Summer is coming and I know we all love swimming in this scorching hot weather. Beaches, pools, and water parks are going to be filled with a bunch of people who are longing to swim. Swimming can be super exciting with a wide range of water sports and games.
However, do you know that apart from recreational activities an enjoyable swimming afternoon or a fun pool party can bring to you lice on your scalp? Some people may find it is hard to believe, but it is true. So now, Hairdeveloper will answer the question: “Can you get lice from a pool?” and try to explain how and why this happens.
What are lice?
First of all, we should learn some information about lice. Louse or in plural form, lice is a tiny insect living in the human and animal body or hair. The size of an adult louse is the same as a sesame seed and their color ranges from tan to brown so it is very difficult to notice them.
There are several common types of lice such as head lice, body lice as well as pubic lice. Of all, head lice are the most prevalent type of lice. Head lice are obligate parasites or holoparasites, which means they cannot survive without exploiting a human host. This species can live only on humans, so they don’t come from our dog, cat, or any other kind of furry pet you have.
Lice have no wings, that’s why they can’t fly to your heads. They have six legs and they move by crawling – that’s the way they attach themselves to human hair. They can settle anywhere on the scalp, their favorite places on the head are particularly at the back of the neck, around, or around the ears, because these places are the warmest, and head lice tend to like a warm environment.
Lice typically feed on blood. They use their mouth to bite into the skin and secrete a substance to block clotting. The bites of lice often appear as small reddish or pink bumps, sometimes with crusted blood and itchiness.
Since head lice hold tightly to your hair, it can be really difficult to remove head lice and it is even more irritating after lice eggs hatch and empty casings remain.
Making direct head-to-head contact with an infected person takes you the highest risk of having a head lice infestation. Head-to-head contacts are common and easy to come into anywhere from playgrounds at school, at home with your family and friends to camping sites and parties with strangers.
Spread in contact with clothing like hats and scarfs or personal items like combs and towels used by a person having head lice is less common. So, you don’t have to worry too much if you have accidentally brushed your hair with the comb of the infested person.
And, it is essential to remember that personal hygiene and cleanliness at home and school do not have any impact on the rate of getting head lice.
Can you get lice from a pool?
Getting lice in a pool
Before answering this question, we would like to consider lice’s capability of survival underwater.
Some people diagnosed with head lice infestation may come up with an idea: “Why don’t I just have my head soaked in the water to suffocate the lice?” Well, unfortunately, this way is totally useless in removing lice. Even though lice are unable to swim, they have several breathing chambers and can survive underwater for several hours.
Now the question: “What’s about chlorine? It will definitely work on the removal of lice!” Sadly, again, this perception is completely untrue. Head lice are pretty strong and relentless, even the chlorine level found in the pool is not strong enough to kill head lice. Lice and even their eggs (nits) have pores designed to block water and many chemicals.
Luckily, in spite of the fact that lice survive the underwater environment, it is unlikely they can spread from the person who already had lice to others in the same swimming pool.
In the study “Do head lice spread in swimming pools?”, four men who are having a head lice infestation swam in the same pool with healthy people having no head lice. As expected, the lice did survive in a swimming pool environment, however, they did not spread to the uninfected one.
Like we said before, lice can’t swim so they are most likely to cling onto human hair so tightly, therefore, head lice and eggs will stay on their host’s head if he or she goes for a swim. If lice fall off the human scalp, they will die soon because of losing their food source.
On the other hand, after being knocked loose from an infected person’s head and floating on the water surface for several hours, another head bobs up at the place the lice are floating, they might reattach themselves to the new host. This situation is rare and really uncommon, but it still can happen after all.
Getting lice outside a pool
Swimming under the water may be no longer a problem for all of you guys, but it is the after swimming stage that you should worry about. You might contract head lice through sharing towels, combs, or any accessories afterward, as we mentioned before. Head lice cannot jump from head to head but they can crawl onto an item and then from that item, onto another head if the head touches the lice.
