Fixit: Can head lice freeze to death

  • Article by: KAREN YOUSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 18, 2003 - 10:00 PM

QMy daughter's friend unknowingly came into our home while she had head lice. We took everything out of my daughter's room, including clothing, stuffed animals and hair accessories, and either washed and dried them or put them out on our screened porch where temperatures were near or below zero. We have checked our family daily and after nearly two weeks there's no sign of lice.

I know that lice can be killed with a hot wash and dry. But can lice also freeze to death? Or do they lie dormant only to spring to life again once they come in from the cold?

AHead lice cannot survive off their human hosts for more than 48 hours, according to Melissa Fischbach, entomology technician at the Minnesota Extension Service's Yard and Garden Clinic.

Spread of head lice can occur only through the direct contact with the head of someone who is infested as well as by combs, hair brushes, hats, towels, shirts and other clothes that are shared.

Freezing temperatures will kill lice and their eggs on inanimate objects such as toys and bedding. Items on your screen porch are definitely safe to take inside after that length of time. You don't have to worry about the lice coming back to life once indoors.

More on masking tape

Karen Shapley of the 3M Construction and Home Improvement Markets Division wrote to say there's a better tape to use for getting straight lines than the 3M tapes mentioned in the March 6 column.

She suggests Scotch Blue tape with medium adhesion. It's the most versatile of their masking tapes. It's ideal for painted surfaces and glass, and for protecting trim and woodwork.

Its medium adhesion means it can stay on the surface for up to 14 days. Because it is UV-and sunlight-resistant, it will not leave adhesive residue behind, even if exposed to direct sunlight. Many masking tapes will bake on the surface if exposed to the sun, resulting in a terrible mess to clean up. Scotch Blue painter's tape is available at hardware, home and discount stores.

To avoid wavy lines, Shapley suggests that painters:

• Pull out a workable amount of tape -- about 2 or 3 feet at a time.

• Don't stretch the tape.

• Keep the tape roll against the wall as you lay the tape down, pressing firmly in place.

• Do not pull the roll away from the wall as this encourages wavy lines.

• Continue pulling another 2 or 3 feet of tape and repeat.

Send questions to Fixit in care of the Star Tribune, 425 Portland Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488, or call 612-673-9033, or e-mail columns are available at, Fixit cannot supply individual replies. Fixit appears every day except Friday.

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