How Common Are Lice Infestations?

Lice infestations are more common than you might initially think. The commonality of lice infestations is dependent upon the specific type. However, methods of contraction and the signs and symptoms for all three types are very similar.

Head Lice

Head lice are common among children, particularly children of pre-school and elementary age (3 - 12 years). The prevalence of these infestations has steadily decreased in the United States due to the "No-Nit" policy. It is possible for anybody to contract head lice. It is most commonly transmitted through close contact, but can also be contracted from certain furniture, stuffed animals, and carpeting.

United States Policy: "No-Nit"

The "No-Nit" policy was created to control and limit the transmission of head lice within public arenas. Currently, over 80% of all schools in the United States have implemented this "No-Nit" policy, stating that any student found with the presence of lice or nits will be dismissed from school until the presence of the lice or nits has been removed.

Commonly, the school employs individuals for screening all incoming students with a comb to check for head lice or nit presence. Fact: Less than 20% of all children found with nits will have an actual infestation with lice. A lice infestation requires that live adult lice be present.

Pubic Lice

Pubic lice are typically obtained through sexual activity, and are commonly found in sexually young adults and teenagers (14 - 24 years). Pubic lice are commonly known as crabs. This term was derived from the fact that under microscopic evaluation, lice look similar to crabs. Pubic lice are considered to be a sexually transmitted disease. Pubic lice can also be contracted from contaminated clothing, towels, and toilet seats.

Body Lice

Body lice are less common in the general population. They are commonly found among individuals that do not regularly wash their clothing or bathe. This is usually found among homeless individuals, or certain individuals that may be experiencing hardships that can not afford the regular bathing schedule or maintenance of washing clothes. Body lice are commonly associated with disease transmission, including typhus. Typhus is not currently a common illness in the United States.

Lice: Common Signs and Symptoms

The majority of signs and symptoms are similar for all three types of lice. Typically the body has an allergic reaction to the saliva secreted by the lice upon feeding. This creates sensations of itching, commonly associated with a rash. Prolonged infestations have more severe symptoms including discoloration and thickening of the skin. This is typically isolated to the upper thighs, groin, and waist. Scratching the bites can lead to sores that may become infected if not properly treated.

Lice: A General Overview

All lice are spread through close contact. This close contact can also be in the form of sharing personal items. There is no way to 100% prevent the contraction of lice. However, by treating the infection in the early stages, it is possible to prevent an infestation. The sooner the treatment for lice begins, the more quickly and easily it can be treated.


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