Though pediculosis, more commonly known as lice, is extremely common and has nothing to do with hygiene, misconceptions persist. Lice, constructed as a highly contagious illness, is more of a nuisance, with most contagion resulting from head-to-head contact, and 3% resulting from environmental causes; still, the condition tends to be associated with negative behavior like uncleanliness and neglect. There is very little study of it in the U.S. save for some “no nit policy” studies and almost none on the psychological or communicative impact on those affected. Through the analysis of pediculosis in my children, I detail an autoethnography of lice illness experience. Analysis suggests implications for the condition’s relationship to stigma, shame, misconceptions, victim blaming, and secrecy, as well as issues related to seeking social support, finding contradictory health information, special services costs, and giving over to health experts, particularly regarding framing. Stories thoughtfully examined and shared may aid in mitigating harmful frames and misconceptions as well as provide directions for helpful research. An examination of experience is a start in exploring this context from a communication perspective.


lice, autoethnography, health communication, framing, stigma

Author Bio(s)

Jennifer B. Gray, Ph.D., is a health communication specialist and is professor in the Department of Communication at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. Her research interests center on health communication in the context of women's and family health and diet/exercise/obesity contexts. Please direct correspondence to grayjb@appstate.edu


This paper was presented in another form at the 2021 DC Health Communication Conference.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.





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