The itchy problem with selfies

Social media snaps may cause head lice

Nicola since 1972/flickr

It’s so cute when teenagers get all scrunched together with their phones so they can take selfies for Instagram or whatever social media site is hip that day. What’s not cute is that selfies could be the reason lice are a big deal with teens and college students.

Eh, gross.

Brooke McDuffie, director of operations at Pediatric Hair Solutions, a mobile lice-treatment company based in Buckhead, says she’s treated six high school students and four college kids in just the past two weeks.

“I had one girl in particular who was very distraught,” says McDuffie. “She had no idea. She didn’t think she could get lice. She was in college and still doesn’t even understand how she got it.”

Teen lice made the news this week when a lice-removal specialist said in an interview that she saw “a huge increase of lice in teens this year” and blamed selfies. Tons of media outlets picked up the story, which brought both waves of shock (again, gross) and mockery. Was this really a social media-induced health problem?

But Sheila Fassler, RN, the nurse who started the Pediatric Hair Solutions lice treatment chain, says she’s definitely seen an increase in older teens and young adults as patients. It’s no longer just preschoolers and young elementary kids who share lots of close, bonding time.

“The older kids all admit that using their cell phones for selflies, Instagram, and just looking at photos together is the most likely place they got it,” says Fassler. “In the last year and half the number of older teens and young adults has definitely risen in our patient population.”

At Pediatric Hair Solutions, they use a device that sends heated air into a lice-infected scalp, dehydrating nits and bugs. Patients use a chemical-free scalp solution pre- and post-treatment.

In Atlanta right now, the service is offered in home. You don’t have to worry about sneaking into a clinic where someone might recognize you. Good news for teens whose embarrassment factor is way high. And maybe their parents.

“I had a mom who actually gave it to her 3-year-old,” says McDuffie. “The mom works with high school students and she knew she picked it up from her job.”