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Group selfies responsible for lice outbreak in teens?
There may be room for a new dominant hashtag on social media, and its a gross one: #socialmedialice. - photo by Jessica Ivins
There may be room for a new dominant hashtag on social media, and its a gross one: #socialmedialice.

A Wisconsin pediatrician says group selfies may be adding to the outbreak of lice in high school-aged adolescents, according to WBAY2 News.

Traditionally, lice are more commonly spread among elementary-school aged children. In fact, lice impacts anywhere from 6 million to 12 million kids between the ages of 3 to 11 each year, according to the Centers of Disease Control. But in recent years, more teenagers appear to be contracting the parasite.

Pediatrician Sharon Rink says she suspects a social media-inspired culprit.

People are doing selfies every day, as opposed to going to photo booths years and years ago, Rink told WBAY2. So youre probably having much more contact with other peoples heads.

Rink argues that since lice cant jump, the most likely way teens are spreading lice is by snuggling up to fit in the frame of those group smartphone photos.

The only way they can transmit lice is touching their heads together, and thats happening with all these photos, she said.

Other lice experts, however, disagree. Katie Shepherd, founder of the Shepherd Institute for Lice Solutions, told Yahoo Parenting that theres no way lice could move from head to head in the time it takes to snap a selfie.

Lice can move 9 inches in a minutes time, she said. Kids curl up on couches together and sit head-to-head looking at videos on someones phone. Thats a lot more contact than you get taking a selfie.

Shepherd notes that teens are likely spreading lice by sitting close at the movies or in the backseat of a car, and that lack of effective treatment and school prevention are really to blame for the outbreak.

More and more schools are less proactive, she told Yahoo. More of the treatment products out there just arent working.

Even so, Rink advises teens to be careful about how close they get to their friends for a close up.

Nurse Suzanne Carlile recommend the following preventative measures:

  • Dont share, or let yor children share, items that touch the head. This includes combs and brushes, hair clips, hats, helmets, scarves, coats, towels, headsets and ear buds.
  • Ask your children to avoid games that involve head-to-head contact.
  • Keep belongings especially hats, coats, etc. out of common areas. Closets, lockers, drawers and common clothes hooks can create an easy opportunity for lice to pass from one persons things to anothers.
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