The Facts of Lice Series: Swimming Pools and Head Lice
We’ve been in the lice treatment industry for 10 years which means we’ve seen and heard it all. The overwhelming amount of misinformation out there regarding head lice and home remedies that don’t work has naturally and understandably led to confusion and frustration for many parents, educators and childcare workers. To address this, we’re starting a series to closely examine some of these myths and explain why they are not true. Now that summer is in full swing, we want to take a deep dive into two common myths about Swimming Pools and Head Lice.
Myth: If you swim in a pool with someone who has head lice, it could be transmitted to you.
Truth: Head lice do not swim. Nor do they jump or fly. Head lice hold on to the hair tightly and can only be spread through direct head-to-head contact. If you are in a pool, as long as you are keeping a safe distance from others and not making head-to-head contact with somebody else, you should be fine. Swimming or sitting near someone with head lice does not increase the risk of getting lice.
It is important to note however that head lice CAN spread by using other people’s hairbrushes, combs, towels, sunhats, etc. It can also spread if children are playing and head-to-head contact is made, even for a brief amount of time. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says:
“Head lice may be spread by sharing towels or other items that have been in contact with an infested person’s hair, although such spread is uncommon. Children should be taught not to share towels, hair brushes, and similar items either at poolside or in the changing room.”
The medical professions at Pediatric Hair Solutions agree that swimming is safe as long as children (and parents) use their own personal items and keep them in a bag to avoid contact with anyone else’s items. We also suggest that wearing long hair in a light braid or bun to help avoid head-to-head contact.
Myth: You can kill lice by drowning them in the pool.
Truth: If only it were that easy. Lice can breathe underwater for several hours when attached to hair.
Myth: The chlorinated water in the pool will kill lice.
Truth: Lice are very resilient and can survive chlorine. “Data show that head lice can survive under water for several hours but are unlikely to be spread by the water in a swimming pool,” says the CDC. “Head lice have been seen to hold tightly to human hair and not let go when submerged underwater. Chlorine levels found in pool water do not kill head lice.” In one study, lice were submerged in chlorinated water for 20 minutes and were temporarily immobilized but fully recovered less than a minute after being taken out of the water.
Myth: Using a powerful chlorine solution on the head can kill lice.
Truth: Please DO NOT EVER use a higher concentration chlorine solution on your head or your child’s head to kill lice. It won’t kill lice and could lead to Chlorine Poisoning which could result in severe injury or even death.
If you are worried about lice, seek the advice of your health care provider or health department if you have questions. You can also visit pediatrichairsolutions.com or call 704-909-9414 to schedule a free head check and learn more about swimming pools and head lice as well as lice prevention. Stay safe this summer!
About Pediatric Hair Solutions:
Pediatric Hair Solutions is Doctor and Nurse owned and operated. Sheila Fassler, RN, is the owner and John Fassler, MD, is the Medical Director. Sheila’s nursing and school health background, along with Dr. John Fassler’s medical background combine to provide families with safe, effective and professional care. 98% of lice have developed resistance to over-the-counter and prescription treatments, resulting in an effectiveness rate as low as 20%. Unlike these products, our professional device uses controlled, heated air, which is completely safe and proven to be more than 99% effective.