The Flemish louse: between truth and myth

Lice are a perennial problem in Flemish schools, but they are also the subject of a couple of very persistent myths that Dirk Devroey, head of the general practitioners' department at the Flemish Free University of Brussels, has been keen to disprove.

Lice only occur on dirty children

"Everyone can get lice. Lice are passed on via direct hair contact. The insects also move from one article of clothing to another and there are of course more clothes about in cold periods."

Lice jump from one child to another

"Lice crawl. They cannot cover kilometres. It doesn't matter what colour hair you have either."

Itching is caused by crawling lice

"No, the itching comes from the little wounds that the lice cause from sucking your blood that they feed in. There is little preventative action that you can take to prevent the spread of lice."

"If you encounter lice, wash your clothes and toys and put them in the deepfreeze. Lice can live with the cold, but not with freezing temperatures."