What are head lice?
The head louse, or Pediculus humanus capitis, is a parasitic insect that can be found on the head, eyebrows, and eyelashes of people. Head lice feed on human blood several times a day and live close to the human scalp. Head lice are not known to spread disease.
Head lice move by crawling: they cannot hop or fly. Head lice are spread by direct contact with the hair of an infested person. Anyone who comes in head-to-head contact with someone who already has head lice is at greatest risk.
Where are head lice most commonly found?
Head lice and head lice nits are found almost exclusively on the scalp, particularly around and behind the ears and near the neckline at the back of the head. Head lice hold tightly to hair with hook-like claws at the end of each of their six legs. Head lice nits are cemented firmly to the hair shaft and can be difficult to remove. They're oval shaped and about the size of a knot in thread. Nits can be light gray, tan, yellowish, or white.
What are the signs and symptoms of head lice infestation?
Tickling feeling of something moving in the hair.
Itching, caused by and allergic reaction to the bites of the head louse.
Irritability and difficulty sleeping; head lice are most active in the dark.
Sores on the head caused by scratching. These sores can sometimes become infected with bacteria found on the persons's skin.
How did my child get head lice?
Head-to-head contact with an already infested person is the most common way to get head lice. Head-to-head contact is common during play at school, at home, and elsewhere (sports activities, playground, slumber parties, camp).
Dogs, cats, and other pets do not play a role in the spread of head lice. Pets cannot get head lice.
How is head lice infestation diagnosed?
The diagnosis of a head lice infestation is best made by finding a live nymph or adult louse on the scalp or hair of a person. Because nymphs and adult lice are very small, move quickly, and avoid light, they can be difficult to find. If crawling lice are not seen, finding nits firmly attached within a ¼ inch of base of the hair shafts strongly suggests, that a person is infested and should be treated. If you are not sure if a person has head lice, the diagnosis should be made by their health care provider, local health department, or other person trained to identify live head lice.
Treatment for head lice is recommended for persons diagnosed with an active infestation. All household members and other close contacts should be checked. All infested persons (household members and close contacts) and their bedmates should be treated at the same time.
Treat the infested person(s): Requires using an Over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medication. Be sure to check with your doctor if your child needing treatment is age 2 or younger.
1. Apply lice medicine, according to the instructions contained in the box or printed on the label. If the infested person has very long hair (longer than shoulder length), it may be necessary to use a second bottle. Pay special attention to instructions on the label or in the box regarding how long the medication should be left on the hair and how it should be washed out.
Nit (head lice egg) combs, often found in lice medicine packages, should be used to comb nits and lice from the hair shaft. Many flea combs made for cats and dogs are also effective
After each treatment, checking the hair and combing with a nit comb to remove nits and lice every 2–3 days may decrease the chance of self–reinfestation. Continue to check for 2–3 weeks to be sure all lice and nits are gone.
Follow these steps to help avoid re-infestation by lice that have recently fallen off the hair or crawled onto clothing or furniture.
1. Machine wash and dry clothing, bed linens, and other items that the infested person wore or used during the 2 days before treatment using the hot water (130°F) laundry cycle and the high heat drying cycle. Clothing and items that are not washable can be dry–cleaned
sealed in a plastic bag and stored for 2 weeks.
2. Soak combs and brushes in hot water (at least 130°F) for 5–10 minutes.
3. Vacuum the floor and furniture, particularly where the infested person sat or lay, that may have the infested person's hairs that might have viable nits still attached.
Teach your child not to share certain items such as hats, combs and brushes, headphones, pillows, or towels that come in contact with the hair of an infested person.