Tiny Visitors Come to Call: Lice at Swarthmore

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

The close quarters of Swarthmore’s dorms were slightly more crowded this past week. Willets and Hallowell residents were visited by an unfortunate outbreak of head lice that is now under control. Worth was briefly flooded by a smattering of students wondering if they too were a link in the lice chain, and many began massive loads of laundry to purge their possessions of unwanted insect guests.

Head lice, of kindergarten infestation fame, are just one of many species of lice. A female louse will lay her eggs, known as nits, on the hair follicles close to the scalp of her host. After about a week, the tiny white bead-like eggs will turn into a baby louse, known as a nymph. Although they cause the scalp to itch, the lice themselves are actually harmless. When taken off of a human scalp, they will die within two days. There are many ways to remove lice, ranging from chemical solutions to slathering hair in olive oil to shaving off all hair completely. Although any method of removal is something that no one wants to do between problem sets and research papers, all are quite painless and do not take too much time.

Many of those with lice and their friends were able to see the positive in the experience associated with inconvenience and itchiness. Roommates banded together and took to the task of running fine-toothed combs through hair that probably had not been combed in quite a while. According to a confidential source, “Having lice sucks but…what better bonding experience is there than combing your roommate’s hair and having your roommate do the same?” As another confidential source confirms, those with lice were very “glad that [they] were not alone” and had other students to turn to for support.

To prevent further outbreaks of lice, it is important to remember that lice eggs are less likely to cling to dirty hair. If all remain grungy college students, there is no need to worry about a lice epidemic engulfing Swarthmore.

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