Forget bed bugs. This time of year, it's lice that dominate.
Every summer, as kids head to camp to share beds and hugs, lice attach themselves to unsuspecting hair, causing an itchy, creepy, crawly mess.
Lice have been populating hair ever since people started wearing clothing more than 170,000 years ago, according to a new study published in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution.
And that means that there are centuries worth of myths surrounding lice that are still flaunted today.
We separated fact from fiction so you can zap lice in the most efficient manner possible.
Myth: Lice only like dirty hair.
Truth: It's just the opposite, said Dalya Harel, CEO and lice specialist at LiceBustersNYC, a lice treatment center in New York. "I can tell you that if people don't wash their hair or don't smell clean, I only have to check them quickly," Harel said. "If their hair smells yummy from nice shampoos, we give them extra attention."
Myth: You need harsh chemicals to get rid of the lice.
Truth: Years ago, the harsh chemicals worked. But the lice were clever, and they evolved to the point where the chemicals don't have any effect on them. Harel said she uses hair conditioner, baking soda and a fine-toothed comb. Once the hair is wet and greasy, it's easy to comb out the lice.
Myth: Everything in your house must be stuffed into garbage bags for days in order to kill all the remaining lice.
Truth: Lice can't survive for a long time in the environment, said Richard Pollack, president and chief science officer of IdentifyUS, an exterminator consultant company, and research associate at Harvard School of Public Health. "If your child drops a louse on the pillow and goes to school, by the time the child gets home from school, the louse will be so weak that it'll either be dead already or will be dead soon," Pollack said.
To get rid of the lice that remain in your house after the hair is louse-free, simply wash your sheets, blankets and pillow cases. The only stuffed animals that need to be washed would be the ones that are kept on the bed.
Myth: Lice can crawl off a hairbrush and into your hair.
Truth: It's really uncommon, said Barbara Ogg, extension educator with the University of Nebraska. Lice are attracted to the humidity on your scalp, so it's rare that they'll be found for long on any hairbrushes or other objects that aren't attached to your head. "Head lice primarily stay on the head because that's where their food is," Ogg said.
Myth: Lice can jump from one person to another.
Truth: They don't jump or fly (they don't even have wings). You're not going to get lice simply from standing next to someone whose head is infested, Ogg said. But, if that person has long hair — and it touches your hair, lice can crawl from their hair to yours.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun