Some lice facts:

  • Been around since prehistoric times
  • Spread by direct head-to-head contact OR exposure to an infected person's personal items (combs, hat, towels,etc)
  • Lice crawl- they do not fly or jump
  • Lice are not spread by pets
  • Lice can not live longer then a day or so off a host
  • Lice are equal opportunity parasites that cross all socio-economic groups

Picture of adult louse


If you see one louse,you can be pretty sure you have a case of head lice. The symptoms- feeling like something is moving on your head, itchiness and difficulty sleeping (lice tend to feed at night which can be irritating)- often lead you to check for the presence of liceLice are small (2 to 3 mm in length),tan or gray-white with six legs with claws. They are also quick movers, so seeing them can be difficult. What you may see is the egg - called a nit.


                     Picture of nits on hair shafts

Nits are lice eggs which tend to resemble dandruff. They attach to a hair shaft which means unlike dandruff they can not be flicked off. Nits that are found close to the scalp(1/4 in or less) usually indicate an active infestation. Treatment for a lice infestation includes using an over the counter hair shampoo that contains products to kill the nits; sometimes a medicated shampoo is ordered by your physician. Combing the hair with a "nit comb" is necessary to assure that the nits are removed. Depending on the length and thickness of the hair, this part of the treatment can be quite lengthy. Dividing the hair into sections and going strand by strand is the best way to remove thenits. Any treatment that is used needs to be repeated in 7 to 10 days.

combinghair.jpg Using a nit comb

It is necessary to treat your house when lice are found. Clean all clothes and bed linens in hot water and dry them on high heat for at least 20 minutes. Any non-machine-washable clothes and stuffed animals should be dry cleaned or put in plastic bags and sealed for two weeks. Vacuum the home's carpets and furniture disposing of the bag immediately after. All hair accessories should be soaked in alcohol for 60 minutes or thrown away.

Lice are a particular problem in schools and day care centers. The best way to help prevent an outbreak of lice is to report a case of lice. If you are notified that a case of lice is in your child's grade, checking his/her hair daily for at least two weeks is recommended. There are also many preventative products available- shampoos, conditioners and sprays that contain oils which have been found to repel lice.  Some of these oils are peppermint, tea tree, coconut, rosemary and lavender.