Last week Christine asked, “I NEED real advice with LICE - I have struggled with lice with my daughter (coarse hair) for a month. It is just impossible to comb out the eggs with that little comb, they keep coming back...;-( tears, tearing hair out even though she has it short... I am at my wits end and ready to shave it off.... ;-( REALLY ADVICE NEEDED!!!!”
I heard Christine’s cry for advice loud and clear so I took it to my Facebook page, LongHealthyHair, to get as many different opinions on the solution as is possible because I have never had to deal with the problem.
The most shocking thing to me was the number of people that claimed that, “black people don’t get lice.” Personally, I felt offended/disappointed by the statement because we as a race always complain about how we hate being judged according to the colour of our skin and yet, it appeared that when it suits us, we use our race as a defence.
Anyhow, I decided to do some proper research to see whether there was any truth to the statement and what I did find is that the answer is a little more complicated. I actually found a proper research paper on the topic from, the University of California (2001). This is what they found:
It is true that African Americans / Black people in America have much fewer incidences of head lice than Caucasian and Asian Americans. However, Black people in Africa have as many incidences of head lice as Caucasians in America. The reason lies in the hair type and evolution of head lice.
Head Lice In America
Head lice that are found in the US prefer hair that is round in cross-section. This would be white and Asian hair. The hair of black people has an oval/flatish cross-section and this is not as attractive to American head lice, they can't latch onto it easily.
Head Lice In Africa
Head lice in Africa on the other hand have evolved to develop claws that allow them to grasp on to hair with an oval cross-sections. The African variety of head lice are not common in North America so black people in America are not as susceptible to getting head lice.
What Is The Result?
Anyone with an oval cross-section of hair in America, be it African, African-American, Black British, Caribbean, etc. will have a much lower likelihood of getting head lice.
If you’re in Africa, it doesn’t matter what your hair type is, our head lice are ninja and have adapted so that they can latch onto any type of hair, they don’t discriminate. You got hair? Then you’re fair game, only the bald survive!
Head lice in America may over time evolve to develop claws meaning that the lower incidence of lice seen amongst black people in America will fall.
So there you have it - a simple explanation
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By Heather Katsonga-Woodward