On Your Side: Can 'selfies' give you head lice?

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It's a phenomenon the world over. People, children and teens are taking selfies. But, can they give you head lice?

A recent story in Time magazine said an expert claims 'selfies' are giving teens head lice.

"Oh, I didn't know that," said UNF student Madison Wheat. She is a self-professed 'selfie' taker. "I dunno. Just for fun."

The Centers for Disease Controlsaid the most common way to get head lice is by head-to-head contact with someone who has lice.

That's an ideal scenario when you and a friend press your heads together for that perfect 'selfie.'

"'Are you having slumber parties?' 'Are you hugging your friends?' Are you taking 'selfies'?' These are all ways you can get head lice. Whenever your head touches someone else's head," said Mandy Ottesen, who owns Fresh Heads Head lice treatment center. Ottesen is a lice expert.

Those are questions Ottesen asks teens and children that come in for treatment.

"They just stay closer to each other than they used to," she said. "They hug each other, they take selfies."

The Duval County Health Departmentsaid head lice is not reportable unless there is an outbreak.

The CDC said reliable data on how many people get head lice each year in the United States is not available. But, an estimated 6 to 12 million children get lice annually.

Mom frustrated by school district's lice policy

A doctor with Jacksonville Pediatrics Associates, one of Jacksonville's largest clinics, said they diagnosed 20 to 25 cases of head lice in teens and mostly fourth graders in 2013. Those numbers are about the same as 2012 and that 'selfies' were not a cause.

"I probably wouldn't make close-to-close contact," said UNF student Tiffani Cooper. She said she takes 'selfies' on occasion.

She also said she is going to make a change when she takes 'selfies' in the future

"Maybe have an inch or two apart," she said.

The bottom line, tell your friends if you have lice. Be honest and don't touch heads.

It's something 19-year-old UNF student Chris Davenport said he already does

"I wasn't as close before, but now I'm definitely going to take more precautions."

You First, Here is some useful information:

CDC Lice treatment guidelines

CDC head lice information for parents

CDC head lice information for schools


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