More Kids Are Getting Head Lice … Because of Smartphones?

Younger and younger children are being handed smartphones by their parents; and for many children, access to 24/7 technology has resulted in attention and sleep problems and family arguments. Now it appears that smartphones are bringing a fresh misery to parents and children everywhere: head lice. [1]

Researchers recently studied over 200 school-age children and found that those who owned a smartphone or tablet were twice as likely to be infested with lice. This is because the phones encourage children to gather in groups – the perfect opportunity for the bugs to make a beeline from scalp to scalp.

Only 29.5% of children who did not have a mobile device experienced head lice, compared to 62.5% of smartphone- and tablet-owning kids.

Nearly half of the participants had been chomped on by head lice in the previous five years, up to 22 times more than the previous numbers: 2-8%.

Unlike with earlier studies, the researchers didn’t find a specific link between increased cases of head lice and selfies.

Dr. Tess McPherson, of Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“Compared to previous estimates of head lice incidence our figures were much higher, showing that almost half of children have had them in the last five years, which may not come as a surprise to parents.

We also noted that children with smartphones or tablets were more likely to get head lice, which is interesting but we can only guess that this is due to the way that young people gather around them, though there could be other reasons.

Selfie culture gets its fair share of negative press so it’s worth noting that despite previous speculation it seems that selfies can’t specifically be blamed for helping the spread of head lice at this stage.” [1]

What’s more, previous estimates of how many children in the U.K. have experienced head lice “may be conservative.”

Those who were most affected by lice were girls with siblings aged 6-9. [2]

The team of scientists also found that 45% of the children in the study had been infested with head lice in the last five years, a longer period than covered by earlier research. [1]

Matthew Gass, of the British Association of Dermatologists, said:

“Head lice are a pain to deal with, both for children and their parents.

Speaking from experience, they are intractable misery bugs that take far more time and effort to remove than is reasonable.

Not to mention the obligatory quarantine period that they necessitate. That’s why a better understanding of how these pests are transmitted is useful.

Prevention is always better than a cure, particularly if the cure means wrenching your poor daughter’s hair with a fine-toothed nit comb, or relying on over-the-counter remedies that head lice are increasingly resistant to.

We’re not saying that smartphones are causing children to get head lice, but that there is a link, so if there’s an outbreak at home or at school, consider how electronic devices might cause children to congregate, allowing head lice to spread.” [1]

Contrary to popular belief, head lice don’t care about the cleanliness or length of hair. They’re not usually spread via combs, hats or pillows, and lice cannot be caught from animals. Head lice can’t swim, jump or fly, and people typically become infested with them when the insects crawl directly from one person’s hair onto another’s. [2]

Read: Natural Solutions for Head Lice

Another factor in the growing spread of lice not mentioned in the study: resistance to the pesticides most commonly used to eradicate them.

The findings of the study were presented at the British Association of Dermatologists annual conference in Liverpool.


[1] The Telegraph

[2] The Sun

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Overuse of Antibiotics Linked to Precancerous Colon Polyps

Taking antibiotics for an extended period of time in early and middle adulthood may increase your risk of developing precancerous growths called polyps in your colon, a large study suggests. [1]

The research, published in the journal Gutadds to a growing collection of evidence that the type and diversity of gut microbes may play a significant role in the development of cancer.

Many people develop diarrhea when they take antibiotics. This is because the drug kills some of the normal gut bacteria, thus allowing an overgrowth of abnormal bacteria to dominate.

Read: Gut Health is Directly Linked to Chronic Illness, Overall Health

For the study, researchers in the U.S. tracked the health of over 120,000 nurses between the ages of 30 and 55 who took part in the Nurses Health Study that launched in 1976. The team found that between 2004 and 2010, 1,194 nurses were diagnosed with abnormal growths in the colon and rectum.

Participants who had taken antibiotics for two months or more between the ages of 20 and 39 were 36% more likely to be diagnosed with a polyp, called an adenoma, compared with those who hadn’t taken a prolonged course of antibiotics during their 20s and 30s.

Women who had taken antibiotics for two months or more during their 40’s or 50’s were 69% more likely to be diagnosed with a polyp.

Similarly, women who took antibiotics for 15 days or more between ages 20 and 39, and between ages 40 and 59, were 73% more likely to be diagnosed with an adenoma.

Source: Your Health Blog

Read: Why Probiotics are Essential if You are Taking Antibiotics

Associate Professor Graham Newstead, the head of the colorectal unit at the Prince of Wales private hospital and director of Bowel Cancer Australia, said:

“It does seem to indicate that people who have too many antibiotics might be at more risk of [sic] getting polyps than people who have less of them.

And, remembering that not all polyps turn to cancer but the cancer comes from the polyps. If you have more polyps or tendency to get polyps then maybe you are slightly more at risk of getting cancer.” [1]

The researchers wrote in the report:

“Antibiotics fundamentally alter the gut microbiome, by curbing the diversity and number of bacteria, and reducing the resistance to hostile bugs.

This might all have a crucial role in the development of bowel cancer, added to which the bugs that require antibiotics may induce inflammation, which is a known risk for the development of bowel cancer.

The findings if confirmed by other studies, suggest the potential need to limit the use of antibiotics and sources of inflammation that may drive tumor formation.” [2]

Other Risk Factors for Colorectal Cancer

Occurrence of polyps in the gastrointestinal tract.

Dr. Andrew Chan, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said the study doesn’t prove that antibiotics cause polyps, only that there is a connection. [3]

And while the study looked at women, Chan said the study likely also holds true for men.

“More research needs to be done to understand the interaction between alterations in one’s gut bacteria and future risk of colorectal cancer.” [3]

There are several known risk factors for bowel cancer besides polyps, including:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Not getting enough physical activity
  • Diets that are high in red meat and processed meats
  • Cooking meats at very high temperatures (frying, boiling, or grilling)
  • Smoking
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Being age 50 or older
  • A personal history of colorectal cancer
  • A personal history of inflammatory bowel disease
  • A family history of colorectal cancer or polyps
  • Certain inherited syndromes
  • Being African-American or a Jew of Eastern European descent
  • Having type 2 diabetes [4]

There is even some research that suggests that working a night shift regularly may increase your risk for colorectal cancer, possibly due to changes in levels of melatonin.


[1] The Guardian

[2] BBC News

[3] WebMD

[4] American Cancer Society

Your Health Blog

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