So, to answer the question “Can you get lice from a pool?”, we would say that: Yes, though the rate of lice spreading in a pool is considerably low, you still can get them through a rare head-to-head or body-to-body contact or through using personal items of an infected person.
We suggest that you guys should bring your own items and keep them in a bag or backpack away from everyone else’s things. This is a simple way to keep lice from spreading through your personal items. Sharing is good but sometimes a polite “No” to other people who want to borrow your things is effective in protecting your scalp from head lice attack.
How to tell if you are having lice?
So now you know that there are chances that you can get lice from a pool, but are you able to recognize whether you have lice infestation or not? I bet that almost all of you would say we can discover lice problems by itchy feelings. However, lice infestation presents with way many more symptoms than just itchiness. Here are some signs to tell if you are having lice:
- The most obvious symptom is still itchiness on the scalp, body, and even in the genital area. If a louse bites you, it causes an allergic reaction which leads to this itchy feeling. However, you may not notice any itchiness immediately. It would be up to six weeks since the first time you get lice that the first symptom presents.
- You may feel there is something crawling on your scalp. As Insider, lice could cause an odd sensation of something moving constantly on your skin. So if you have a tickling feeling of something weird moving on your head, hair, or body, it is likely that you are having lice infestation.
- The next thing you can notice if you have been having lice infestation is sores on scalps, necks, or shoulders, as mentioned in CDC ((Cdc.gov. 2020. CDC – Lice – Head Lice – General Information – Frequently Asked Questions (Faqs). [online] Available at: <https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/lice/head/gen_info/faqs.html> [Accessed 9 August 2020].)).
These tiny bugs are not usually the real cause of sore themselves. But they can make your scalp or the other parts of your body really itchy so that you can’t help but scratch yourself. As a result, scratching can lead to painful sores.
Be careful because these sores could turn into a more serious problem if they become infected with bacterias in the human skin. In this case, consult your doctor and ask about being prescribed antibiotics.
- People can also find out lice by seeking for their bite marks. Lice bite anywhere they are feeding on, but usually, they prefer feeding at the back of the neck, behind the ears, around the waist, or upper thighs. Lice bites often appear as small red or pink spots, sometimes even with crusted blood.
- Sleeplessness or sleep difficulty during the night. According to Anand Philip, a general physician: “Lice do not cause any disease but the irritation caused by them is very uncomfortable. It also can cause people especially children to have poor quality sleep and be distracted from their daily activities.”
- People close to you – your family, your friends, or your colleagues has lice. If you have currently been in contact with a person infected with lice, you are likely to have a lice infestation. To be sure, you should do a scalp check.
Don’t wait until your head feels too itchy or the lice bites become severe. Using lice comb to check if there are any red bumps or sores on your scalp, behind your ears, and at the nape of your neck. The sooner you treat the lice infestation, the sooner you get rid of the lice.
- Get a hint of lice appearance. Although itchiness is the most noticeable and outstanding symptom of lice infestation, having an itchy sensation does not mean you have got lice since dandruff is a chronic skin condition that also causes scalp or body irritation.
In order to know if you are having lice or dandruff, you have to differentiate their appearances. If you notice teardrop-shaped objects or tiny black spots on the scalp and in the hair, it usually means you are having lice and lice eggs. On the other hand, when there are white or yellow flakes on clothes, you have probably got dandruff.
How to check for lice?
“Lice are tricky, they don’t like to be found. They always hide,” says Lauren Kupersmith, MD, a pediatrician at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone, New York. It is not easy at all to check if you are really having lice, particularly head lice or other diseases. But you still have to do a scalp check at home before applying a lice treatment to make sure you are actually dealing with head lice.
You can ask your family member or your friends to help you look for lice. Here are how to do it step by step.
- First, wet your hair. Lice move fast and it is really hard and time-wasting to catch them. Wetting your hair will slow down the lice and make them easier to spot.
