NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Do you take selfies? If you don't, chances are good your teens do. But, you probably didn't think any physical harm could come of it. Well, you may think twice about that after you see what we found happening here in New Orleans.
It seems everyone's taking selfies these days - kids, teens, college students, even some of us adults. But, those selfies are keeping one specialist we talked to very busy these days. We're talking about a hidden shutterbug that could leave you with the ultimate photo bomb. "Only in the last year or so have we started to ask are you taking selfies?" said lice removal specialist Christina Womack.
Womack says in the last year, she's seen more teens, college students, even a grandmother infested with the nasty parasites. And, she believes head-to-head selfies are to blame.
"We recently had a grandmother who has a teenaged granddaughter and she had lice but she couldn't figure it out," said Womack, "She pulled her phone out and she was showing me the pictures, and sure enough there she is, both of them with their heads together."
Womack says typically children ages 5 to 12 are most susceptible to getting lice.
"The reason children get it is because of this head-to-head and they don't understand personal space," said Womack.
But, she says that all changed once the selfie craze hit.
"We had a couple of girls who all did not sleep over, they were all at Jazz Fest, and it seems like out of the group, of them, we had a few who had just a bug or two in each of their hair," said Womack, "Only thing that made sense is they were all together and they have pictures to show us that."
We wanted to know what an entomologist with the Audubon Nature Institute thinks about it.
"It's certainly possible the best way for lice to be transmitted is head-to-head contact, so doing that is a way for the insect to get from one head to another," said entomologist Zack Lemann.
So, what do you do?
"You can't stop selfies - just give yourself a little bit of space. Two inches, you know, that would be great," said Womack, "Just giving yourself two inches of space, they don't jump or fly."
While it may be gross to think about, Lemann says getting lice is nothing to panic about. It's not a medical problem because lice can't transmit diseases. It's more of just an itchy inconvenience that you have to treat. He adds while there is no scientific evidence yet that selfies are spreading lice, he says it's not a bad idea to give yourself some distance when taking them. That person you are going head-to-head with might not yet know they're infected. It could take weeks to show symptoms.