Head Lice: It’s Not If but When

According to government statistics, there are some 75 million children in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that 6-12 million of these contract head lice each year.

That means roughly 1 in 10 ten kids will get head lice annually, making the odds pretty good that most families will have to deal with lice at some point between.

Unfortunately, few parents are prepared to deal with head lice. That’s because most people don’t want to talk about the problem. “Among the widespread myths about head lice, their association with poor hygiene has been the most difficult to debunk,” according to Ashley A. DeHudy, MD, MPH, from the University of Michigan’s Mott Children’s Hospital. “It is important for families to know that this is a very common diagnosis that many people deal with. Anyone is at risk for lice infestation, since according to the CDC, personal hygiene and environmental cleanliness do not play a role in lice.”

In a study published in the International Journal of Dermatology, researchers found that the societal impact of head lice, including quarantine and overtreatment, may have a more damaging effect on parents and children than the actual head lice infestation itself. The study found that parents in the U.S., Canada, and Australia exhibited overwhelmingly negative emotions regarding head lice, further contributing to the persistent head lice stigma.

If 1 in 10 kids have head lice at any given time, the reality is that the numbers suggest that every child will encounter head lice at some point between the ages of 3 and 13. It’s not anyone’s fault. The daughter of Sheryl Sandberg, of Facebook and “Lean In” fame, got head lice (Sandberg learned this while flying on a corporate jet). Jennifer Garner described her bout with head lice on the Jimmy Fallon show.

Claire Roberts, CEO of Lice Clinics of America, is trying to change that. “There is such a stigma about getting head lice. That you’re either dirty or that something shameful is happening, but I am just determined to change that. To make it something we can talk about and treat openly without the nasty stigma,” Roberts told Utah’s Murray Journal.

Lice Clinics of America is the largest and fastest-growing network of professional lice treatment centers in the world. The company’s products include the AirAllé medical device, a first-of-its-kind machine cleared by the FDA and clinically proven to kill live lice and more than 99 percent of eggs in a single hour-long treatment.

The AirAllé device uses heated air, controlled by a microprocessor, to dehydrate lice. The AirAllé device was developed by researchers studying lice at the University of Utah. The researchers found it difficult to keep the pests alive in the arid desert climate. When one of the researcher’s children contracted head lice, he put two and two together and eventually re-created the lice-killing climate in a medical device now available at more than 250 clinics around the world.

Among the biggest challenges in dealing with head lice is information. As a Georgia school district tells parents about lice, “It’s not a subject that we like to think about; nevertheless, in this case, knowledge is power.”

Expect head lice. Know what to do when you have to deal with it. You’ll be much less stressed if you have a plan. To learn more about Lice Clinics of America and to find a clinic, visit www.liceclinicsofamerica.com.

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