Lice Cases Spike This Time Of Year Thanks To Halloween Costumes

by Valerie Williams
Originally Published: 
Image via Kinzie+Riehm/Getty Images

Lice can transmit from wigs and masks

As you endure the dreaded seasonal chore (yes chore, come at me) of helping your kids pick out Halloween costumes, know that there’s an added bit of horrific nonsense you need to keep in mind — lice.

Sorry in advance to make you suddenly itchy all over.

Unfortunately, there’s a spike in lice cases this time of year, according to Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Cherie Sexton. She gave WTOL the lowdown on why those creepy crawly jerks find more kids’ heads to nest on in October. In short? Blame Halloween.

“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,” she explains, as all parents do one, big, collective shudder.

I mean, this information shouldn’t really come as a shock — anyone that grew up with a mom like mine who practically pooped an actual, live kitten whenever I attempted to try on a hat in a store knows this is a risk. It’s certainly not confined to Halloween items, but considering how many kids shop for Halloween costumes all in the same month, it’s easy to see why lice cases see a bump this time of year.

Imagining that wall of frizzy, sketchy-looking wigs and masks at our local costume pop-up store has my skin itching already. Now that we know this is a hazard, we can’t un-know it. Just try not to throw up on the teen employee at Party City when your four-year-old comes running toward you with a ratty, communal, try-on Elsa wig firmly attached to her head.

*Vomit emojis.*

Sexton says it’s easy to see why so many adults would overlook the obvious grossness of hundreds of kids trying on the same headgear. “Most moms, dads and grandparents are just trying to get that right costume. Get it taken care of. Make sure it fits and get out the door,” she says.

Right. So how can we avoid lice descending upon our lives while also making sure that $39.99 Moana wig is merely a giant rip-off and not also a carrier of nuisance insects? Sexton shares a few basic tips that should hopefully keep your Halloween only expensive and not itchy:

  • When in a sealed plastic bag, head lice will die within 24-48 hours. So seal up that overpriced, tacky, piece-of-crap Monster High costume and say a prayer. And pour a big glass of sauvignon blanc. You earned it. (The prayers and wine part was my idea, not the nurse practitioner’s. Just saying.)
  • The heat of the dryer can kill those nasty little things, so toss any dryer-friendly costume parts in for 45 minutes on high heat. Again, prayers and wine.
  • Using a swim or wig cap underneath a wig will help stop lice from crossing into that sweet, sweet hair follicle landscape needed for them to wreak havoc on your life and home.

Now real quick, lice are definitely annoying and gross and absolutely no one wants to think of them being all over their home and all up in their scalp, but if a kiddo has them, there’s no need to judge or shame. Schools have actually been told to relax over lice in recent years because of how tough they are to get rid of, which can cause kids to miss classes until the nits are out. Which can take a pretty long time, even with treatment.

The CDC gives an excellent explanation for why lice are kind of not a big deal and also notes that they have nothing to do with hygiene or cleanliness. They’re just plain bad luck. But still, take precautions when possible, because no one wants to toss the loveys and those gorgeous Magnolia Home throw pillows you got at Target into a blazing inferno.

Happy costume shopping, and hopefully, you don’t bring any creepy little buddies home with you.

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