But could that show of head-to-head affection be a breeding ground for lice, as one news report suggested Monday?
“It's certainly plausible because that's the way head lice spreads,” said Nichole Bobo, the National Association of School Nurses’ director of nursing education. “We have several discussion lists that we monitor where our members bring up discussion issues, but this one I have not heard.”
The topic took hold on social media after SFist, a website in the San Francisco area, quoted California “lice expert” Marcy McQuillan, who attributed “a huge increase of lice in teens this year” to the selfie phenomenon.
McQuillan, who SFist said works at a delousing salon called Nitless Noggins, cautioned that “Selfies are fun, but the consequences are real.”
Her warning spread across the Web, earning mentions everywhere from NBC News to Gizmodo.
Head lice, parasitic insects that live on the scalp and feed on human blood, are indeed spread when people touch heads. Notoriously difficult to treat, the critters spread commonly in younger children.
But does briefly bumping heads with your BFF put you at risk?
“It’s theoretically possible,” said Shirley Gordon, director of the Head Lice Treatment and Prevention Project at Florida Atlantic University, who nonetheless said selfie lice transmission seemed unlikely. “It’s normally close personal contact, not the few seconds it takes to take a selfie.”
So, what to do if you’re a 15-year-old with a cell phone camera, two friends and a moment that you feel compelled to document forever? If you're worried about lice, Bobo said, maybe just stop the head-touching.
“If it's in a community where it's a concern … you could say, 'Let's curb that behavior,' ’’ she said.
email@example.com | Twitter: @MitchKSmith