Why Some People Seem Immune To Head Lice

Posted on: 26 September 2016

Every parent dreads the school notice warning about a new round of head lice circulating through classrooms. This notice will strike fear into the hearts of the parents who battle these parasites regularly, but it is nothing more than a side note to those that have never personally experienced the head-crawling frustration of eliminating them from family and home. The question most people (especially the ones who repeatedly battle the beasts) want to know is why some get lice while others do not. It is not uncommon for a classroom head search to reveal the same handful of children repeatedly experiencing the problem. So, what is it that lures lice to some people and not to others? 

It is not about hygiene.

Lice will inhabit any head of hair whether it is clean or dirty. An immaculately groomed family may spot the problem sooner and have an advantage for ridding their home of them before they have spread to all family members. This may mean the problem becomes public more frequently in someone that seems a little less fastidious, but it does not mean that the cause of the infestation was poor hygiene. 

Children are more at risk. 

Young children hug, wrestle, share hats and scarves, and swap combs and brushes. Their close proximity to each other puts them more at risk to spreading the lice from head to head. Rarely do adults mingle this closely with their coworkers or people they meet out in public. In addition, children have thicker hair and wear less hair products than most adults. This makes their hair easier for the lice to get into and nest than the thinner hair of an adult that is coated in styling gel or hairspray. Girls are also more appealing to lice. Girls typical have longer hair and are more likely to share brushes with their friends. These two traits make them more apt to suffer from head lice than their male classmates. It is more difficult to remove lice from longer hair, so girls may seem to continually become infested when the reality is that the lice were not eradicated entirely the first time. 

Hair style and texture makes a difference.

Bald adults and infants with thin, wispy hair rarely experience lice. Curly or coarse hair is also an apparent deterrent to lice as African Americans are less likely to experience the problem. Braiding and pulling back hair into a bun or ponytail reduces transmission because the lice needs direct contact with the hair to move to another head. 

There is no guaranteed method of preventing someone from ever contracting lice. Reminding children to avoid sharing hats, combs or clothing may help. Applying styling products, pulling back the hair and keeping a shorter hair style are other tips. When a lice outbreak occurs it is important to wash clothing and bedding and vacuum daily for a couple of weeks. It is also a good idea to boil brushes and combs to remove any nits or lice. Hair lice treatments are effective when used as directed but are typically not a one-time treatment. It is important to repeat the process after about a week or 10 days to ensure the nits are destroyed as well.