It is a common myth that Black people do not get lice. The truth is that anyone, regardless of their race or ethnicity, can get lice. However, the prevalence of lice infestation varies among different populations due to factors such as hair type, hair care practices, and the specific type of lice involved.
Despite popular opinions that black people do not get lice due to various reasons, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that African American people get head lice much less frequently than other people from different races.
The reason for these popular opinions is linked to the notion that most head lice in the United Nations especially have claws that more easily grip onto uncoiled hair.
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It is vital to ascertain the truth behind black people and lice. In that, black people can indeed get lice. And that the idea of no lice in black communities isn’t entirely true. We will gradually dive into the truth behind the myth that black people can’t get lice as we dive into the discussion.
The Ultimate Lice Care Products Collection
I would like to briefly draw our attention to the three types of lice. But before that, you should know that lice are parasitic insects that can be found on people’s heads and bodies, including the pubic area according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Now, the three types are;
1. Pediculus humanus capitis (head louse)
This type is found on the scalp. They are easiest to discover at the nape of the neck and over the ears.
2. Pediculus humanus corporis (body louse, clothes louse)
This lives in clothing and bedding and moves unto the skin to feed. Body lice often affect most people who are unable to bath or wash clothing often. The body louse is known to spread diseases.
3. Pthirus pubis (‘’crab’’ louse, pubic louse)
It occurs normally on the skin and hair of the pubic area. They may be found on coarse body hair, such as chest hair, eyebrows or eyelashes less often.
According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, head lice are 2.1 – 3.3mm in length. Head lice also infest the head and neck and attach their eggs to the base of the hair shaft. Lice move by crawling; they cannot hop or fly. Adult body lice are also 2.3 – 3.6mm in length while pubic lice are 1.1 – 1.8mm in length.
Lice infestations are spread most commonly by close person-to-person contact. Pets like dogs and cats do not play any important role in the transmission of human lice. Lice cannot hop or fly; hence they move by crawling.
Egg (nit), nymph, and adult are the life cycle of the head louse. So, for instance, nits are head lice eggs which are difficult to see and are often mistaken for dandruff or hair spray droplets. Then, the egg hatches to release nymphs. The nymph resembles an adult head louse, but it is about the size of a pinhead. Nymphs mature after three molts and become adults seven days after hatching.
The adult louse appears darker in persons with dark hair. It is said that the adult lice are about the size of a sesame seed, have six legs (each with claws) and are tan to greyish-white. They can live up to thirty days on a person’s head. Adult lice need to feed on blood several times daily to live. Hence, without blood meals, the louse will die within 1 to 2 days off the host.
Myths and Facts About Lice and Race
African American people get lice less frequently than other people according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The fundamental reason for this may be that most head lice in the United States especially have claws that more easily grip onto uncoiled straight hair.
According to research, head lice seem to be more prevalent in Hispanic, Asian, Caucasian people than in black people. For instance, fewer than 0.5% of African American school children experience head lice compared with about 10% of school children of other races.
Researchers additionally noted that the use of oils such as petroleum jelly makes hair smoother and less brittle, which is more difficult for head lice to grip onto. A PLOS Journal research has also shown that African American women are likely to use more hair products than other women and to utilize them from a younger age.
There are certain misconceptions that border on the thought that only poor people get lice. This a myth because lice has always been quite common among school aged children of all socioeconomic classes in America and elsewhere.
Another has to do with the belief that blacks do not get lice at all. This is not true because the thought may have come from the fact that lice are less prevalent in black communities.
In that, young black boys for instance would have their hair shaved whereas young girls would have their hair straightened at the first sign of lice.
This respectively prevents lice from staying in the black boy’s short hair and the heat from straightening also prevents lice from having a dwelling place in the girl’s hair. This and many others put Blacks in a rare situation of breeding head lice.
Undoubtedly, the grooming habits and texture of hair with respect to blacks plays a major role in making it difficult for lice to thrive in their hair. It is especially worth noting that the texture of the hair matters as regards lice infestation.
Therefore, the curl patterns of the hair of black people make it more difficult for lice to navigate.
Implications and Future Research
Even though over the years, the commonly held truth that blacks don’t get lice has been a common belief in black communities, it is relevant to educate ourselves on the possible prevalence of lice in all communities.
Blacks should be made aware that this perception, although not entirely false, isn’t entirely true either.
This will help us avoid the danger of not keeping our hair clean by washing well with shampoos and applying hair creams to keep these head lice away. Lice infestation can be very uncomfortable for children especially as it causes itching, burning scalp and tickling, according to the CDC.
There is an urgent need for further research between lice and race to improve on the existing research. This will go a long way in busting myths relating to race and lice which can be detrimental to the health concerns of black communities especially.
The American Academy of Dermatology Association (ADD) has suggested three steps to identify head lice.
The first is by wetting the hair of the affected child or adult, if possible. Secondly, sit the affected person under a bright light and lastly, separate hair into sections by beginning at the scalp and slowly combing outward through the hair section by section.
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Now it’s your turn…
I will in a special way encourage readers to seek out accurate information when it comes to myths and truth about lice and the black race. Research has it that coily hair is less susceptible to head lice and that is why as a result, head lice have difficulties gripping onto the hair of black people.
However, once more for people in the back: stay away from practices and situations that leave you at the mercy of head lice. This is solely because it is less common among African Americans but it’s surely possible to find them in black communities if safety measures such as personal hygiene is not adhered to.
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