- Detangle your hair with a wide-tooth comb and divide your hair into smaller sections to avoid painful tugging and to use the lice comb easier later.
- Comb around the hairline with a fine-tooth lice comb. You should start combing from your neck and behind your two ears because these areas close to the hairline and are lice’s favorite places on your head.
Comb from the root down to the end of the hair strand and remember no to miss a section of hair. This combing movement could cause lice to move to the top of the scalp, but don’t look only at this area, it is important to pay full attention to every inch of your scalp.
- After each brushstroke, check the comb for lice and their nits. Lice are likely to stick to the comb if they are there. Therefore, you can wipe the special lice comb with a cloth to see if you’ve caught any of them.
And, in order not to mistake lice for other bugs or dirt, you should compare what you have got by the comb with the description and pictures of lice we have provided previously.
- Of course, repeat these steps and don’t stop until you make sure that every section or strand of your hair has been carefully inspected.
How to avoid getting lice?
We all know that going to the pool and swimming still can make us exposed to lice infestation somehow, but can we stop crowding swimming pools the whole summer and even the whole year? No, we can’t, nobody can’t. So what should we do now to enjoy our swimming without getting lice?
Thankfully, there are several methods you can follow at home, before getting to the swimming pools to prevent the spread of lice.
- Lice, especially head lice are commonly caused by close contact with infected people. Therefore, you should avoid head-to-head or hair-to-hair contact with other people during play and other activities (sports activities, extracurricular activities) at home or at school, and so on.
- Never share personal clothing such as hats, scarves, and accessories like combs, brushes, towels, hair ribbons, and hairclips. These things are ranked as the secondary carriers of lice.
- Schools should guarantee to separate students’ personal belongings. They should provide each student with a private and detached locker to keep their individual stuff. Unlike public and attached lockers, separated ones are effective to limit the spread of lice.
- Tie back or braid your hair if it is long, clips, and barrettes are all helpful in preventing the spread of lice infestation.
- Don’t ever sit or lie on beds, pillows, or carpets,… recently used by an infected person because, as you know, lice still can live on nonhuman surfaces.
Although the lifespan of lice without their human host is less than 24 hours, so if you have identified lice in your home, isolate and wash those items and areas within at least 72 hours.
- Wash clothes, bedsheets, as well as other personal items, once wore or used by infested people in the hot water (130°F) laundry cycle to disinfect and sterilize them. Clothing and items that are unable to be washed could be dry-cleaned or stored in a hygienic plastic bag in 2 weeks.
- Disinfect the floor and furniture on which the person infested with lice once sat or lay. After that, cover them for about two weeks with a big plastic bag.
- Don’t buy and use fumigant sprays or fogs. Some people think that fumigant sprays or fogs can help them kill or block away lice, however, they help almost nothing in controlling head lice. What’s more, they can be toxic and harmful to people if they are accidentally inhaled or absorbed through the human skin.
- Last but not least, we can’t exclude the swim cap. If you are concerned about contracting head lice while swimming, the best option would be using a swimming cap. This would prevent the hair from any contact with lice in a swimming pool, it also helps protect the hair from damaging chemicals like chlorine. The sharing of swimming hats must be avoided as well.
Hairdeveloper will answer the question: “Can you get lice from a pool?” and have discussed how to avoid getting lice inside a swimming pool. What’s about outside a swimming pool? Of course, as we mentioned in the previous parts, people, particularly children should not share personal items, instead, they should hang their clothes and towels separately to avoid getting lice from stuff belonging to an infected person.
Lice are not dangerous, but they are one of the most annoying parasites and they cause a lot of inconvenience and uncomfortability for people. To protect yourself from getting lice infestation, follow our instructions. I think it is enough information on ways to avoid lice.
We hope that all of you are going to have a great summer, swimming, partying, playing your favorite water sports without being afraid of lice.