Anyone with a school age-child will know the sense of dread that comes with a rumour – or a note from the teacher – that there’s been an outbreak of head lice.
When a child with head lice inadvertently introduces them to the rest of the family (or teaching staff) bedlam ensues. The tiny unpleasant creatures bringing with them a whole world of misery as determined adults turn to medical treatments (and old wives tales) to flush them out and prevent the spread.
But can nits in adults ever lead to hair loss? It is a question that specialist hair loss centres do hear from time to time, and the general answer is: no. A more complete answer, however, is not quite so black and white.
Poor hygiene myth
The first thing to know about head lice is that they do not target dirty hair or people with poor hygiene – this is a myth. They can also only be passed from human to human – so there’s no danger of getting nits from the family dog.
The area in which head lice can become a problem with regards hair loss is that their presence can lead to an itchy scalp. The NHS Direct website points out that this isn’t actually caused by the insects nibbling on the scalp – it’s actually an allergic reaction to the lice. Even more unpleasant, rashes on the back of the neck are caused by the insects’ droppings.
When a scalp becomes itchy the natural response is to scratch it, and it is right here that problems may occur. Constant scratching of the head may damage the hair shaft, making it brittle and causing breakage. This can make hair appear frizzy, due to snapping, and despite not being a hair loss condition, it can still give the appearance of thinning hair.
Luckily, it can be remedied with a haircut and using intensive conditioners once the head lice treatment has been completed.
Hair loss in rare cases
In rare cases, shock to the body caused by the head lice can lead to hair loss.
This is generally in the form of temporary all-over shedding from a condition known as Telogen Effluvium. Whilst extremely rare, it is also possible for patchy hair loss to occur around three months after the lice diagnosis. This happens when the autoimmune disorder Alopeciais triggered.
While both conditions can clear themselves up in a matter of months, this is certainly not true of every case, and specialist advice should be sought. A hair loss specialist will be able to diagnose exactly what’s wrong and come up with a specially-tailored treatment solution.
The Belgravia Centre
The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.