Selfie takers could be targets for head lice

Head lice cases spike in middle and high school students

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – They flood Facebook feeds and inundate Instagram, but some health experts say that teens should keep those selfies to themselves.

"Kids are putting their heads together and taking pictures like that and touching heads and that's all it takes to spread lice," Michele Barrack, of Lice Lifters Treatment Center, said.

Lice are those tiny, barely visible parasites that sling onto hair and they've long been a problem of day care centers and pre-schools.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that every year up to 12 million children between 3 and 11 years old are affected by lice.

Frankie Richards, 11, has had lice on and off for four years.

"It's just getting passed and passed and passed," Flo Richards, Frankie's mom, said. "I get rid of it 90 percent of the time and within a week or two weeks, the bugs are kicking again."

Now they're kicking in the hair of older children. 

"It's really itchy and it's gross to think you have bugs in your hair," Jamie Bloom, 13, said. "It's really annoying."

Workers at a lice treatment center in Coral Springs have noticed a change in the demographics of lice patients.

"I've seen I would say half of my clientele is now middle and high school versus elementary school," Barrack said. 

A Wisconsin pediatrician has dubbed the bugs "social media lice."

While there's no scientific proof that selfie snapping is to blame for spread of lice, there are studies that show that lice in 25 states, including Florida, as now resistant to over-the-counter treatments.

The so called super lice make it super hard for families to get rid of the bugs.

Haley Stau, 13, remembers the exact moment she was told she and her friends had lice.

"I was like that's disgusting," she said. "There are actually living breathing insects in my hair. That's disgusting."

There are prescription shampoos for lice and at treatment centers, like Lice Lifters, where technicians pick out lice with special formulas.

The best way to prevent lice?

Keep your hair to yourself. 

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