Are group selfies spreading lice among teens?
Published Wednesday, February 26, 2014 1:28PM EST
The next time you and your friends cram together for a group selfie, consider this: head lice may be crawling across your shoulders in search of a new home.
At least that’s what one lice removal expert in the U.S. said is happening with teenagers who take dozens of self-portrait style photos with friends every day, unwittingly passing around lice as their heads touch for that perfect shot.
Marcy McQuillan caused a bit of stir earlier this week when she told a San Francisco website that her business has seen a “huge” increase in lice among teens because they are “sticking their heads together every day to take cellphone pics.”
The story quickly made the rounds online, with Gawker declaring: “Welcome to the age of selfie-transmitted diseases.”
Other experts were quick to dismiss McQuillan’s claim, saying that brief head contact during picture-taking is a highly unlikely factor in lice infestations.
But the head of a Canadian lice removal and screening group says McQuillan’s comments are not so far-fetched.
“It makes perfect sense to me,” said Dawn Mucci-Gooch, the president and founder of Lice Squad Canada.
“The cardinal rule of lice prevention is: you don’t do head-to-head contact. And with selfies, that’s what it is,” she told CTVNews.ca.
Mucci-Gooch said she got lice from her own school-age daughter, “and we always take pictures together.”
Of course, selfies do not cause lice infestations, but they don’t help curb the spread either when an unwitting lice carrier is constantly taking pictures with others.
Another trend among teenage girls – long, thick, regularly washed hair – is also enticing for lice, Mucci-Gooch said. The bugs typically don’t like dirty hair and scalps.
Mucci-Gooch said Lice Squad staff are also seeing lice among many teenage boys who have long hair.
Gina Zacher of Toronto Head Lice Removal said teenage girls tend to take “hundreds of pictures” together, which prolongs head-to-head contact. Her own teenage daughter has had lice and passed them on to her best friend, Zacher said.
But she doesn’t think giving up selfies is the answer.
“Teenagers do what they want to do…I say be happy that your kid has friends to hug.”
She also notes that lice are found “everywhere” – she has even visited seniors’ homes for removal sessions.
Mucci-Gooch said lice are unlikely to scare off selfie-takers, but she is urging caution.
“A selfie is lovely…but think twice or you might be sharing lice.”