Origins of the Social Stigma of Head Lice

The stigma of head lice dates back to the Victorian age.
The social stigma of head lice dates back to the Victorian age.  Having lice was seen as unhygienic and was greatly feared by the upper class.

A head lice infestation is a very common issue among children and adults. Having head lice can be very frustrating, time consuming and expensive. When you realize that you or your family has head lice you begin to have thoughts about how or why did you get lice. Even though your situation is already stressful, now you have to worry about what others will think about your personal and household hygiene.

In the 1800’s Victorians of Great Britain believed that cleanliness is next to Godliness. A woman in Britain would believe that the hair was her “crowning glory”, so she would constantly tend to the upkeep of her hair. Brushing the hair with oils and perfumes to help with hair health and growth was more often used instead of the harshness of the soap used to shampoo. Many also assumed that head lice only dwelled on the deprived and unfortunate. To ensure that they would remain lice free, Victorians would frequently visit the “Bathhouse”. Doing this would lead them to believe that lice will not thrive on their heads in because they are hygienic. Maids of the wealthy would accomplish daily responsibilities to keep the home flawless of any insect or dirt debris. Head lice were a persistent threat to the wealthy and many if not all feared to be infested. When Victorians were infested with head lice they would visit the local bathhouse to receive an arsenic and quicklime treatment. During this treatment the different chemicals would burn off the hair weather it is on their head or the entire body. These wealthy Victorian women would wear different expensive wigs and hair pieces to cover up there hairless heads.  Due to the women’s popularity, they knew that no one would speak of their endeavor with lice.

Head lice is not a sign of poor hygiene not is it a sign of poor parenting. Lice prefer clean hair but they will not turn away an unclean head of hair.  Some families feel as though if they do not shampoo their hair, then lice will not infest because it is dirty. MYTH! The only thing that a louse desires is blood and if you are human you can contract lice. Many feel as though it is their fault and they should have recognized it sooner. Infestations give parents the feeling of embarrassment and with that many people do not chose to inform their immediate social circle. Most parents are afraid of the reaction they might receive. In reality, having head lice is as common as having a cold. So forget about the social stigma, forget about what others will think and break the cycle. Head lice are here to stay and in my experience all it takes is understanding, patience and an all-natural manual method to eliminate such a frustrating common condition.

Contemporary Pediatrics, (2013, August 01). Head Lice: Facts and Myths [Web log post] August 15, 2016 from http://contemporarypediatrics.modernmedicine.com.