There is nothing as thrilling for kids as jumping into a cool, fun pool with friends and splashing around for hours during the heat of the summer days! Due to the expense of owning and maintaining a private pool, for many kids, the only option is a public pool often overcrowded with children. As a parent have you ever wondered, what are the risks associated with public pools and head lice? Are children at greater risk for contracting head lice during the summer? What do I need to know to protect my children while swimming during the summer months?
You have questions and Lice Clinics of America has answers. Here’s the scoop on swimming and head lice:
Can Head Lice Swim?
When head lice are put under water they go into survival mode. Gripping tightly with the claws on the tip of each leg, they literally hang on for dear life and most often are able to keep a tight grip. If a louse does lose grip and is knocked off the host head, it will float at the top of the water for hours. In fact, an adult louse can hold their breath for over 4 hours, quite an amazing fete. This is why bathing and shampooing hair does NOT kill head lice. So, ultimately head lice cannot swim but they can survive in water for many hours.
Can Head Lice Be Transferred Through Water?
If a louse is floating in the water it is possible, but highly unlikely, that it would be able to grasp onto a new host head. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that the biggest threat for contracting head lice during swimming is through the sharing of towels. The interwoven fabric of towels is the perfect place for head lice to grasp onto and lay in wait for their next human head. Laying on towels, drying bodies and especially drying off hair are all a realistic way that head lice can be transferred from person to person while swimming.
Doesn’t Chlorine Water Kill the Head Lice?
No. Scientists have debunked the myth that chlorine water kills head lice. They can survive it for several hours and not be affected.
How Can I Protect My Kids From Getting Head Lice at Swimming Pools?
If you are concerned about contracting head lice while swimming the best option would be using a swimming cap. This would protect the hair from any contact of a live louse. Most importantly, talk to your kids about NOT sharing towels at the pool. This is the best way to prevent head lice at the pool.
Is Summer Time the Most Active Time for Head Lice Outbreaks?
Some people think that head lice are more prevalent in the warmer months because of weather. Actually, the biggest factor for the transfer of head lice is direct head to head contact from people. Therefore, summertime is a high time for head lice outbreaks not because of the heat, but because children spend more time together at summer camps and playing outside. The most common time for outbreaks we see is summer camp, spring break, back to school, and extended vacation times from school such as Christmas break.