Adult lice are not flying creatures. They need to crawl to move from one strand of hair to another. If you are sharing clothing with an infected person it can give an adult louse plenty of time to find its way onto your scalp. Hats, helmets, earmuffs, beanies, or any article of clothing that could have lice or lice eggs can transmit them from one carrier to another.
Using someone else’s hair comb, hair brush, hair ties, scrunchies, or hair clips is obviously putting yourself at risk. Have you thought about never sharing blankets, pillows or towels in the locker room? If any of these items has recently been used by someone with lice you could be coming in contact with lice.
Although the risk is higher for school age children, do not consider adults immune to lice. Take precautions in these areas to keep you and your family protected against lice. The Lice Clinics of America can educate you on preventative treatments as well if you are worried about contracting lice. We also offer head checks for the family to ensure everyone is lice free.