Health Officials Warn Of Halloween Costume Head Lice

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Health experts are warning that head lice could be hiding in Halloween costumes.

Doctors typically see a spike in head lice cases during the Halloween season, reports WBZ. However, there is debate as to whether that is due to Halloween, or merely because it's near the beginning of the school year.

"We have a lot of people going into stores right now, trying on masks, trying on costumes and trying on wigs. And a lot of people don't give much thought into the fact that several people could've tried it on before them," Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Cherie Sexton told WTOL, according to WBZ.

"It's really not a health hazard," she added. "It's not a sign of poor hygiene. And it's not really spreading disease. It's really just more of a nuisance."

The word "lice" is plural for "louse," which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines as "a parasitic insect that can be found on the head, eyebrows, and eyelashes of people." Head lice, body lice, and pubic lice -- also known as "crabs" -- are each a unique species.

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According to the CDC, an estimated 6 to 12 million head lice infestations occur every year in the United States in children aged 3 to 11, reports the Daily Mail.

Symptoms include itching, sores on the head, and a tickling feeling from the bugs moving around.  

The condition can be treated by an over-the-counter medication applied directly to the infected area.

Clothing, bedding and other products need to be laundered in high heat in order to kill the bugs.

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If something can't be washed, it should be either dry-cleaned or sealed in a bag for two weeks until the infestation is killed off.

Anyone who comes in contact with an infected person should check themselves for lice, as it spreads easily through clothing and other personal items.

However, prevention in the best medicine.

Because the parasites spread from direct contact with someone else who is infested, a Halloween wig or costume can easily transport lice from one person to another.

According to the CDC, the risk of wig transmission is extremely small if the wig has not been worn in the preceding 48 hours by someone who is actively infested with live head lice.

However, health officials recommend a few simple precautions that shoppers can take to avoid an infestation.

Wearing a swim cap or shower cap when trying on wigs helps prevent transmission by creating a barrier between the head and any potential lice.  

After purchasing a costume or wig, putting them into a sealed plastic bag for two days will kill any lice, which die within 24-48 hours.

Placing any dryer-friendly costumes in the dryer on high heat for 45 minutes will also reportedly kill the bugs.

Sources: WBZ, CDC / Featured Image: Pixabay / Embedded Images: Gilles San Martin/Flickr, Chez Mummy/Flickr

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